Underwood Foundation Doll Project Bridges Cultures

Students Help Showcase Global Project

It all began with a captivating image.

While traveling on a workshop with National Geographic photographer Steve McCurry on a trip through a remote part of Tibet, Milwaukee gallery owner Rob Quinn captured the portrait of an anonymous young girl.

The photograph (nicknamed “pigtails”) immediately captivated the gallery owner’s wife and accomplished doll maker, Wendy. Rob and Wendy decided to seek out craftswomen in the town of Yauli, Peru (renown for its expert knitters) to create hand-made replicas of the striking photograph.

For the Quinns, this also became an opportunity to develop a business capable of generating sustainable revenue for the Yauli community. The craftswomen would knit each doll, and the Quinns would sell the finished product in their gallery, returning the profits to the Peruvian town. From this chain of events, the Underwood Foundation doll project was born.

The Quinns teamed up with Diederich College of Communication Advisory Board Member Dan Patrinos and the trio contacted Marquette about promoting the project through a collaborative class effort. Linda Menck, the College’s professional-in-residence and digital storytelling proponent, quickly became involved.

Menck and the students in her graduate level capstone class launched into a project promoting the dolls. Over the semester, the class worked with Patrinos and the Quinns to develop a website that would showcase photos of the dolls, their creators and the intriguing background story behind the Underwood Foundation.

“The students get to learn about different cultures, especially places that they’ve never seen before such as Tibet and Peru,” says Menck. “They learn about digital storytelling, but also about people and experiences that are otherwise unfamiliar.”

Menck and her students plan to continue working with the Quinns and Patrinos to develop future promotional materials and to help spread promote the unique, socially-minded business with a global focus.

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