Annual Lesley event explores the role of the arts in the aftermath of atrocities
Tuesday, March 11, 2014
What is the role of the arts? These were the topics of discussion in the Future of the Past event, the first annual event of a community collaboration initiated by Lesley’s Graduate School of Arts and Social Sciences Dean Catherine Koverola.
“The Future of the Past: Meditations on the Role of Memory in the Aftermath of Atrocity,” held on Feb. 19 in the University Hall Amphitheater, featured three speakers: Jeff Lowenstein, whose father survived the Holocaust; Karen Frostig, who lost sixteen family members during the Holocaust; and Mathew Nash, whose grandfather was an American soldier among those who liberated a Nazi camp. Each speaker offered deep insights through their personal journeys about remembering and bringing action to family memories of genocide. Each of them demonstrated how a curiosity, a question, or a desire to connect to the past, could become an intergenerational creative endeavor of possibilities of healing and transformation.
The event represents a collaboration between Peace and Conflict Studies in Lesley’s Interdisciplinary Studies Program, and Mary Harvey, the founder Director of Violence Transformed, a Boston-based organization that celebrates the power of art, artists and art-making to confront, challenge and mediate violence.
The presentations were followed by a powerful spoken-word performance on the theme of “Change” by Steven Hosking, Stefanie Belnavis, and Catherina Clark, students from the Expressive Therapies/Dance Therapy Graduate Program, a fitting metaphor for the next generation working together to learn from the past and create community in the present.
An inspiring Art exhibit by Dr. Elliot Salloway and Manuel Schroeder from project eXodus at the Atrium Gallery in University Hall supported the event. The powerful images portray the layered complexity of power relationships and urge us to ask the question, “Can crimes against humanity be prevented?”
Each year, through this annual event, the Peace and Conflict Studies initiative and Violence Transformed will seek to engage in conversations on hope, vision and transformation through the arts, of memories of genocide, histories of violence and crimes against humanity.
About the presentersJeff Lowenstein is a Fulbright Scholar and a lecturer in Columbia College's Journalism Department. He started his presentation with a moving story of his father growing up amid fear and hate as a young Jewish boy in Germany in the 1930s. Ed Lowenstein, who was in the audience, was one of the 10,000 children transported on the Kindertransport from Germany in 1938. The younger Lowenstein’s desire to know the past led him to take a family trip to their hometown in Essen, Germany, in May 2012. The warm welcome they received, the founding of the Lowenstein Family award for Tolerance that is awarded to a student from the local school each year, and the initiative of a teacher and the students from that school to commemorate the Jewish community and honor their family on the 75th anniversary of the Kristallnacht, were some of the affirming actions that resulted from the trip – and it is just the beginning.
Karen Frostig, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor at Lesley University, and a Resident Scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University. Her story begins with letters from her Austrian grandmother and Dr. Frostig’s desire to connect to her roots and to her sixteen family members who lost their lives during the Holocaust. As the president of The Vienna Project, Dr. Frostig has launched a unique memorial project that opened in Fall 2013, to mark the 75th anniversary of the Anschluss. She shared inspiring visuals of the opening. Her presentation brought to light the power of the interplay of technology, performance, youth, and public spaces, to remember the past and heal.
Matthew Nash is an Associate Professor and Coordinator of the new Digital Filmmaking program at the Lesley University College of Art and Design. He presented on his recent feature-length Holocaust documentary “16 Photographs At Ohrdruf.” Nash talked about his research process that started with his curiosity as a teenager about a small stack of his grandfather's photos that were taken in 1945, which he discovered later were from the first concentration camp found by the Allies. As Nash shared, the film was a starting point. The research process has continued beyond, giving voice to the untold stories from the soldiers who uncovered the Holocaust.
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