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Sam Petto
Director, Editorial & Media Relations,
University of Nebraska Omaha

Renowned artist and Holocaust survivor Samuel Bak will visit the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) this September in tandem with a showing of 70 of his creations. The showing and a series of related public events will be free and open to the public.
Witness: The Art of Samuel Bak, opens Tuesday, Sept. 3 in the UNO School of the Arts’ Art Gallery, housed in the Weber Fine Arts Building. The collection spans five decades of Bak’s artistic journey, featuring pieces that have been shown in major museums and galleries in cities such as Tel Aviv, New York, Paris and Rome. The art will be on display through Thursday, Nov. 14.
Bak’s art visualizes his Holocaust experience and Jewish life through the ages. His art melds different styles, often featuring surreal imagery.
“Most of my paintings, seemingly realistic, attempt to intrigue and interrogate their beholders. What do all those icons and symbols mean? What is the story behind this strange universe? I am looking forward to the encounter with the public of my forthcoming exhibition at UNO,” Bak said. “My art is anchored in my personal story of survival, in which the specific events point to the universal premises of the human condition.”
Community members have an opportunity to hear from the artist himself. Bak will visit the UNO campus in late September to headline an event and participate in related human rights programming.
A conversation featuring Bak is set for Wednesday, Sept. 25 at 7 p.m. in the Strauss Performing Arts Center, preceded by a reception beginning at 6 p.m. Both events are free and open to the public, no tickets or registration required.
“This will be an evening of rich discussion and discovery,” said Mark Celinscak, Louis and Frances Blumkin Professor of Holocaust and Genocide Studies and executive director of UNO’s Sam and Frances Fried Holocaust and Genocide Academy. “Samuel Bak creates deeply symbolic and evocative worlds and invites us all to confront, interrogate and repair.”
Thursday, Sept. 26, UNO’s Goldstein Center will welcome scholars from across the world to participate in a free symposium on the intersection of contemporary art and human rights, inspired by Bak’s lifework. The symposium runs from 9 a.m. through 4 p.m. in the Barbara Weitz Community Engagement Center (rooms 201, 205, 209). No registration is required.
A special Goldstein Lecture on Human Rights will take place the evening of Sept. 26, in the Strauss Performing Arts Cetner, featuring former South African judge Richard Goldstone. Goldstone became a national figure during South Africa’s transition from apartheid. He then became the Chief Prosecutor of the United Nations’ International Criminal Tribunals, investigating war crimes in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda. Goldstone and Bak will be among guests at a public reception before the Goldstein Lecture.
Gary Phillips, author of Just Is in the Art of Samuel Bak, will deliver a lunchtime keynote at noon in the Weber Fine Arts Gallery. Hank Greenspan, a psychologist, oral historian and playrwright, will present on The Witness as Dramatist at 2 p.m. Philosopher Lewis Gordon will close the symposium with an afternoon keynote at 3 p.m. on the topic of Art and the Right to a Livable Life.
For a detailed schedule email goldsteincenter@unom aha.edu.
Funds are available to bus high school and middle school students to UNO to experience Bak’s art and engage with trained docents. Teachers interested in this opportunity should email Jeremy Menard, Weber Art Gallery Coordinator at jmenard@unomaha.edu.
This exhibition, the first time in Nebraska, is sponsored by the UNO Sam and Frances Fried Holocaust and Genocide Academy, the Schwalb Center for Israel and Jewish Studies, the College of Communication, Fine Arts and Media and the College of Arts and Sciences in addition to the Nebraska Arts Council, Humanities Nebraska and the Nebraska Cultural Endowment. The exhibition itself was sponsored by and paid for entirely by the Fried Academy and the Schwalb Center.