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Art at the JCC: Celebration of Life Exhibit & Benefit

Seven Days of Creation tapestry by Laurie Gross Studios.
Seven Days of Creation tapestry by Laurie Gross Studios. (Bronfman Family Jewish Community Center)

Art at the JCC will host an opening reception for its Celebration of Life Exhibit & Benefit from 1-3 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 13, at the Jewish Federation’s Bronfman Family Jewish Community Center, 524 Chapala St., Santa Barbara. The reception is free and open to the public.

The poignant show celebrates the lives of local Holocaust survivors through their own art, and commemorates the important anniversary of Kristallnacht with a fresh approach focused on life and renewal rather than death and destruction.
 
The exhibit features the Seven Days of Creation tapestry, a major piece from the studio of Laurie Gross, and includes artwork from local Holocaust survivors and those featured in the Jewish Federation’s Portraits of Survival/Upstanders Exhibits and Programs: Life Journeys During the Holocaust and Beyond.

Long-time Santa Barbara resident and prolific artist, Evelyn Gerlach, will make her Santa Barbara arts debut. Photographs from Survivor Roman Vishniac will also be featured.
 
Local survivors Ralph Baxter, Freddy Caston, Erika Kahn, Edith Ostern, Bernie Penner, Maria Segal and Margaret Singer, as well as other known artists, have been commissioned to create 8-by-8-inch canvasses that will be for sale at $54 each.

The number 54 is a multiple of 18, which is the Hebrew word for "chai"or life, and thus fitting for this event.

Proceeds will benefit the Portraits of Survival/Upstanders Exhibits and Programs: Life Journeys During the Holocaust and Beyond, which has welcomed more than 7,000 visitors since its inception in November 2003.

At the event, survivor and artist David Labkovski will have his Santa Barbara debut. Labkovski’s (1906-1991) oil paintings tell the story of Jewish destruction, survival, and renewal through his expressive technique.

Labkovski takes the viewer on a journey from the dark to the light, from his own survival in a Serbian prison camp during the Holocaust, to the light and life in Israel.

Art at the JCC has a connection to Labkovski's family, which has allowed this project to materialize in Santa Barbara. Labkovski’s work is featured in several museums, centers, and special collection loans at Jewish-affiliated organizations.
                                           
As a centerpiece of the show, Art at the JCC will display the seven-panel tapestry titled Seven Days of Creation from Laurie Gross Studios. This intricately woven and embroidered piece is more than 10 feet tall and about 30 feet across.

Its title refers to Genesis 1:1–2:3 in which Elohim, the Hebrew word for God, creates the heavens and the earth in six days, starting with light on the first day and ending with the creation of human beings and animals on the sixth day. God then blesses, sanctifies, and rests on the seventh day.

The survivors’ artworks honor all local Holocaust survivors, their legacies of endurance and hope, and the lessons their lives teach us about the power of the human spirit in the face of unthinkable evil.
 
A number of these extraordinary survivors have been lifelong professional artists, while others have been art educators or found their creative talents later in life. Collectively, their work offers insight into the experience of living through one of the darkest chapters in human history.

By celebrating life, the exhibit offers a more positive approach to commemorating Kristallnacht and honoring our local survivors.

Kristallnacht or “The Night of Broken Glass” marks the day the Nazis stormed the streets of Germany in 1938 torching synagogues, vandalizing Jewish homes, schools and businesses, killing more than 100 Jews and injuring countless more.

Kristallnacht is considered by many historians to have been the start of the Holocaust.

The exhibit was curated by Lynn M. Holley, M.A., an executive consultant to the arts. Holley is the resident curator of Art at the JCC and chief curator of Santa Barbara Center for Arts, Science and Technology.

The exhibition’s main partner is The Squire Foundation, a nonprofit arts empowerment foundation that aims to elevate the arts in Santa Barbara through artist in residence and public art programming.
 
For more information, visit https://jewishsantabarbara.org/art-at-the-jcc or call 957-1115.
 
— Briana Sapp Tivey for JCC.

 
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