SALT LAKE CITY — If a picture is worth 1,000 words, the portraits on display Wednesday night at the state Capitol could fill volumes.
The Heart Gallery, put on now for 13 years by the Adoption Exchange, featured portraits from 41 children awaiting adoption in Utah.
“It’s an amazing event to see kids come together and see these beautiful portraits of themselves,” said Kathy Searle, director of programs with the Adoption Exchange, a local nonprofit child welfare organization.
“They’ve never probably even had a portrait of themselves done or had a portrait hanging on anybody’s wall,” Searle said.
Twenty professional photographers from around the state donated their time to capture the kids' unique qualities and talents.
“These are beautiful kids who deserve what we all have, and that’s a family, and they don’t have one,” Searle said. “They look like kids who could belong in your family. When you see these photos, you can picture yourself with, ‘Well, she looks like my aunt, or she looks like my sister.’
"It allows families to think differently about adoption. Instead of just thinking about an infant or a baby, they think about, ‘Maybe I could adopt a 16-year-old,’” she said.
One of the children in the portraits, Sabien, 16, liked what he saw Wednesday night at the Capitol.
“The man who took it, he did wonderful,” the teen said. “He told me that he could, quote-unquote, ‘Win awards with my face.’”
Sabien, who has been in state custody for three years, said he's hopeful that he too will be adopted.
Officials at the event said 27 teens ages 16 or older were adopted last year.
“Honestly, I don’t blame anybody,” Sabien said. “I just feel like this is the way it was supposed to be — like, my life was supposed to turn out like this, and there’s obviously a reason it was supposed to be this way.”
Searle said the portraits initially will be on display in the state Capitol’s Hall of Governors, but will travel to several locations over the next year.
The portraits can also be found online, along with more information about adoption, at utahadopt.org.