Barrington students raise money through art
Sahil Chatterji (right), who founded BHS's "Photography Inspiring Change" club, holds greetings cards with fellow member Claudia Nielsen and local art store. owner George Vodin. The feature student photography is sold to raise money for charity. | Buzz Or
Updated: January 14, 2013 7:04AM
BARRINGTON — Over the summer, Barrington High School junior Sahil Chatterji composed a letter reflecting on his growth as an aspiring artist and philanthropist.
“Each click of the shutter was done with thought and purpose,” Chatterji wrote. “There was a meaning to my photography that wasn’t there when I was younger. For the first time in my life, I began to create art.
“I thought that if art can connect us all, why can’t we infuse art with the purpose of instigating meaningful change?”
Chatterji, 16, shared this message with local businesses while asking for their support of a school club that combines humanitarianism with photography.
Photography Inspiring Change, or Pic, created greeting cards featuring student photography to raise money for Hands of Hope, which provides clean water to impoverished African villages.
Grassroots, 205 S. Cook St., and Fancy Art N.F.P., 113 E. Main St., are both currently selling the cards at $3 a piece or 10 for $20, with all proceeds going to charity.
The collection features the top five photos from a contest hosted by Pic. The first batch of cards, sold over the summer, raised $500.
“We look for photos that have an effect on every viewer that are both aesthetic and meaningful,” said Chatterji, who founded the BHS club last year.
Junior Claudia Nielsen’s photo of Niagara Falls is one the designs in the current collection. She captured the rich colors of the waterfalls two years ago during a family vacation.
“It’s such an amazing place,” Nielsen said. “The power and beauty and grace of it all was truly incredible.”
The 16-year-old took up photography a few years ago and has already been able to translate the hobby into paid work. She anticipates studying visual arts and fashion in college, though her dream job is to work for National Geographic magazine.
“I’ll do (photography) in some form over the course of my life,” she said. “I’ll never give it up.
History teacher David Lenkowski, who serves as the club’s advisor, said he has enjoyed watching Pic evolve, and witnessing the growth of Chatterji as a leader.
Lenkowski said the club spent much of the past school year finding its footing and defining its goals. Chatterji took it upon himself in the summer to organize a product line and reach out to businesses.
“There are so many things competing for a kid’s time and this is what he chose to do with it,” Lenkowski said. “It speaks volumes to his character and drive and perseverance.”
Fancy Art owner George Vodin said the student-driven project warmed his heart.
“They selflessly took their own savings and invested their time and artistic talent to make it a reality,” he said. “It renews my faith in human nature.”
Vodin said the student effort is important because it not only works to help impoverished people, but “also to build their confidence and resolve to go on to even more ambitious projects as they mature, and perhaps even inspire a few others along the way.”
Chatterji said the opportunities to pair art with charity are endless. Pic is currently gathering photos related to wildlife to raise money for the World Wildlife Fund. An urban-themed collection to help troubled youth and areas struck by disaster is another idea.
“We hope to grow as the community supports us and inspires us,” Chatterji said.