Wayne State exhibit features art made in secret by inmates of concentration campsAugust 23, 2012
In the midst of the horror of the Holocaust, the human spirit prevailed. Forbidden Art, an exhibit coming to Wayne State University September 7-28, illustrates this profound truth through 20 photographs of artwork created in secret by prisoners of Nazi concentration camps. Historical details and excerpts from archival accounts accompany each photo.
The powerful exhibit originated at Poland's Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in late 2011 and is now traveling to four U.S. locations including Wayne State in Detroit. When visitors come to St. Andrew's Hall on the WSU campus during the exhibition, they will encounter several drawings -ranging from heavily detailed to hauntingly sparse– of everyday life in the camps as well as prisoner likenesses. Some of the drawings were found near Auschwitz's gas chambers and include killing scenes. Others show an escape from reality, with caricatures and fairy tales that inmates wrote for their children. Also featured are small sculptures and jewelry.
"While imprisoned in horrible conditions by the brutal Nazi regime, artists continued to produce the works of art that are represented in this exhibit," says Mike Smith, Jewish community archivist at Wayne State's Walter P. Reuther Library, "It is an honor that Wayne State was selected as one of the chosen venues in the United States."
In addition to coordinating the WSU exhibition, Smith has helped arrange logistics for other locations as well. The team reached out to educational institutions in traditionally Polish communities rather than attempting to place the exhibit in Jewish centers, as one might expect. The idea was to increase exposure to those who may be less familiar with the Holocaust narrative.
Matthew Seeger, dean of Wayne State's College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts, says Forbidden Art is a unique opportunity to make important images accessible to students and the community at large. The Department of History, the Department of Art and Art History, and various Jewish Studies courses will likely study the exhibit this fall. A panel discussion called "Who Owns Art? The Holocaust, Ethics and Cultural Patrimony" is among the scholarly programming planned.
The Wayne State exhibit is made possible in part by sponsors Hillel of Metro Detroit and the Holocaust Memorial Center. Event sponsors from WSU include the Cohn-Haddow Center for Judaic Studies, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Dean of Students Office, the Department of History, the James Pearson Duffy Department of Art and Art History, the Walter P. Reuther Library and the Wayne State University Press.
Says Miriam Starkman, executive director of Hillel of Metro Detroit: "We are proud to help sponsor this exhibit, which reinforces both WSU's historic relationship to the Jewish community and that there is dynamic Jewish life on campus today."
Wayne State University is a premier urban research institution offering more than 370 academic programs through 13 schools and colleges to nearly 31,000 students.
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