Escaping Butterflies

Ryan Neal

Escaping Butterflies
Grand Prize winner of the Holocaust Center’s 2021-2022 Waldman International Arts and Writing Competition
Polystyrene foam, plastic, fabric, paint, wire, wood

This piece was created by 10th grader Ryan Neal of Avonworth High School. She won the 2021-2022 Grand Prize in the Holocaust Center’s annual Waldman International Arts and Writing Competition. The competition, established in 1985 and funded by Hal and Diane Waldman, invites students from grades 6–12 to learn and reflect on aspects of the Holocaust through artistic media. The competition began in the Pittsburgh area; over the last decade, it has expanded to include students in partner regions in Karmiel-Misgav, Israel, and Warsaw, Poland.

Artist statement:

“I created a pile of gray butterflies surrounded by barbed wire to symbolize people killed in the concentration camps. The butterfly that still has some color and flies out represents the survivors. The colors are not fully present on the surviving butterfly to symbolize the mental and physical toll it caused on each Holocaust survivor. The butterfly escaping is based on a woman’s diary entry about having hope for liberation and not letting this dream go. Being surrounded by dead bodies and still having the will to live shows the Holocaust survivor’s extreme resilience.”

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