Art show probes scapegoating of Jews, other groups

Jews are neither history's first scapegoats nor the last.

Immigrants, the homeless, gays and lesbians and numerous ethnic groups share the burden today, say the organizers of "Scapegoats: 1998," an art exhibit opening March 18 in San Francisco.

"Ultimately, scapegoating starts at home and in one's psyche," said Marvin Collins, the show's local curator.

"Scapegoats: 1998" is part of a larger set of exhibits and programs titled "No More Scapegoats!"

Sponsored by the San Francisco Unified School District, "No More Scapegoats!" combines an exhibit focusing on Anne Frank with local artwork based on contemporary prejudice.

"Anne Frank in the World: 1929-1945" is a traveling human rights exhibit that over the past 10 years has been seen by more than five million people in 200 cities.

"The point of the show is to make connections between what happened with mass intolerance 50 years ago and after to Jews and bring it forward to those people who are scapegoated today," said Collins, who has collected 50 thematic works from 35 Bay Area artists for "Scapegoats: 1998."

The exhibition will also contain pieces by students at San Francisco schools.

Don Carney, who has produced similar shows twice before in the Bay Area, is asking local community organizations to participate. Some are contributing funds, while others are volunteering time to the exhibition.

These groups include the gay youth group LYRIC (Lavender Youth Recreation and Information Center), Northern California Coalition for Immigrant Rights and Californians for Justice.

"My goal is to get homeless organizations working with gay and lesbian groups, immigrant and refugee groups working with ethnic and racial minority groups," said Carney.

Lagunitas artist Elly Simmons created the poster for the event.

Collins describes Simmons' style as "Latin American muralist meets Marc Chagall." The colorful poster features images of Anne Frank and of Asians, African Americans and Latinos. The striped border in off-white and muted cerulean blue resembles the fabric used for concentration camp uniforms.

Simmons has won numerous awards for illustrating the 1995 children's book, "Calling the Doves."

Simmons' watercolor, pastel and acrylic work "Beast of War" will be on display. A statuesque, dragon-like red beast, whose wings look more like those of a shell-filled bandoleer, drops bombs on an innocent-looking childlike figure who is purposely "ambiguous in gender and ethnicity," said Simmons.

"The child could be Jewish or Arab. A bomb is exploding in the heart. The calm facial expression is what dignity during war looks like," the artist said.

Inverness photographer Evvy Eisen's environmental portraits on Holocaust survivors, called "The Legacy Project," will also be on display. The series is part of the permanent collections of The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. and the Simon Wiesenthal Center in Los Angeles.

Eisen began the project in 1992. Her process of shooting in and around survivors' homes and getting to know her subjects lends intimacy to the images.

The portraits are accompanied by narratives written by the survivors.

"They want to go on record," said Eisen.

Miranda Bergman, a muralist and silkscreen artist, created a self-portrait that includes images of a Native American, an African American and "other hidden people who made America," said Collins.

While "No More Scapegoats!" is open to the public, its target audience is students.

According to Carney, this is the first time a school district has been the main sponsor of "Anne Frank in the World: 1929-1945," which was developed by the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam.

Collins said he selected the local art carefully.

"This exhibition is more than just beautiful work. It has to be accessible. It's really important that it teaches but doesn't preach."

Hene Kelly, coordinator of the school district's Holocaust Education Program, said that children and teenagers can relate to both Anne Frank and the scapegoat theme because most of them have experienced some form of discrimination.

"Young people have no power, especially if they are a teen of color," said Kelly. "They feel an affinity and empathy to scapegoated groups.

"Students will look and will hopefully see that if they are not vigilant as individuals and as a country, things like what happened in Europe could happen again."

"The Diary of Anne Frank" is required eighth-grade reading in the school district.

"The best way to teach the Holocaust is to personalize it, not teach about the numbers," said Kelly. "The idea is not to traumatize, but to sensitize. You can take them up to the gates, but you don't have to take them inside. This exhibit draws that line."