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ASD Art Teacher Leads Project to Honor Healthcare Workers

Bera

More than 75 ASD student artists participated in the second annual Portraits of Those Who Serve project, meant to honor the sacrifices of local healthcare workers who have risked their own health in an effort to keep the community safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The project is the brainchild of Eagle River High School Art Teacher and Fine Arts Department Chair Jacob Bera.

“This project is real life; it’s our community,” said Bera. “Technically, we are teaching kids how to draw and color, but as they are making these, they are thinking about their communities. To me, that’s more valuable than the art itself,” he said.

Bera was inspired by the portraits of artist Stever Derrick, who created portraits of healthcare workers when the COVID-19 pandemic began. Prior to COVID-19, Bera led student participation in the Memory Project, but wanted to do something local as well.

The project continues this year, but with a few changes. For one- the students were able to opt-into the project and create their art in the classroom setting.

“Last year I had kids leave their portraits in a plastic bag on their porch and I would pick it up. There was a ton of unique coordination last year and the kids were at home making them, so they really did have to be intrinsically motivated to want to do it,” said Bera.

Portraits completed in this year's project featured nurses from across the community and were on display throughout the month of March in the 5th Avenue Mall during the first ever ASD Arts Month. The art was also on display at the Sheraton Hotel on April 22 during the Alaska School Nurses Association (ASNA) Conference. The portraits were mostly returned to the healthcare workers after the conference. Those that remain unclaimed will be on display at the Eagle River High School Fine Arts Cabaret on Friday, April 29 at 5:30 at Eagle River High School.

Bera plans to continue the project next year but says it will evolve to feature different types of first responders. Next year he plans to focus on portraits of police officers.