Professor Frederick Curates Exhibition of Berlin Artists; Organizes Visit to Mason

Posted: September 10, 2010 at 1:03 am, Last Updated: September 9, 2010 at 3:09 pm

By Catherine Ferraro

Helen Frederick. Creative Services photo

As an artist, Helen Frederick, professor in the School of Art, understands the importance of expressing oneself through artwork. When Breakthrough Art Organization approached her about being the curator of its inaugural exhibition, she knew she couldn’t pass on the opportunity.

Founded in 2009, the nonprofit organization champions artists whose works are a means of overcoming political, social and personal challenges.

The traveling exhibition, “20 Years After German Unification – Critical Perspectives of Berlin Artists,” celebrates the artwork and experiences of 10 visual artists who lived through the oppressive conditions of the Communist regime and the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. It will make its third stop on a national tour at the Edison Place Gallery in Washington, D.C., from Sept. 19 to Oct. 8.

The exhibition is funded by a grant from the Federal Republic of Germany and coincides with the German Embassy’s reunification celebration on Oct. 3.

Frederick arranged for several of the German artists to visit the Fairfax Campus on Thursday, Sept. 23, to participate in a series of educational programs. These artists include painters Reinhard Stangl and Robert Weber and photographer Harald Hauswald.

“When I was first approached about being the curator for this exhibition, I felt very strongly about bringing the artists to the Mason community,” says Frederick. “I hope the exhibition and the artists themselves encourage cultural awareness and an understanding that artwork can be a powerful means of declaring one’s freedom of expression.”

The Department of History and Art History, the College of Visual and Performing Arts and the Office of University Life have been helping to get the Mason and outside community involved in the events.

During their visit, the artists will get a behind-the-scenes look at University Libraries’ Special Collections and Archives collection of more than 7,500 posters and 3,400 photographs from the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), more commonly known as East Germany.

The artists will then go to the Art and Design Building to collaborate on a print with Frederick, Mason printmaking students and members of the George Mason Print Guild and other student organizations. Frederick hopes to create three to six pieces of artwork. The finished prints will be displayed in the print studio until Oct. 8.

The artists will complete their visit to Mason by participating in a panel discussion in the Art and Design Building, Room 1007, from 4:30 to 7 p.m. The entire university community and the general public are invited to attend.

Frederick and art and visual technology graduate student Elsabe Dixon will moderate the panel and ask the artists questions about how their artwork has sustained them throughout the hardships they have endured; how their perspectives changed when they crossed the Berlin Wall; and how their artwork today is reflective of their experiences of living in the former GDR.

A question-and-answer session will follow the panel discussion, as well as a 10-minute film of the artists speaking from their own studios about their experiences.

Breakthrough Art Organization is also partnering with the Newseum and Goethe Institute on educational outreach. Dixon has helped to design several educational programs, which will be available to middle, high school and college students in the Washington, D.C., area. Each lesson plan is based on themes that are present in the works of the artists and are intended to spark discussions about the meaning of freedom.

For more information about Breakthrough Art Organization and the upcoming exhibition, visit the website.

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