TROY — On Oct. 6, the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center and Troy City Schools Art Department sponsored a program by artist, author, professor, and Holocaust survivor, Dr. Nelly Toll.
Dr. Toll spoke to Troy’s eighth graders about her time as a small child in hiding in Nazi occupied Poland during World War II.
This visit was in conjunction with an upcoming exhibit hosted by the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center. “Imagining a Better World: The Artwork of Nelly Toll,” will be on display at the Hayner Center May 6 through July 10. This exhibit won Best Exhibit by the Ohio Museum Association in 2014. The exhibit, Imagining a Better World: The Artwork of Nelly Toll, focuses on a young girl’s childhood reaction to the Holocaust through an exploration of art and writing. Creative pursuits were for Nelly a method of coping, healing, documenting, and overcoming adversity.
Holocaust survivor, Nelly Toll began painting and writing when she was an 8-year-old child in hiding for two years in Nazi occupied Poland during World War II. Toll’s childhood watercolor paintings can be seen in her books about her experiences. Her paintings have been shown in the Vad Vashem Museum in Israel, the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. and in private collections. Dr. Toll received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and she holds a master’s degree in art and art history. She currently lectures at the University of Pennsylvania.
“Dr. Toll’s visit was a perfect way to kick off the eighth grade unit on the study of the Holocaust and the reading of Anne Frank’s Diary.” remarked English Teacher Angela Clouser. “What a wonderful opportunity for our students to hear history from an actual survivor; most teenagers today only have the experience of having read the memoirs or history books, but we got to listen to Dr. Toll and ask her questions. She is a most gracious and delightful speaker who offers both lessons about what it was like to live through the horrific time period and how we can practice being better individuals by eliminating prejudice and intolerance one voice at a time today.”
Several of Mrs. Clouser’s students also commented on the experience of meeting Dr. Toll and hearing her story first hand.
Cale Stinson said, “I thought about my problems and realized how much worse hers had been and how she was able to overcome them.” Brooke Stockslager stated, “I think we got a more personal view of the Holocaust because, usually, we only get what the textbooks say.”
Similarly, Mollie Bretland expressed, “I am really thankful to get to hear someone who experienced history firsthand, instead of just reading it out of a book.”
Nathan Kleptz and Tito Fuentes agreed, “She taught us to never give up because it gets better in the end.”
According to exhibit coordinator Leona Sargent at the Troy-Hayner Cultural Center, Dr. Toll left the Junior High School impressed by the insightful questions and attentiveness of the students. Toll was also delighted to see the “Imagining a Better World” art projects completed by Mrs. Laura Cantrell’s art classes.