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Holocaust Education Center announces art and writing contest for area students

Local student artists, writers, and filmmakers are invited to submit pieces to Through Their Eyes: A Holocaust Art and Writing Contest sponsored by the Holocaust Education Center of the Champaign-Urbana Jewish Federation. The deadline for submissions by 5th through 12th grade students who attend public, private, or home schools in Champaign, Clark, Coles, Cumberland, Douglas, Edgar, Ford, Macon, Moultrie, Piatt, Shelby, and Vermilion counties is March 22, 2024.

“We hope that area students and their teachers will participate in this new contest,” said Rebecca Lawson, a co-director of the Holocaust Education Center and director of the contest. “When students connect to individuals impacted by the Holocaust, that’s when it becomes important to them,” she noted. “It is hard to conceptualize the millions of people killed during the Holocaust, but learning the story of one person or group of people is manageable, more personal.”

To help students connect, the contest has four areas that they can create pieces about. Students may choose to honor Holocaust victims (Jewish and non-Jewish and who died or survived), resisters, rescuers, and liberators. “The HEC also wanted to reach students with diverse creative talents,” she added. “To do that, we have categories for a variety of kinds of writing, art, and even film. We also have age divisions which recognize the varying skill levels of students. There is a lot of difference between what high school freshmen and high school seniors have learned to create, and the same is true for middle school students.”

The categories include researched and non-researched poetry and prose, paintings and drawings, tactile art (pottery, sculpture, textiles, etc.), and film. Researched pieces require documentation and are more fact-based than the non-researched categories, which may contain more emotion and reaction.

“Some students are emotionally expressive, and others are more fact-based,” Lawson noted. “Since their writing can vary so much in what is referred to as ‘voice,’ we did not want them competing against each other when they could be vastly different.” She added that they hope the pieces will be a blending of “reality and reaction and fact and feelings.”

“We don’t want a list of facts that were cut and pasted from a website or copied from a print source. We want students to process and synthesize what they learn about the Holocaust and create something that reflects how they relate to what they have learned.”

Dr. Brian Kahn, co-director of the HEC, noted, “Connecting to and learning about the Holocaust is important, especially today with the rise of antisemitism.” He added, “We have held the exhibit for many years, but most of the participants have been from the Champaign-Urbana area only. This year, with adding the contest, we hope to reach more students and more community members in central Illinois.

Information about the contest is on the Champaign-Urbana Jewish Federation website or may be obtained by emailing hec@cujf.org.

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