Portraits of Hope and the Artist

From the Portraits of Hope artist…

My name is Jake Smith, and I’m the artist being commissioned to create charcoal portraits to promote the Serendipity Center in Portland, Oregon. I’d like to express the motivations behind my interest in the project.

The Serendipity Center has been creating a safe learning environment for at-risk and traumatized children for 40 years. The methods they use seek to get past the (often problematic) behaviors that result from traumatic and abusive experiences, by addressing and acknowledging the root sources and unique emotional effects of each child’s trauma. Many of the children who attend the school are coming from environments that are bereft of care, safety, love, and nurturing. By offering support through things such as therapy, one-on-one teaching and tutoring, gardening, art, play, as well as a full school curriculum, the Center allows the students to find refuge in a safe and nurturing community equipped to meet their needs.

I believe this approach humanizes these children in a way that is unavailable to them within the standard confines of a school district, where behavioral outbursts are often misunderstood or treated with detention, expulsion, and ostracization — all things that serve to dehumanize them and exacerbate their experience of trauma. Conversely, The Serendipity Center actively shows and teaches children they are worthwhile and worthy of belonging, hope, and empowerment. They equip children with the tools to care for themselves in fundamental ways that allow them to approach the world capably, and from a context of knowing and experiencing love, safety, and stability – they are humanized.

I also believe good portraiture can have the same effect — to humanize. By putting a human face on the very real emotional responses to trauma and abuse, as well as the positive, life-changing emotions related to transformation and change, I want to shine a light on the beauty of what the Serendipity Center is doing.