03/26/06 — Butterflies ready to fly at Arts Council

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Butterflies ready to fly at Arts Council

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on March 26, 2006 2:02 AM


News-Argus Staff Writer

The Arts Council of Wayne County will unveil a flurry of butterflies today to showcase local students' creativity and to honor the more than one million children who died during the Holocaust.

The arts council will host a special reception today from 3 to 5 p.m. to officially open the Butterfly Exhibit, which is sponsored by Wayne County Reads and Wayne County Public Schools.

Each butterfly was created by a child who attends either a Wayne County public school or Wayne Country Day School and includes the name of a child who died in a concentration camp during World War II. Some of the names are interwoven into the artwork itself.

The public is invited to the reception, but Arts Council Director Alice Strickland said she especially wants the young artists to attend and to bring their parents and siblings.

The project is part of an ongoing series of events designed to support the 2006 Wayne County Reads selection, "Night" by Elie Wiesel, which is a detailed account of the author's life in a concentration camp.

The butterflies, which hang throughout the center, are also a preview for the upcoming production of "I Never Saw Another Butterfly," a dramatization of a group of children's ordeal in a Nazi death camp.

The butterflies have been created in every medium imaginable -- from sequins, felt and tissue paper to aluminum cans, Mrs. Strickland said. She said hundreds of students have participated in the project, which she added has been good for the art community and Wayne County Reads.

She said the committee's inclusion of a wider variety of events this year has allowed more people to participate in the county reading project.

"All of these ideas were put on the table at the beginning, but we never dreamed we'd be able to do them all," she said.

Mrs. Strickland added that the success of this year's project should pave the way for more community participation next year.

"How do you top this one next year?" she said. "It's going to be a challenge, but each year more people get involved. It's a growing project, and look at the attendance. Each function this year has had standing room only."

The Butterfly Exhibit will be on display through April 13. After that, the Arts Council staff will pack the butterflies up to send to the Holocaust Museum in Houston, Texas.

Ms. Strickland said the museum is collecting 1.5 million butterflies for a butterfly project of its own -- an effort to memorialize the children who died in the Holocaust.

Although she hasn't counted the butterflies coming from Wayne County, Mrs. Strickland said there are several hundred.

She said the idea of using butterflies came from a poem written by one of the children who was detained at a concentration camp and ghetto called Terazin.

More than 15,000 children were taken to Terezin beginning in 1942, and only 132 were still there in 1944 when the Allies liberated the camp.

These children's stories are also the basis for the play, "I Never Saw Another Butterfly."

"I found out about the Butterfly Project after we had chosen the book, 'Night,' for Wayne County Reads," said Ms. Strickland, who contacted several museums trying to find a traveling exhibit to feature for this year's events.

She was unsuccessful, but along the way, she spoke with a woman at the Holocaust Museum. The woman told her about the Butterfly Project, and she decided this year's exhibit would be butterflies created to honor the children of the Holocaust.

Mrs. Strickland said she is excited about everything about the exhibit, "except for the packing up."