Honors College Professor Ellen Handler Spitz recently presented a powerful talk on her work and research about the value of the arts for children across the world. Spitz was invited to present her work as part of The Brundibár Lecture Series sponsored by the Theatre Kavanah in Burlington, Vermont.
Spitz presented her talk “Children, Music, Art, and Hope” at the BCA Center in Burlington. The Brundibár Lecture Series aimed to provide context and historical analysis to honor the memory of those who first created and performed this children’s opera in the Terezin concentration camp near Prague, 1942-44. Spitz’s presentation helped to illuminate the profound impact of Brundibár, and she emphasized that it is important to remember that, of the 15,000 school-aged children who passed through the camp, only 100 survived; the others were murdered at Auschwitz.
“Today, with few exceptions, the presence and cultivation of the arts have diminished in schools nationwide, while cognitive subjects are taught and endlessly tested,” Spitz said during her talk. “Brundibár speaks to the value of the arts for children in extreme circumstances. All children need the arts, and the power of Brundibár testifies to that need, not just wish regard to children helplessly caught in dire situations, but to all the world’s children.”
During her talk, Spitz presented many detailed images and drawings that were made by children and artists who were confronted with desperate circumstances. She explained that through their artwork, they kept their happy memories alive through art and music. Emphasizing the importance of the arts, Spitz also drew parallels with current political situations.
“It is so important for all children to have opportunities to express themselves in the arts,” she said. “One very important element about the arts is communication.”
View the full presentation, which was broadcast on Vermont Public Television.
Image: Poster for performance of Brundibár, Theresienstadt, 1944. Author unknown, public domain image via Wikimedia Commons.