Fred Amram has gone through many phases in his life, both with his career and where he has lived.
As a storyteller, author, professor, inventor and public speaker, much of his work revolves around his experience fleeing Nazi Germany as a child and moving to the U.S., learning "how to be an American.”
This theme is present in “Lest We Forget,” which is comprised of visual art that Amram’s wife, Sandra Brick, has created based on his stories and writings. The collection contains 24 multi-media works of art with short literary vignettes and explores a young Jewish man coming of age during the Holocaust and the struggles he encounters as a refugee in the United States.
The couple’s exhibit is currently on display and runs through Dec. 5 at the Benedict and Dorothy Gorecki Gallery in the Benedicta Arts Center, College of Saint Benedict. It is part of the Visual Arts Series at CSB and Saint John’s University, and is sponsored by Fine Arts Programming.
There will be a livestream artist talk at 7 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 5. A link to the stream will be provided at a later date.
Originally only containing 12 images, the exhibit started traveling 10 years ago, but gradually Brick kept adding images until she felt the 24 images and corresponding stories were complete.
The couple faced different obstacles while curating the works.
“My challenge was to find the best way to capture feelings and messages in the language of storytelling. I searched for ways to help the reader share his experiences. Sandra’s challenge was to find ways to capture and to display emotions and events with color, texture and space,” Amram said.
Similar to Amram, Brick has accomplished much in her life. She has taught workshops on fabric dyeing, design theory, beading and creative problem solving, as well as exhibited her work on three continents. As a current teacher with the Textile Center in Minneapolis, Brick has always been fascinated what the question of ‘what if?’ and uses this curiosity to excellently portray her husband’s stories.
Brick’s exquisite and creative artwork does more than illustrate Amram’s powerful words, it speaks in partnership to bring the viewer through an emotional journey that is at once intensely personal yet still universal.
The artwork in this exhibit is slightly different than Brick’s usual work, as she was pushed out of the world of abstraction.
“Sandra’s art is most often focused on dyeing and embellishing textiles,” Amram said. “Most of her art is much more abstract than the storytelling focus of this exhibit.”
“The stories this exhibit portrays could not be more pertinent to the current atmosphere. This exhibition is timely to our campus and galleries,” said Jill Dubbeldee Kuhn, CSB/SJU gallery manager for Fine Arts Programming.
“It is unfathomable that some people honestly believe the Holocaust never existed. This exhibition contains the results of Amram’s gifted storytelling in didactic panels alongside the mixed media work created by Brick. At this time during COVID-19, we are not able to offer gallery guides which often enhance the experience for the viewer. Amran’s words guide the visitors to view this powerful testimony to the human spirt at their own meditative pace,” Dubbeldee Kuhn said.
After viewing the art and taking in the stories of a Jewish youngster, Amram and Brick want this exhibit to serve as a call to action. Since Amram has worked to understand the dynamics of group behavior and problem-solving and has dedicated his life to service, it’s fitting that this experience should serve as a catalyst for change.
“We’d like the viewers’ compassion to lead them toward becoming upstanders. We want people to take responsibility for themselves and for the lives of others. We want viewers to oppose injustice wherever they see it. Although our focus is on genocide we want viewers to be alert to all forms of bullying—on the playground, in the country, around the world,” Amram said.
In “Lest We Forget,” the viewer becomes a participant who is reminded to never forget and is empowered to accept responsibility to repair the world.
“Aside from the important messages portrayed in this exhibition — encouraging viewers to be upstanders, we want our viewers to have the experience of viewing fine literature and fine visual art,” Amram said. “The viewer should experience the pleasure and awe of being in a museum and experiencing art.”