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Twality teens help grieving Newtown with art project

Students create art for quilts to send back East


by: JONATHAN HOUSE - Twality Middle School art teacher Jeanine Miller lays out student-made panels that will be stitched together to make a quilt to be sent to Newtown, Conn.On Dec. 15, 2012, Tamara Hufford-Wong sat in her Lake Oswego home and cried.

The next day she started making phone calls.

For days, TV news displayed images from Newtown, Conn., the site of the deadly school shooting that left 27 dead, including 20 children.

“I knew I had to do something,” said Hufford-Wong, a communications consultant.

Hufford-Wong teamed up with students at Twality Middle School in Tigard on an ambitious art project to be sent to the town still struggling to heal after last month’s deadly shooting.

“I wanted to make something to give to the town,” she said.

Hufford-Wong created “Art for the Families,” a special partnership with the school to create art projects to send to Connecticut.

“I knew I wanted it to be an art project,” said Hufford-Wong. “I have issues with depression, and for me, art really helps lift me up. It feeds my soul and lifts my psyche.”

Hufford-Wong’s son attended Twality Middle School several years earlier, and when she thought about schools she might be able to partner with, she immediately thought of Twality.

“My son loved it when he was here,” she said. “(The students are) old enough where they could understand the importance of what they were doing.”

Hufford-Wong worked with art teacher Jeannine Miller to create a special art project the students could work on when they returned from winter break.

by: JONATHAN HOUSE - Twality Middle School student Austin Imwalle paints a panel that will be a part of a quilt that the school will send to Newtown, Conn.“This is so exciting,” Hufford-Wong said on Friday, as seventh and eighth grade art students sat, each hunched over a painting of their own.

The paintings are done on fabric, then washed and dried to create simple outlines of images such as fish and flowers.

The fabric will be stitched together to form two large quilts, which will be donated to Healing Newtown, an organization set up by the Newtown Cultural Arts Commission to handle the incredible outpouring of art and gifts sent to Newtown every day.

“It is important that you do something, no matter what it is,” said 12-year-old art student Austin Smith.

“It’s devastating,” he said. “We should do something nice for them, no matter how far away you are from them.”

Each quilt will have about 30 painted squares, Miller said.

In all, about 70 students contributed to the quilts.

Miller expects the students to finish and ship the quilts to Newtown next week.

“It’s very important that the kids do a project like this,” Miller said, as she organized patches of the quilt on a table. “It is such a good thing, and it puts some reality into it. (The kids can say) something happened, and I did something that will make someone feel better. None of us know how to process this. You don’t want to just forget about it.”

And Hufford-Wong isn’t finished. She said she plans to approach other schools in the district to do something similar for the folks in Newtown.

“I don’t want anyone to forget about what we lost. They’re not our kids, but they feel like they are,” she said.

Her hope is to one day turn “Art for the Families” into a traveling art gallery.

“It’s not just Newtown,” she said. “It’s Colorado, it’s Columbine. There are so many. I want a traveling museum that people can walk in and feel better.”

For more information on Healing Newtown, visit healingnewtown.org.



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