The Imagination Project: Artists of the Holocaust

by Aimee Mepham, Program Coordinator, WFU Humanities Institute

The Humanities Institute initiative Humanities Matters: Problem-Focused Faculty-Student Research for the Common Good launched in the Spring of 2013 with The Imagination Project: Artists of the Holocaust. This project, led by faculty members of the WFU Documentary Film program Sandy Dickson, Professor and Co-Director, and Peter Gilbert, Professor of Practice, began with a team-taught course offered  during the Spring 2013 semester and open to undergraduate students from multiple disciplines and third-year MFA students from the Documentary Film Program.


Woman at the Communal Kitchens. Esther Lurie. 1942.

Through the course, taught by Dickson, Gilbert, and Senior Lecturer Cara Pilson, students collaborated with consulting WFU faculty from various disciplines as well as with art historians and curators at the Yad Vashem Art Museum in Jerusalem.

The project’s aim is to educate a younger audience about anti-semitism and promote the common good of greater understanding, identification, and respect for different religions and cultures. Students in the course worked in teams with undergraduate and graduate students working together to produce five short films averaging five to ten minutes each along with five accompanying digital study guides designed primarily for educational use in middle schools.

The films focused on five artists of the Holocaust: Leo Haas, a Czech artist of the German Expressionist school, and likely the best known of the group; Esther Lurie, an accomplished artist whose work was used in the Nuremberg trials; Charlotte Buresova, an painter whose piece “The Last Flamenco,” featuring dancer Catherina Frank, has a fascinating history; Marko Behar, a Bulgarian illustrator, cartoonist, and satirist; and Luigi Fleischmann, a sixteen-year-old Italian artist, spy, and translator who created art on the backs of postcards.

The individual films were submitted to Yad Vashem for review and were met with an enthusiastic response. The shorts are currently being revised. In addition to being designed for a broad audience, they are also designed for potential posting on the Yad Vashem YouTube Channel. The completed films will also be made available for use by WFU faculty and students.

Members of the Artists of the Holocaust team are integrating each five-to-ten-minute film into a festival short length film. When work on the music score is completed, this version will be submitted for review to Yad Vashem. If permission is granted from Yad Vashem (who hold first rights to the films for YouTube, broadcast), the combined film will be submitted to film festivals and for educational screenings, including a screening at WFU in the Spring of 2014.

The newest incarnation of The Imagination Project has just received funding from the Humanities Institute. The Imagination Project: Filipino Street Art will begin as a course taught in the Spring of 2014. Similar to Artists of the Holocaust, this new project will focus on the production of short digital films and accompanying study guides. The course grew from a larger project begun by 2013 MFA graduates of the Documentary Film Program Kim Dryden and Austin Smith.lee

As with Artists of the Holocaust, the Filipino Street Art course will involve contributing WFU faculty from various humanities disciplines. Class sessions will involve WFU faculty members who have creative or research agendas focused on the humanities as well as guest lecturers who are experts in street art and Filipino culture.

More on this project will be covered as it develops. To learn more about the larger film begun by Dryden and Smith, visit: