One way that students of Pat Beréskin’s art class have given back to other students is through their talents.
Pat Herath, executive director and founder of Wells 4 Wellness, met with Beréskin, artist, teacher and owner of Beréskin Art Gallery and Academy in Bettendorf. They had the idea of taking photographer Willie Herath’s images of natives in Niger, Africa and using them as inspiration for students to make portraits. (Willie Herath is Pat Herath’s son.)
The portraits will be shown in a new gallery exhibit,“Wells of Inspiration,” May 4-27 to help raise money for a well to be drilled at a school in Niamey, Africa, a news release says.
The students in Niamey will finally have clean drinking water, the release says. With the money raised, they will not only have a well, but also a water tower, solar panel, and solar pump, according to Herath.
“When the thought of water comes up, we do not second-guess about it being clean and safe to drink,” she says. “However, those in Niger simply do not have that luxury. The luxury of water to them is a necessity to us.”
Wells 4 Wellness is a nonprofit organization based in Moline, committed to provide clean drinking water to the impoverished nation of Niger. It has raised $5,000 toward its goal of $8,000 for the new well at the school in Niamey in Niger.
Fewer than half of Niger’s population of 20 million has access to clean water, and it’s estimated every one out of four children dies before the age of 5, according to Wells 4 Wellness.
The Bereskin Gallery, 2967 State St., Bettendorf, will host a reception from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Friday, May 7, to showcase the student portraits and Willie Herath’s Niger photos. The event will include packaged refreshments, a documentary from Wells 4 Wellness (“Bottom of the List”) and opportunities to donate to the school that needs water.
With the funds raised, they will not only be putting in a well, but also a water tower, solar panel, and solar pump.
On May 7, there will also be a photo booth with an 8-foot-by-10-foot picture of a remote village with an actual pump that people can pretend to fill a container with water. Masks and social distancing are required in the gallery per the Beréskin Covid policy.
May is typically the Student Art Show at Bereskin’s gallery, and “This year we have focused on ‘digging deep’ and finding ways to expand our creative thinking,” Bereskin says. “My advanced-level students undertook the challenge with great effort.”
“Children here can certainly understand the need for water,” the artist says. “We have hammered into their heads for over a year the importance of hand washing and cleaning work spaces. What if you had no water to do either of those, especially during the pandemic?”
On Saturday, May 8, the work of current students of Bereskin’s Art Academy will be on display. Students ages 5 through adult will be exhibiting. In addition to the portraits of the Wells 4 Wellness project, some other highlights of the exhibit will be the 26 life-size portraits and a special exhibit by Bereskin’s graduating high-school seniors:
⦁ Maya Diabira, Bettendorf
⦁ Martha Fey, Davenport Central
⦁ Jaide Logsdon, Davenport Central
⦁ Joe DeBlois, Davenport Central
⦁ Claire Tjaden, Assumption
⦁ Paige Magistrelli, Bettendorf
⦁ Alondra Gomez, Homeschooled
⦁ Brissa Dahlburg, Bettendorf
⦁ Maya Roberts, Davenport Central
Wells 4 Wellness produced the 17-minute film “Bottom of the List” in 2020 to highlight the challenges facing Niger, which is between the Great Saharan Desert and Nigeria. The documentary title comes from the United Nations raking of 189 countries in the world on a scale of overall health, education, and income. The country of Niger, Africa, is at the bottom of the list in all three categories.