One by One—Artists Changing the World

(photo courtesy of Yardena Youner)

For most artists, a grant is simply an opportunity to create a work of art. Ah, but once in awhile, it’s a chance to change the world. Yardena Youner wrote to me from Israel to remind me of a grant she received from ArtsWestchester (at the time Westchester Arts Council) some 23 years ago for her photographic installation “A Letter to Debbie”. Each larger-than-life panel was based on the letters Lieutenant Al Gaynes, a soldier in the US Army, wrote to his wife during WWII, describing the atrocities of the Nazis that our troops discovered upon liberating Europe and entering the Concentration Camp, Landsberg Kaufering, Germany. Yardena tells me that after the initial exhibition at our building in White Plains, for twenty years the works traveled to spaces throughout Europe—Bremen, Lubeck, Berlin, Eutin, Hannover, Landsberg, Bielefeld, Hamburg, Delmenhorst and Vienna, Germany and Helsinki, Finland, ending up in a permanent display at a new museum recently established at the former camp. “We shall never forget” are words that will be remembered by every child brought up during the war as it left a scar on all of us. As for me, when I think about this work of art and the modest $2,500 grant from ArtsWestchester to an artist, I will never forget the power of the arts.