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Northwestern Explores brings the best of the University to the general public across the country.

Professor Peter Hayes, center, received feedback from audience members in Sarasota.

Sigmund Walder had so anticipated the Sarasota, Fla., lecture presentation of "The Last Expression: Art and Auschwitz" — the first of the Northwestern Alumni Association’s Northwestern Explores series — that he brought art from his personal collection, a portrait of an Auschwitz survivor by Walter Spitzer. Spitzer, a fellow prisoner, painted it after liberation in 1945.

"The Last Expression," which in the fall will go on display in its entirety in the University’s Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art, traveled as a multimedia presentation Oct. 14 through 16 to several locations in Sarasota, Tampa and Orlando, thanks to Northwestern Explores. And it stirred a lot of memories for Walder. "It’s amazing to see what [the curators] found," he said.

By working in partnership with alumni clubs, other organizations and local businesses to bring University faculty and programs to the general public, Northwestern Explores extends the NAA’s reach beyond the alumni community.

"Partnering is a great idea," said Jim Soble (L66), who helped organize the Tampa event and whose law firm co-sponsored a reception following the program. "It brings local credibility and involvement to an event, which can and does increase exposure, awareness and participation."

Peter Hayes, Theodore Z. Weiss Holocaust Educational Foundation Professor in Holocaust Studies, and David Mickenberg, former director of the Mary and Leigh Block Museum of Art and exhibit curator, gave lectures, and participants viewed images of diaries, drawings and other artwork created by Holocaust victims.

Many of the haunting images were unfamiliar to Hayes. "I plan to incorporate some of them into my lecture course on the Holocaust," he said afterward.

Walder, who lives near Sarasota, spent nearly three years in camps surrounding Auschwitz. He vividly recalled how prisoners often swapped sketches and other artwork for bread. "The sketches definitely explain and show what happened — they’re very impressive," he said.

The Florida Holocaust Museum, the Sembler Co. real estate developers — headed by Mel Sembler (S52), currently U.S. ambassador to Italy — and the Northern Trust Bank of Sarasota were among those joining the NAA in coordinating the central Florida presentations.

Northwestern Explores will bring "The Last Expression: Art and Auschwitz" lecture program to San Francisco on March 5, Los Angeles on March 6 and San Diego on March 7. To find the latest information on upcoming Northwestern Explores events, check the travel and education link on the alumni Web site at alumni.northwestern.edu.

— Michele Hogan and Jenn Eberwein