Violins of Hope Offers a Somber Glimpse of the Past, A Testament to Human Resilience

Violins of Hope, UT Downtown Gallery, Knoxville, January 2019

I rarely write about specific gallery exhibitions. I was moved to do so for Violins of Hope, the most recent exhibition at the UT Downtown Gallery after attending the ribbon cutting and opening ceremony last Friday. Mayor Rogero offered opening remarks and current Knoxville Poet Laureate Marilyn Kallet read a poem written for the occasion. Avshi Weinstein, the grandson of the original owner of the collection traveled from Israel to speak and architect Louis Emmanuel Gauci who designed the exhibit shared the thoughts that informed the planning and design.

The room was packed and silent as Avshi told the story of his grandparent’s escape from the holocaust and their arrival in Israel where they subsequently learned that as many as four hundred relatives had been killed by the Germans. A violinist, Avshi’s grandfather, Moshi, turned to making violins to provide for his family in the new country.

Mayor Rogero, Violins of Hope, UT Downtown Gallery, Knoxville, January 2019

Avshi Weinstein, Violins of Hope, UT Downtown Gallery, Knoxville, January 2019

Marilyn Kallet, Poet Laureate, Violins of Hope, UT Downtown Gallery, Knoxville, January 2019

Louis Emmanuel Gauci, Architect, Violins of Hope, UT Downtown Gallery, Knoxville, January 2019

Violins of Hope, UT Downtown Gallery, Knoxville, January 2019

As Jewish immigrants arrived from Europe to the newly formed country, they wanted nothing to do with anything from Germany and they began to sell their German-made violins to Moshe Weinstein. He learned the stories and realized some of the violins had been played in the camps. Others had been hidden and the owners silenced forever in the camps. He knew he had to keep the violins, but he could not bring himself to restore them.

Violins of Hope, UT Downtown Gallery, Knoxville, January 2019

Violins of Hope, UT Downtown Gallery, Knoxville, January 2019

Violins of Hope, UT Downtown Gallery, Knoxville, January 2019

Violins of Hope, UT Downtown Gallery, Knoxville, January 2019

Violins of Hope, UT Downtown Gallery, Knoxville, January 2019

His son, Amon Weinstein was the one to begin that process in the 1990s. The collection now includes over 70 violins, many of which have been restored to playing condition. Knoxville is now host to the largest collection (37) to be displayed at one exhibition. To be in the presence of the violins is to experience the stories of those who held them, saved them and restored them as a way to return the voices of those whose voices were taken away. You can get a sample of the stories here.

Violins of Hope, UT Downtown Gallery, Knoxville, January 2019

Violins of Hope, UT Downtown Gallery, Knoxville, January 2019

Violins of Hope, UT Downtown Gallery, Knoxville, January 2019

Avshi is intent on spreading the stories of those who once held the violins as well as the message of the perseverance of the human spirit that it took to ensure the survival of these musical instruments. Hate silenced the violinists, but the violins and music survived. Avshi will be in Knoxville much of the month of January and has thirty different school groups with whom he will share the story.

Violins of Hope, UT Downtown Gallery, Knoxville, January 2019

Violins of Hope, UT Downtown Gallery, Knoxville, January 2019

Violins of Hope, UT Downtown Gallery, Knoxville, January 2019

Architect Louis Emmanuel Gauci, who has designed numerous exhibitions and entire museums, including the Museum for the American Indian for the Smithsonian, designed the current exhibit. Mr. Gauci, a Knoxville resident for the last two years, said he wanted it to be an intimate experience and it is, as the entire exhibit is enclosed in a carefully crafted space. The space measures precisely the size of the cattle cars used to send members of the Jewish community to the concentration camps.

Giving voice to the violins is the point of the existence of the collection and they will find their voice in Knoxville at the hands of members of the Knoxville Symphony Orchestra. As the exhibition closes, concerts at the Tennessee Theatre on January 23 and 24 will feature the instruments that survived the holocaust. The events will be hosted by Hallerin Hill and promise to be powerful affirmations to the power of hope and survival.

I cannot urge you enough to visit the gallery to see the exhibition. Gallery hours is open Wednesday (11:00 AM to 5:00 PM), Thursday and Friday (11:00 AM to 6:00 PM) and Saturday (10:00 Am to 3:00 PM). Also consider attending what promises to be a powerful and moving set of performances at the Tennessee Theatre. Tickets are $40 to $150 and may be purchased here.

Comments

  1. Thank you for bringing readers posts about the wealth of diverse cultural offerings Knoxville offers — especially the thought provoking and even the painful ones.

  2. Thanks for making this exhibit better known. It is indeed a powerful statement of how music can lift the human spirit and even play a part in our survival during the most tragic times. This display of instruments is a testament to how hate can’t forever stop what inspires us.

  3. Kenneth Moffett says

    Douglas Cardinal was architect of the Museum of the American Indian.

    • KnoxvilleUrbanGuy says

      There are multiple Museums of the American Indians. I may have stated that incorrectly, but here’s the quote I based that on and it lined up with what I thought I heard in his introduction, “OTJ believes thoughtful, appropriate design is key to a sucessful project. During a 20-year career in museum design on projects such as The Detroit Institute of Arts (MI), The Zibiwing Cultural Center (MI), The Wheelwright Museum of the American Indian (NM), The Museum of Indian Arts & Culture (NM), The Museum of Fine Arts (NM), Center for Southwest Studies (CO), The Library of Congress (DC), and The Museum of the American Indian (DC), Lou gained invaluable experience in working with some of the world’s greatest treasures created by various cultures throughout different time periods.” http://otjarchitects.blogspot.com/

    • Louis Gauci says

      I designed one of the inaugural exhibitions at the National Museum of the American Indian in 2004 not the museum itself when it opened.

  4. Larry Lewis says

    Thanks for spreading the word on this marvelous traveling exhibition, Alan. That it exists is a testament to the human spirit. Perhaps more than ever, its need to to be publicized is obvious. In his own words, the video here details the story I’d read, that Amnon Weinstein opened some of the violins to discover a dark ash material he realized had come from the crematoria smokestacks. The Holocaust Museum here in St. Petersburg permanently exhibits a boxcar that had transported Jews to Auschwitz. No touching allowed, but I’ll confess I’d reached forward to gently feel the wood….a brief and chilling connection to a history fraught with tragedy and inspiration.

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