Santa Barbara artist and art teacher Claudia Golden recently organized a touching commemorative reception at the Good Cup during National Missing Children’s Day, in honor of the countless victims of child abduction and their families.

The reception featured artwork by students from Santa Barbara High School’s Visual Art & Design Academy, which Golden called upon to paint portraits of lost youth for public display.

“It’s important to remind people that there are children out there, and the only way we can do that is by showing pictures,” she said. Golden’s efforts are a part of the 2011 Guardian Angels project, created by American artist John Paul Thornton to spread awareness of missing children. For both Golden and the involved students, the art project has proved to be a valuable and emotional experience.

“I think the artists would agree that when you start a portrait knowing that it’s a missing child, it just adds a whole different level of involvement in that painting,” Golden explained. Student artist Madison echoed Golden’s sentiments: “As you’re looking at these photos of these kids for weeks and months when you’re trying to paint them, you can’t help but think about where they are,” she said. “And as you start on it and keep going and you keep getting better and better, I think you just realize that it was more than just a good, quality picture, and that it becomes something that’s important to you.”

Contributing her own form of art to the reception, musician Lisa Danhi performed her recently composed “Missing Pieces,” a heartbreaking tribute to parents and families affected by child abduction.

Golden hopes to find the portraits a home in one of Santa Barbara’s city buildings after their month-long exhibition at the Good Cup, insisting, “They deserve to be somewhere where someone’s going to see them and be reminded—a place where they can be seen all the time.” She plans to continue this portrait project next year and expand it to include all of Santa Barbara’s high schools.

The Good Cup, which is located at 1819 Cliff Drive, will display the six students’ artwork, as well as portraits by Golden and Thornton, until June 25.


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