Holocaust-Inspired Student Art at Seattle Foundation
Holocaust Center for Humanity exhibits winning works by youth that explore social justice
February 21, 2018
Guest Blog By Dee Simon, Baral Family Executive Director, Holocaust Center for Humanity
“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” – Elie Wiesel
On exhibit now through May in Seattle Foundation's hallway display space are winning entries to the Holocaust Center for Humanity’s Writing, Art and Film Contest. In 2017 nearly 1,000 students in grades 6-12 from communities throughout Washington submitted work that connects the Holocaust to current issues of social justice. (Due to a variety of sizes of the art work and different media used, the pieces on display are reproductions.)
The Center’s mission is to inspire students of all ages to confront bigotry and indifference, promote human dignity, and take action. In addition to a museum, the Center features a library, events, a speakers’ bureau and lessons and resources on the Holocaust and genocide.
The students’ works convey a common thread of urgency, courage and the need for cooperation in the face of injustice. “Teenagers and people like me can make a difference in this world … we have a voice, too. And it matters,” said Ella Gonchar, whose painting (shown at right) depicting a rainbow of faceless protesters was among the middle school winners.
Here is a sample of the pieces, with descriptions by the students.
Hattie KenKnight, Grade 10
In this painting by then 10th grader Hattie, the past and the present collide. The right side represents the Holocaust, depicting the wire fences bordering concentration camps. The left side depicts the border wall between the United States and Mexico. In both scenarios, groups have been subject to injustice. Hattie writes that, “The red in the center, which bleeds outwards, symbolizes those who speak up about these atrocities to the world.”
Naomi Knipp, Grade 11
Naomi, then an 11th grader, wrote this of her portrait of a women with a red palm print over her mouth: “We will not be silenced. We will not be ignored. Misogyny is a global gender equality tragedy and it is imperative that it stops. This piece speaks to victims of rape and mistreatment … This woman is fighting. She is shouting. Sexism is a toxic injustice and it is vital that it ends.”
Entries of poetry, prose and film in 2017 included titles like “Choose Kindness,” and “Do Not Go Gentle,” passionate demonstrations of resistance and visions of a more positive future.
Semira Baraki, then a 10th grade student from Mountlake Terrace, shared an excerpt from her poem, "Fighting Injustice:"
Can’t continue on like this
We need to unite our people
Gather our forces
Muster up the ounce of courage still buried deep within our souls
And remember this, remind ourselves”
Many of the students who entered the contest had visited the Holocaust Center’s museum in downtown Seattle, studied the Holocaust using the Center’s resources and taken classes with teachers trained by the Center.
You can see all the winning art, writing, and film entries online. This is a great time to share information with a student you know on how to enter the 2018 contest, with entries accepted through May 1.
Seattle Foundation staff and visitors are enjoying these thoughtful, inspiring and wide-ranging expressions of students’ creativity that connect the Holocaust to current issues and emotions.
Learn more about our Arts & Culture element of a healthy community and read about organizations providing equitable access to the arts in our Heart & Science Magazine Vol. 2 (pdf).
Arts and Culture,
Children and youth,