“The news of Ms. Tam’s diagnosis was devastating and instilled an initial level of uncertainty within the group,” Rye High School senior Ellie Kirk said. “But the group members are determined to continue Ms. Tam’s work.”
Those closely tied to BPF were forced to wonder how the group could go on, given how Tamalonis had been front and center in everything BPF has done, from its earliest efforts in 2015 to its nonprofit formation in 2017, to now — where kids from 34 countries (from Albania to Zambia!) work together to use the arts to build local, national, and global communities.
Fortunately, Tamalonis had a plan. She recruited a group of Rye High and Middle School teachers to help guide student leaders on various aspects of the organization’s activities — including international outreach to the dozens of BPF chapters around the world, to local community projects and fundraising efforts. Having the new advisers to guide the student leaders has allowed the organization to thrive. Guided by newly appointed General Manager Kristen Warner, an RHS Social Studies teacher, the group has embarked on a series of new projects, driven by the enthusiastic involvement of the BPF student leadership group.
To launch the new school year and the reorganized BPF, Rye High School seniors Ellie Kirk and Sally Eggers organized a meeting to inform new members of the plans that Ms. Tamalonis had in mind for the 2020-21 school year, including programs based around environmental awareness, kindness and inclusion, music programming, and specific partnerships with BPF groups in Iraq and Nepal. The group assigned student leaders to take charge of the various projects and formed smaller committees to ensure productivity and success.
RHS senior Sally Eggers noted the work ethic within the BPF community amidst these challenging times. “While all the BPF students yearn to see Ms. Tam back in full action, I have not seen any single student stop working towards our shared goal,” Eggers said. “Ms. Tam has instilled such a strong will in all of us to keep up the good work even during this hard time. It’s been amazing to see everyone coming together to keep working towards Ms. Tam’s and all of our collective goals.”
Though, for now, almost all BPF events are virtual, students have been able to make the most of the situation and channel their own creativity through a BPF’s various projects. The events of 2020 have brought emotional responses from people across the globe, yet BPF students have managed to look on the bright side and express themselves during this time of pandemic. Rye kids spent their days before Thanksgiving writing annual Giving Tuesday cards, which they distributed to neighbors, friends, and family to raise funds for future events and projects. BPF students also engaged in a hat looming event where hats were donated to Soul Ryeders for families in need of warmth. The group also collaborated with RyeACT to design artwork to accompany holiday gift cards donated to local teens, and is working with Rye Schools’ Race, Inclusivity and Community Task Force to create a mural on the school grounds.
Despite the restrictions BPF kids have faced over the past year, they have dedicated time to working on projects and continued to submit their artwork to the website (bigpicturefoundation.org), where galleries of works from kids around the world remain a central focus. BPF’s new leaders, existing members, and future artists now have every intention of continuing their collaboration, and they look forward to future projects from home.
Kristen Warner, an RHS Social Studies teacher who assumed the role of BPF administrator in Ms. Tamalonis’ absence, commented on her involvement in the organization thus far: “It has been such an honor to begin working with BPF this year. When Kim Tamalonis first asked me last spring to get involved, I was intrigued and excited, but working with the students, fellow advisors, and the BPF board members has been better than I ever imagined. It’s been so much fun to witness the passion of the students and their creativity in organizing new projects. And with so many new advisors working with the kids, we have a really fabulous team in place. I’m looking forward to what we’ll be able to accomplish for years to come!”
Meanwhile, Tamalonis remains connected as best she can while she struggles through her cancer treatments. And she remains close to the hearts of her beloved students. As a side project, many BPF students used materials from home to craft unique lettering that, when stitched together by new BPF media director Roni Sarig (RHS English teacher), spelled out the message: “Get Well! We Love You!”
Profoundly moved by the creation, which Sarig delivered to her home, “Ms. Tam” (as the students call her) wrote to students, “I can’t even express to you how much it cheered me up! Your artwork is a burst of joy during a time that’s physically challenging.”
While BPF remains global in its vision, it’s in the intimate, personal connections that the group truly sees its impact.
Big Picture Foundation 2019-2020 Program Year NewsFall 2019 Home Base Leadership Group Meeting Schedule Extended Deadline: Send Submissions by October 8th for the first online art gallery of the year that will open on the last day of the month.
News Archives Spring 2019 Global Gallery News Also, please see our 2019-2020 program year portal, which provides essential information for the year ahead, including special June, July, and August events. 2018-2019 Welcome Back Letter March 2017 February 2017 Events in Rye, NY Rye TV and Paula Fung: First place award in the category, “School/Education Program,” at the AMC Northeast Video Festival!
Round 2 Welcome Back Letter with Links and Instructions
Read our Annual Report
June 4th Awards Ceremony
BPF Refugee Week Events
UNA-NY Builds the Furaha School at the Dadaab Refugee Camp
Video Overview of BPF Activity
Round 2 Kids’ Prompts
The Big Picture group at the Universiteti Europian, in Tiranës, Albania had a reception and exhibit of their Big Picture artwork, to coincide with the opening of the website.