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Eyewitness to horror: New York museum opens exhibit of art by Holocaust victims – The Guardian

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By Barbara Goldberg

NEW YORK (Reuters) – Michael Morris, a curator at New York’s Museum of Jewish Heritage, was trying to fulfill a run-of-the mill request when he uncovered a treasure trove of eyewitness depictions of the Holocaust, drawn in pencil, ink and crayon.

“It was a light bulb moment,” said Morris, who put together an exhibit of art created by some of the 6 million Jews killed by the Nazi regime.

“Rendering Witness: Holocaust-Era Art as Testimony,” which opens this week at the lower Manhattan museum, comes at a time when U.S. anti-Semitic hate crimes have spiked and memories of the horrors of the Holocaust are fading.

“This exhibition stands against and educates about the dangers of anti-Semitism, racism, bigotry of any kind,” said Morris, describing the 21 powerful depictions of the Holocaust, mostly by Jewish prisoners.

It all started with another institution’s request to borrow some of the pieces in the museum’s collection. As Morris reviewed the dozens of works in its vaults, he knew immediately that it was high time for the museum to mount an exhibition of its own.

“Behind the statistics, and behind the numbers and behind the scenes where we see hundreds of thousands of people in concentration camps, these are actual people who had multi-faceted lives,” Morris said.

Among them was a 12-year-old girl, Helga Weissova, who brought art supplies with her when she was sent to Terezin Ghetto and concentration camp, about 30 miles (48 km) north of Prague in the Czech Republic, in October 1944. Before Weissova was deported from Terezin to Auschwitz, the infamous slave-labor camp in southern Poland, she gave her drawings to her uncle, a fellow prisoner who hid them behind a wall.

The show features her 1943 work in colored pencil on paper, “Transport Leaving Terezin,” which shows gun-toting guards ushering a huddled group of prisoners carrying suitcases.

Weissova is now in her 90s and living in Prague, but many of the artists never made it out of the deadly camps.

Peter Loewenstein of Czechoslovakia was deported in 1941 to Terezin. He gave the 70 drawings to his mother before he was then deported in 1944 to the notorious Auschwitz camp.

His mother and sister would soon be deported to Auschwitz as well, but not before turning over the art to a family friend.

His sister, the only family member who survived the camp, recovered the portfolio after the war, including “Eight Men in Coats with Stars,” a 1944 ink on paper depiction of Jews forced to wear identification badges.

Equally powerful is a watercolor by Marvin Halye, a member of the 104th Infantry Division of the U.S. Army, who liberated Nordhausen concentration camp in Germany in 1945.

After seeing the few surviving prisoners tending to thousands of bodies, he rushed to paint “Liberation of Nordhausen, Civilians Covering Corpses.”

The show, which runs Jan. 16 through July 5, opens amid a spike in anti-Semitic hate crimes across the United States and particularly in New York City, home to the largest Jewish community outside of Israel.

Anti-Jewish hate crimes in New York in 2019 were at a 28-year high, according to professor Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino.

In the most recent attack, a machete-wielding man wounded five people gathered last month for a Hanukkah celebration at a rabbi’s home in the New York City suburb of Monsey.

Just weeks earlier, a shooting at a kosher supermarket in nearby Jersey City, New Jersey left two Hasidic Jews dead.

Hate crimes are escalating at a time when many American adults lack basic knowledge of the Holocaust.

The greatest gaps in understanding are among U.S. millennials – people in their 20s and 30s. Two-thirds of them do not know what Auschwitz is, said a recent survey by the Conference on Jewish Material Claims Against Germany.

(This story corrects timeline in paragraph 10)

(Reporting by Barbara Goldberg; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)

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New art piece in Lacombe acknowledges roots of the land and reconciliation – rdnewsnow.com

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“It is a metal sculpture of two rough grouse, with two logs; the female is sitting on one log and the male is landing at the end of the other,” explains Maureen MacKenzie, community services executive assistant with The City of Lacombe. “It was created to represent the affinity between rough grouse, but also that people have for one another. It also represents the two communities and local First Nations.”

According to a release, grouse was an imported food source for settlers and Indigenous peoples when bison populations dwindled across the prairies. The piece also pays homage to settler and Indigenous communities living and working together across Canada’s west.

MacKenzie adds The City had a robust anti-racism program planned earlier this year, but once again COVID-19 caused its postponement. The program was meant for large groups and would’ve included the blanket exercise, a 60s Scoop exhibition, and other workshops.

“The last census in 2016 indicated we have over 800 residents of Lacombe who are Indigenous, which is almost 10 per cent of our population, so it’s really important we show we’re willing to walk the walk,” MacKenzie says. “We as a city want to embrace all of our cultures, and in this instance, with truth and reconciliation in mind, our plan is to host those workshops eventually, and that’s our way of saying we’re taking action on inclusion and racism.”

‘Miweyihtowin’ was created at a cost of $18,000.

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North Dakota Museum of Art reopens Tuesday with launch of 'Art in Isolation' exhibition – Grand Forks Herald

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The exhibition consists of assemblages of images submitted by artists and others in 35 countries around the world, including Portugal and Russia, as well as area communities, said Matthew Anderson, the museum’s director of education.

Last spring, museum staff members issued an online invitation to people asking them to submit images of how they were expressing their creativity during quarantine.

“Thousands of images started arriving from around the world …. The images describe an outpouring of creative expression,” said Anderson, adding that the pandemic has caused unanticipated change. “Change also fuels creativity, and that is what the North Dakota Museum of Art brought to light.”

As part of the launch of the “Art in Isolation” exhibition, the museum is asking visitors to donate a nonperishable food item to give to those in need and place it in drop boxes in the entry. Anyone who is in need may pick up a food item after viewing the exhibition; all remaining items will be donated to local food banks.

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The exhibition runs through Oct. 7.

Other exhibitions include “Consequences,” with artwork by Lynne Allen, a descendant of the Hunkpapa band of the Lakota on Standing Rock. In the late 1990s, after reading the journals of her great-grandmother, Josephine Waggoner, Allen began making objects that reflect the culture in those writings. These objects were crafted from paper, cut and stitched to shape and lacquered with shellac or from recycled vellum printed with images copied from Waggoner’s journals.

The museum is presenting more than 20 major prints by Allen, an internationally known printmaker, Anderson said.

The “Celebration” exhibition features artwork from the museum’s permanent collection, including Julie Buffalohead’s “Stolen Sisters,” a 4-by-18-foot, mural-sized acquisition that anchors the show. It illustrates the use of acrylic paint, ink, graphite and collage, applied to Nepalese Lokta paper, which has been used in Nepal since the 12th century to write epic tales, print mantra for use in prayer wheels and religious texts chanted by Buddhist monks.

The museum, located on the UND campus, south of Twamley Hall, has been closed to the public since mid-March when the national public health emergency, due to the spread of COVID-19, was declared.

When the facility reopens, new hours will be from noon to 4 p.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Sundays.

The museum will be following CDC guidelines and working with UND officials to help prevent the spread of COVID-19, Anderson said. Visitors will be required to wear face masks and encouraged to practice social distancing.

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Cambodia is an inspiration for the healing power of art after a crisis – The Conversation CA

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Even though history has seen different disasters and humanitarian crises, one fact remains: we try to understand what is happening by seeing how others coped, comparing our reaction to theirs. These comparisons allow us to shed light on the best practices for managing or emerging from a crisis.

We note with the COVID-19 pandemic that there is not one response to crises, but many responses that are adapted and implemented through trial and error.

At the Canadian Research Institute on Humanitarian Crisis and Aid our team was interested in a few examples where art and culture have been used to encourage development at the social, community, economic and civic level in various countries, including Haiti and Cambodia.

Cambodia is a special case. It was able to use art and culture to find a way to rebuild itself after the genocide that began in 1975 and ended with the fall of the Pol Pot regime in 1979. While the context is different, is there a way we can draw inspiration from the Cambodian example to recover from the current health crisis?

Art and culture in crisis

First of all, what do we mean by “crisis?” Are we simply referring to the health aspect?

Our government decision-makers have categorized the current period as a “war” against an invisible enemy. But a war leaves after-effects that are not only structural but social, societal and humanitarian as well. Also, as in armed conflicts, this “health war” has imposed a front line in hospitals and seniors’ residences.

In times of war, art and culture, which are important pillars of our societies, are hit hard and sometimes even strategically destroyed.

The rebirth of art in Cambodia

Cambodia has a long and rich history dating back to before the Middle Ages. It was during the golden age of the Khmer Empire (between the ninth and 13th centuries) that arts and culture became integrated into society through religion, rites and customs.

However, for recent generations, this rich Cambodian culture with its oral tradition was greatly affected by the genocide under the tyrannical Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1979. At this time, arts and culture almost completely disappeared, as did nearly 20 per cent of the population (between 1.7 million to 3 million people), exterminated by Pol Pot’s dictatorship. The dictatorship fell from power in 1979. Instability and conflict remained for some 20 years.

In 1998, after Pol Pot’s last uprising in 1997, Arn Chorn-Pond founded the Cambodian Master Performer Program, which became Cambodian Living Arts, in order to restore art to its former glory. Born in Cambodia into a family of genocide survivors, he studied in the United States and worked as a social worker there for a few years before returning to Cambodia.

Today, Cambodian Living Arts brings together several hundred artists and employees working at different levels including arts education and heritage protection as well as the development of tomorrow’s leaders, markets and strong networks.

This non-profit organization uses art and culture to fulfil its mission of healing trauma, safeguarding traditions, restoring meaning to the community and training young people to contribute to the development of the country. It now has an expanded ecosystem of partners in other parts of the world.

As Phloeun Prim, the non-profit’s current executive director, explains, the destruction of cultural symbols and artifacts, such as religious and cultural sites, monuments and works of art, is an integral part of the consequences of conflict. The oppressor, be it another country or a dictator, will seek to uproot the oppressed group from its identity, culture and societal vision.

A brutal stop with the pandemic

Although it hasn’t destroyed infrastructure, the global pandemic has hit the cultural sector hard with the closure of theatres and cinemas, bans on mass gatherings and the cancelling of festivals. The performing arts, visual arts and access to heritage often appear to have been last to be considered in reopenings while workers dependent on the gig economy have lost many opportunities.




Read more:
Support for artists is key to returning to vibrant cultural life post-coronavirus


In compensation, the federal and provincial governments have offered some assistance to the sector to survive and to develop.

However, as we can see with the debate around opening performance venues, economic measures are not enough for everyone and do not guarantee that the public will be there. The abrupt and prolonged halt in cultural activities, as well as the prospect of a second wave of COVID-19 contamination, suggest that there will be repercussions for a long time to come. A strategy of cultural regeneration supported by our governments and strong institutions, such as the Cambodian Living Arts in Cambodia, should be considered.

This regeneration work was essential for Cambodia’s recovery. Added to this was the need to transmit culture in order to rebuild bridges between generations, between individuals and between institutions. To share one’s art orally does not only mean passing on know-how. It also means passing on people skills.

Master Ling Srey teaching Kantaoming, traditional Cambodian music used at funerals, in Siem Reap province, Cambodia.
(Matthew Wakem), Author provided

By teaching his art, the master transmits his identity to the other. And the student has the duty to appropriate this knowledge in order to take it further and create his own interpretation of the symbols. This is what creates more resilient societies.

Today, Cambodian Living Arts continues to invest in current and future cultural leaders. They are the ones who will have to rebuild in the new post-crisis environment, where interactions, communities and identities will no longer be the same.

Reaching out to the public

At home in Québec, for example, we see local initiatives. TD Bank and Vidéotron have partnered to present musical performances on outdoor stages, in a “drive-in movie” format, where spectators can enjoy the event in their vehicles.

Others choose to travel to people. This is the case of the Théâtre de la Ville, in Longueuil near Montréal, which offers a travelling program of three shows. In this way, art met the public, a bit like street theatre, at the beginning of the confinement. Similarly, Le Festif, in Charlevoix, offers immersive listening sessions outdoors.

Teaching and propagating culture is about coming together and finding each other. Moreover, as noted by the UNESCO International Bureau of Education, every human being is capable, through art, of re-establishing their link with society.

Finding a new normal

Our approach to art, culture and artist-citizen interactions will change in the new post-COVID reality. We will have to relearn, trust each other and then let ourselves forge new ways while respecting the rules.

A study by Habo studio shows that the return to “normalcy” in the consumption of the arts is not coming soon. It will take at least until 2021 (and perhaps 2022, according to some decision-makers in the field) before attendance levels return to pre-COVID levels, at least for the Montréal region.

As Québec’s rules for indoor and outdoor gatherings now vary regionally, the cultural sector continues to explore virtual or outdoor alternatives, and stay attuned to health regulations. Like us, it will be seeking to define its new normal.

Phloeun Prim, Executive Director of Cambodian Living Arts, co-authored this story.

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