I’ve just returned from a remarkable set of experiences at Emory in Atlanta, Georgia, where we did something we’ve never done before. Instead of one venue, here at Emory, thanks to the enthusiasm of many university departments and Paul Wolpe’s vision of the Center for Ethics, we installed The Last Album: Eyes from the Ashes of Auschwitz-Birkenau photo exhibition in FIVE locations around the Emory campus! And together with the installations – which were reconfigured anew for each venue – we held programs and seminars around Emory’s campus, reaching thousands of new eyes, thousands of new hearts. In addition, Carlton Mackey and Tanya Anderson are making a documentary film of my time at Emory.
Creative Conversations, which were the brainchild of the Emory University’s Rosemary Magee, were filmed and are available for anyone to view on iTunes, under ‘iTunesu’ with the ‘u’ for university. Once you get to the list of colleges participating, just scroll to Emory and you’ll be able to download my discussions, together with those of playwright Edward Albee, Composer Philip Glass and the like. I feel quite honored to have been included.
I taught classes on campus to Deborah Lipstadt and Angelika Bammer’s Holocaust Memoir students; I spoke and displayed photos to music composed in concentration camps, performed by members of the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (titled ‘Creativity in Captivity’), and I did exhibition premieres and talks all over campus. Randy Fullerton, of the Center of Creativity and the Arts, had his students write reactions to the photos.
And my last visit to Emory was coordinated to coincide with the visit of the Dalai Lama and Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks of London. At the conclusion of my last seminar, a German student made this final comment: “Dr. Weiss, your message to us is the same as the Dalai Lama’s.” At the time, I was speaking about compassion and what we must do as human beings to help one another, against the backdrop of the Holocaust and what the world did not do.
My time at Emory has been quite extraordinary, and a number of joint projects are being planned for continuation, about which I will write more in the future. But for now, I want to highlight one event, and one 13-year-old Jack Schneider, who made it happen.
I met Jack on my September visit, when he attended my first talk on campus with his mom. Jack then returned to every public program I gave, and Jack felt, because he had been so deeply affected by the experience, that his whole class should be able to see my photos. He showed my book at his school, and because of Jack’s commitment – not just to memory, but to translating memory into action – Jack Schneider arranged a field trip of his whole 8th grade class to Emory’s Visual Arts Gallery!! No small feat under any circumstances, and even more impressive for a junior high school student to arrange!
See these great photos of Jack’s Epstein School 8th grade class who came to Emory’s Visual Arts Gallery and were taught by Visual Arts Chair, Jason Francisco and Curator Mary Catherine Johnson.
I can’t help but think, especially at this time of political acrimony, how lucky we would be as a society to have a population comprised of exceptional people like 13-year-old Jack, who saw what he felt should be done, and then found a way to do it!
Thank you, Jack. Thank you all. You give me hope.
With warmest wishes, Ann
Fifty middle school students and their teachers from The Epstein School visited the Emory Visual Arts Gallery today to experience and write about Ann Weiss’s exhibition The Last Album: Eyes from the Ashes of Auschwitz-Birkenau. Visual Arts chair Jason Francisco provided historical and artistic contexts for the photographs, then the students wrote essays about the images that were most meaningful to them.