Heart Gallery Founder

In a place where beautiful pictures are common, one woman had an uncommon idea. In 2001, as a foster and adoptive parent recruiter for the New Mexico Children, Youth & Families Department (CYFD), I had the honor of developing an idea from photographer (and adoptive mother) Cathy Maier: to have talented photographers create inspiring portraits of older children and sibling groups who were waiting for adoption.

Kudos to all the Heart Gallery planners, photographers, and other adoption advocates across the country. You are as amazing as the children whose dreams you are empowering. ..By Diane Granito-founder/Statewide Special Events Coordinator, New Mexico Children, Youth & Families Department.

By January 2005, when Rosemary Zibart’s touching Parade magazine article about the Heart Gallery came out, several hundred children in the “Heart Gallery” cities or states had already found homes through the project.

Since then, thanks to the hard work of hundreds of volunteers around the country and the generosity of many individuals and organizations, the Heart Gallery has grown exponentially, expanding to dozens of states and cities. Heart Galleries have been featured in People, the NY Times, The Christian Science Monitor,and on MSNBC, CNN, ABC World News Tonight, and the Today Show. In April, Parade did a follow-up article on the impact of their first article and USA Weekend will be coming out with an article about the project soon.

Santa Fe, New Mexico

On her first day working for New Mexico’s Adoption and Family Services, Diane Granito thought the very least she could do for children looking for adoptive homes was to take a decent photograph. Not a snapshot, a portrait by a professional.

Granito chose children considered difficult to place in adoptive families — difficult because they came along with siblings, or they had just grown older, like Arron, still hoping for parents at 16.

“When you’re hoping for something like that for a long time and it doesn’t happen, your heart gets a little more broken each time,” says Granito. Soon all the photographs Granito had arranged began to fill her office.

“I was surrounded by these children, and the emotion that came up in me was so powerful that I knew we were onto something,” she says.

And this is where Diane Granito followed her very good idea with a great one. She had recently been walking along Santa Fe’s art gallery row and she thought to herself, photographs this beautiful deserve an equally beautiful home. So she went to one of Santa Fe’s finest art galleries.

“What a great idea!” recalls Lisa Bronowicz, the former special events director at Gerald Peters Gallery. “You have the kids, we have the gallery.”

She called it, “The Heart Gallery.” Three sisters featured in the exhibit found a family in less than an hour. Soon, other states were calling.

“It was almost as if the country was waiting to be told these children are here, because nobody really talked about them before,” says Granito.

And after five years, almost 100 Heart Galleries have opened in 48 states. Different locations, but the same magic. More than 1,000 children have found homes.

Twelve-year-old Jalinda saw her portrait for the first time at the St. Louis Heart Gallery. “I think it looks good!” said Jalinda. “I like it, it is cute!”

For the photographers, who all donate their time, something often clicks. The very first frame Santa Fe photographer Jackie Mathey took of Faye captured them both.

“I could see her strength and her character in the mirror,” remembers Mathey. She and her husband adopted Faye. She says it is even better than she hoped it would be.

“They’re very special children,” says Granito. “They deserve to be seen in this type of environment — a beautiful place.”

And it helps us see the need of thousands, through the eyes of a child.

Diane Granito - Founder Heart Gallery of America®

HHS Assistant Secretary for Children and Families Wade F. Horn, Ph.D., presents Diane Granito of the New Mexico Children, Youth and Families Department and founder of the Heart Gallery exhibit with an Adoption Excellence Award.

Diane Granito Surrounded by the Somerville Girls. Photo by Jennifer Esperanza.