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Former UNO College of Education building becomes museum featuring Holocaust artist

Published: Jul. 27, 2021 at 7:16 PM CDT
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OMAHA, Neb. (WOWT) - A new, one-of-a-kind project is set to begin at UNO’s Dodge Campus in May of 2022: the former College of Education building, Kayser Hall, will be renovated and turned into a museum that features art from a Holocaust survivor.

“It places UNO on a world map, UNO will be the only university in the world to host a museum featuring the work of Samuel Bak,” says David Boocker, the Dean of UNO’s College of Arts and Sciences.

Kayser Hall’s facelift will dedicate a majority of the building’s space to work from Bak, one of the few remaining Holocaust survivors.

“He now has created works of art to create a visual representation of what the experiences in the holocaust was like, help people understand the realities of the Holocaust the trauma of the Holocaust, and even potential for hope for humanity even though there are events like the Holocaust,” Boocker explains.

Over his 88 years of life, Bak has created over 8,000 pieces of art. Once Kayser Hall’s renovations are complete, UNO will be home to 512 of those works.

“We actually hosted the work of Mr. Bak in a temporary exhibit in fall of 2019,” says Sacha Kopp, the university’s Senior Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs.

Kopp tells 6 News another faculty member, a historian, became familiar with Bak’s work many years ago and developed a relationship with the artist.

“We’ve had a long relationship with the artist and seeing all the good work and expertise of the faculty here at UNO, as well our commitment to community engagement, the artist decided to bequest to the university a large body of his work,” Kopp says.

Kopp and Boocker say the museum will not only put UNO on a world map but offer unique education from real experiences for both students and community members.

“There will be a time when there will be no Holocaust survivors and the only way to tell the story of the Holocaust will be through history and through visual representations like the ones we’re going to have, and it’s going to be incredibly important for our world and society to remember these events so they never happen again,” Boocker says.

Currently, the university has three paintings by the artist in the Criss Library that is free for the public to view. They will remain in their place even after the museum is completed.

Kayser Hall will also continue to house some academic classrooms and spaces.

The $23 million project is the first in the NU system to be funded by new legislation passed earlier this year. It allows the university to sell bonds at low rates, potentially saving taxpayers billions of dollars.

A temporary exhibit featuring art from Samuel Bak is hosted at UNO in 2019. Courtesy:...
A temporary exhibit featuring art from Samuel Bak is hosted at UNO in 2019. Courtesy: University of Nebraska-Omaha(UNO)

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