La Verne University Receives Historic Ukrainian-American Jewish Sculptures for Preservation and Study | News
LAVERNE, Calif., February 23, 2022 /PRNewswire-PRWeb/ — The University of Verne received a donation of 14 historic folk art sculptures from the Malgert Halpern and Irving Cohen family that depict Jewish life and culture in pre-World War II Ukraine and United States.
The sculptures will be restored and preserved through a multi-year curatorial process led by the Cultural and Natural History Collections (CNHC) and a select team of university staff and students.
The “Henry Halpern Collection of Jewish Life” was created by Henry Halpernwho was born in Ukraine and lived from 1895 to 1979. Many pieces depict Halpern’s memory of what Jewish life was like in Ukraine before the Holocaust, which led to the ultimate destruction of his community. Others resemble the Jewish traditions he preserved while living in United States.
Each piece is made of delicate green ceramic, or unfired clay, and some sculptures express various representations of the small town or “shtetl” of Halpern.
“They’re expressive, very dynamic, they’re very emotional,” said Anne CollierCurator at the CNHC.
Collier directs the conservation process for the sculptures, most of which are fragile and heavily aged. She moved them into an air-conditioned space and began carefully dusting off years of layered dirt and debris.
Once the sculptures have been cleaned, reassembled and stabilized, they will be displayed publicly and studied by the students. Students will also be able to participate in the curatorial, historical research and conservation process, Collier said.
Collier looks forward to discovering the story behind each sculpture as the curatorial process progresses. “It’s the person behind the story, never the object,” Collier said. “There is so much more to learn about these sculptures.”
Robyn Petit served as the Halpern and Cohen family carer for the sculptures and was featured at the University of Verne by her husband. After meeting the President Devorah Liebermann and chaplain Zandra Wagoner, Small felt that the alignment between Halpern’s carvings and the values of the university made the university “the perfect fit” to care for them.
“His gift for forming the people of clay was his way of teaching what is important in any culture: working together; debating the meaning of faith; visiting the sick; lively exchanges at the market; simple vignettes of daily life” , said Small.
Wagoner agreed that the sculptures embody the university’s commitment to interfaith education, diversity and inclusiveness, and lifelong learning.
“We are so grateful to have the opportunity to preserve this story that is so easily communicated through its visual representation,” Wagoner said.
The CNHC is the steward of the University of La Verne collection of artifacts, objects and specimens that represent, preserve and document the collective memory of the natural and cultural world.
Financial support for conservation efforts is welcome and can be done online.
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About University of Verne
Founded in 1891, the University of Verne is a private, not-for-profit, comprehensive institution founded on four core values: lifelong learning, ethical reasoning, civic and community engagement, diversity, and inclusiveness. The university serves students on the historic Verne campus as well as regional and online campuses.
Alexandra Clayton, University of Verne909-448-4359, [email protected]
Rod Leveque, University of Verne909-448-4708, [email protected]
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