High school art students learn about more than art in Anna Wadman’s class in Westlake Village, California. They also learn about life.
Anna’s classroom at Oaks Christian School is filled with oil and watercolor paints, stacks of sketch paper, and pencils. These are common art tools, but Anna’s students recently realized they are much more.
Each year, Anna, a child sponsor since 2000, assigns her class a portrait project. Last year, she decided to incorporate an educational element into the portrait assignment and, inspired by World Vision U.S. President Rich Stearns’ The Hole in Our Gospel, teach her students about world poverty.
“I was hoping that students would become more informed about how they can make a difference,” Anna says. “We talk a lot about using whatever gifts we have to serve God and others.”
With help from World Vision’s photo team, Anna provided her class with a selection of photo portraits — some from the pages of the World Vision magazine. Each student chose a photo and researched the country where it was taken, including culture, history, and challenges the country faces today.
If we can make art that has a purpose … God is pleased.”—Anna Wadman
Students were surprised at the range of issues covered in one class — human trafficking, drought, war, genocide, girls’ lack of education, and infant mortality. Each student selected the problem they felt was most important to address for the child in their photo and used paint, collage, charcoal, or pastels to reimagine the photos and highlight that issue.
“I was excited to think that even a small-scale project like this could bring some sense of awareness to what is going on outside of the bubble we live in,” says Jasmeene Burton, 16, then a sophomore in Anna’s art class.
The finished pieces debuted at a school assembly last October. Then the class hung their creations in the school hallways to inspire fellow students — and it worked. Students set up a class competition for loose change, and with the senior class coming in first, they donated $2,000 to World Vision water projects and Typhoon Haiyan relief. Eleven students and their families decided to sponsor children.
“It is easy for students to see art as either highly personal or imitative,” says Anna. “In this project, they thought about other reasons to make art. If we can make art that has a purpose, has meaning, and does some good in the world, I think God is pleased.”