Student Artists Raise Holocaust Awareness

Art show’s theme was inspired by 1937 Munich exhibit

By Jessica Steger, Editor in Chief

This year’s art show, Forbidden Art of the Nazi Era, is celebrating what German Nazis had once deemed degenerate.

The art show is 4-7 p.m. Wednesday in the Silver Lining Performing Arts Center atrium. Art and written work from local students will be on display. Students of West Bend High Schools will be able to tour the gallery during the day with their classes.

The show this year has expanded its activities, but narrowed its theme. West art teacher Deborah Prahl was inspired by the Degenerate Art exhibit held by the Nazis in Munich, 1937.

“I knew there was an interesting story about how Nazi Germany and Hitler had organized this degenerate art show,” Prahl said. “And it was also at the same time that Hitler had his Great German Art Exhibition. And so this was kind of Nazi Germany’s way of declaring war on modern art at the time. They used it as propaganda to promote the Nazi way.”

Scott Lone, an East social studies teacher, has also been intrigued by the history of Nazi Germany’s treatment of art and the Degenerate Art exhibit.

“What they did was they decided to have an art show with a lot of this degenerative art in, I believe it was Munich,” Lone said. “And the art was displayed crooked, upside down, with the hopes that whoever came to the art show would see it and say ‘we can’t have that in Germany.’”

Thus the Forbidden Art theme was created. Another facet of the theme was the educational value it brought to the art show.

“I felt it was a really interesting history lesson for my art students and we were able to tie it in with the social studies and English curriculums and what they were doing as well,” Prahl said.

“It was a really interesting history lesson for my art students and we were able to tie it in with the social studies and English curriculums.”
– Deb Prahl, art teacher

The students have been heavily involved in the show, such as contributing written pieces, which is a new addition this year. Students in English III and U.S. History were all given pictures of Jewish life before, during and after the Holocaust.

“Our students used those pictures as writing prompts,” Lone said. “So they looked at the photo, did a photo analysis, did a cold write, either a narrative in the first person, second person or  poem. Then got information about what was going on in the picture and then revised their writing. So some of that writing will also be in the show.”

In addition to the writings, student art will also be on display. Jackie Luckow, an East junior, has entered a three-part oil painting with a butterfly theme relating to the Holocaust.

“My pieces were heavily influenced from the Fauvism art movement,” Luckow said. “The pieces were more focused on the brush strokes of paint and bold colors rather than the actual realistic aspects. My art is the progression of a butterfly getting more abstract as the three pieces go on. The  use of the butterfly as the subject was in connection to butterflies often being a symbol of the Holocaust.”

Student art is not the only art that will be at the gallery. As a new feature this year, there will also be a silent auction where ceramic work by East art teacher Jay Krueger will be up for bidding. The auction will also offer some student artwork and a gift certificate for a family or senior portrait session.

All the proceeds will go to a social service agency that helps Holocaust survivors who have fallen on hard times.

Yet another new addition this year are the hot hors d’oeuvres and desserts provided by the culinary students of Sally Heuer, West family and consumer science teacher.

A special guest will also be attending the show. Nate Taffel, the author of “Stolen Childhood: Coming of Age While Surviving the Holocaust,” will be autographing his book at the reception.

Lone hopes the show will raise awareness of the Holocaust.

“Two-thirds of Americans in a recent poll cannot identify what Auschwitz is,” he said, citing a recent Washington Post article. “Twenty-two percent of millennials in the poll have said they haven’t heard of the Holocaust. So that drives my desire that we bring Holocaust education in many different forms and varieties to the high school. Because if millennials don’t know what Auschwitz is or have never heard of the Holocaust, the chance of something like the Holocaust happening again significantly and exponentially increases.”

(Photo courtesy of Scott Lone, East social studies teacher.)

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