Holocaust Mural Exhibit at ECTC
An exhibit of Holocaust murals coming to the area will help spread a powerful message of embracing diversity, compassion and kindness in this region.
Central Kentucky Community Foundation announces a new initiative coming to Elizabethtown through CKCF’s Marvin and Joyce Benjamin Fund. Through the fund, CKCF is hosting Never Again: Murals of the Holocaust, a project of Western Kentucky University’s Center for Gifted Studies. This presentation of the Holocaust mural exhibit and educational components is also made possible by The Kentucky Center for the Performing Arts and the Jewish Heritage Fund for Excellence.
The exhibit will be on display from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday from Feb. 25 to April 5 at Elizabethtown Community and Technical College’s Morrison Gallery in the JSO Building. Two Saturday viewings also are available from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. March 9 and 23. It is free and open to the public. The community program, A Night of Remembrance and Understanding, featuring a Holocaust survivor sharing his story, is at 6 p.m., Monday, March 25, in room 112 of the JSO Building on campus.
As we pause on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we remember the 6 million Jews and thousands of others that perished in the Holocaust. The exhibit raises awareness of the Holocaust by providing a memorable method of introducing young people and adults to the lessons of this difficult period in history.
Much like the exhibit, the Benjamin Fund of CKCF exists to foster kindness, understanding and inclusiveness amongst the diverse people that call this community home. The fund has an emphasis on anti-Semitism, which makes this exhibit and community event especially relevant.
“Without the generosity of Marvin and Joyce Benjamin, this opportunity would not be available to our area and our students,” said Davette B. Swiney, CKCF president and CEO. “Tolerance and understanding others are traits of a civil society and traits we want to embody as a community. Helping our students connect the lessons of the Holocaust to today and learning to have open, respectful dialogue is a true lifelong gift from the Benjamins.”
The 9-feet-wide by 7-feet-tall murals were designed by students in the Nazi Germany and the Holocaust class of WKU’s Summer Program for Verbally and Mathematically Precocious Youth (VAMPY) over the course of more
than 20 years. The class focuses on the rise and fall of Nazi Germany and the danger of remaining a spectator during similar events.
Since 1992, the course has been taught by 2017 Teacher of the Year Ron Skillern during the VAMPY summer program and culminates in students collectively producing a mural. He found with the intensity of the subject matter, students needed a hands-on outlet to process, so the idea of the murals was born. They now total 21.
“There’s all kinds of issues that studying the Holocaust presents, but when it comes down to it, we have to always come back to answer the question, “What does it mean to be human?” he said. “That is a big question that we try to answer, because we must see other human beings as human beings. If we don’t, we then we devalue them, we sub-humanize them and then it becomes OK to do bad things to them. That is what this exhibit is about.”
This past summer, local teachers at partner high schools were trained in strategies and models for teaching about the Holocaust and the murals. By bringing the murals to Elizabethtown through the Benjamin Fund, it allows students to experience the murals at no cost to them or their schools. The murals are intended to help students internalize the lessons from that difficult period in history and perhaps apply them to issues and injustices today.
“Our idea isn’t to make an army of historians,” Skillern said of the exhibit. “Our idea is to make a collection of students throughout the commonwealth who have incredibly good hearts and understood that courage is compassion and power means mercy and kindness.”
Swiney said she believes students who complete the course work and view the murals will leave with a greater understanding of each other and how to engage civilly with people of differing beliefs and backgrounds.
“We hope from these lessons and through this exhibit will emerge students who at their core understand we are all people and strive to extend compassion and advocate for everyone,” Swiney said. “That is the overall goal of the Benjamin Fund and we are pleased to bring a project that is so well-aligned with its mission.”
For more information about the exhibit, go to ckcf4people.org.