A Union photography class recently combined service and learning in a project for the Heart Gallery, a traveling photography exhibit created to find families for children in foster care.
The Heart Gallery is an art exhibit and outreach initiative that features foster children who are available for adoption.
The Heart Gallery works with volunteer photographers to capture pictures of children; then online galleries and traveling exhibits are made from those photographs, with the goal of getting exposure for the children and helping find a permanent family for them.
While the Heart Gallery has been operating nationwide for 13 years, since 2001, the only Tennessee chapter was launched in Nashville less than a year ago, in the fall of 2013.
There are more than 120 different galleries across America.
The galleries are all united in their mission of finding permanent homes and families for nearly 100,000 children in the foster care system who are eligible for adoption.
Union’s Photography IV class worked specifically with the Nashville branch of the Heart Gallery, taking photos of several children of all ages in the Tennessee foster care system.
The class got connected with the project through Stefanie Edwards, a Union alumna, and the marketing director of the Nashville branch.
Chelsea Wood, a senior digital media studies major who is enrolled in the class, said the Heart Gallery took about 10 children to Union, and each member of the class was assigned to photograph two children for about an hour.
“For our Photo 4 class, we have photo diary assignments, and the Heart Gallery was looking for photographers,” said Wood. “I had two boys who were both about 14 or 15 years old.”
Wood explained what she did.
“Basically I just talked to them about what they were interested in and tried to make them feel comfortable so that my photos would really capture their personalities as well as their images,” she said.
Wood went on to note how important it was to Heart Gallery employees to know that the children were comfortable — most of them have experienced difficult life situations and have spent most of their lives in foster care.
Wood also mentioned how beneficial working on the project was for those who want to become professional photographers.
“This was very real-world applicable, and we were doing things we’d actually do in the work field,” she said. “We weren’t allowed to put this assignment in our portfolio because of privacy issues, but it was great to get such real-world application and experience with graduation approaching.”