A U.S. artist who was moved by Amanda Todd's story created a portrait as a tribute to the bullied B.C. teen who killed herself last year. The painting has snowballed into an anti-bullying project and YouTube video.
Michael Bell, an artist and teacher at Southern High School in Harwood, Maryland, was deeply moved by Todd's heart-wrenching story which she shared in a public YouTube video a month before she committed suicide.
"Now I’m a pretty tough guy, but her story literally brought me to tears and I felt compelled to do something," Bell told The Huffington Post B.C.
Bell went into his studio early the next morning and began painting Todd's portrait on an oversized canvas, "not really knowing why I was doing what I was doing." Halfway through, his drawing class students came in and asked about the project. After he shared Todd's video with them, the students joined in.
Hundreds more from the school wanted to participate so Bell incorporated their hand prints in different shades of purple as a "message of solidarity for her family, as well as a message to the world to literally STOP bullying," he explained.
The project eventually turned into a YouTube video, edited from raw student footage shot on their phones and an iPad. It sparked a school-wide conversation and writing contest.
Bell, who is an arts activist, has created high-profile projects for human rights and against domestic violence in the past. But he said he created the portrait of Amanda simply as a gift to her mother, Carol.
"I wasn't doing it for the publicity, or even to sell the piece. I simply wanted Carol Todd to have it and know that she’s not alone. That someone millions of miles away in another country cares about what she’s going through, and will continue to care long after the media frenzy surrounding her story dies down," said Bell.
The painting was shipped to Carol Todd, who has since become friends with Bell.
"The painting is something that I will always treasure," Todd told The Huffington Post B.C. on Tuesday. "It is still hard for me to read about and see Amanda in the media as often as she is. The painting has been put away in a safe place right now and when I am ready, I will bring it out to look at more often."
Todd said watching Bell's students get involved in the project filled her with a "happy feeling."