Breakthrough students create art inspired by Holocaust Museum Butterfly Project


Eric Hang

Pieces from the Butterfly Project were displayed in the Great Hall.

Andrew Duong, Staff Writer

One of the recent art displays in the Great Hall comes with a deep history.

 The display was a cluster of butterflies made from wood, barbed wire, glass and other medium. Each butterfly represented one of the fallen children during the Holocaust.

The display is part of the the Holocaust Museum’s Butterfly Project. Museum leaders visited St. John’s on Saturday, Nov. 12, and presented the artwork to students and teachers from Breakthrough Houston, a nonprofit organization that academically supports low-income students in the Houston area. Breakthrough students learned about both the development of the project and the impact of the Holocaust.

“Butterflies are very innocent, beautiful creatures. The butterflies carry the memory of the children from the Holocaust because they are able to fly away from pain and suffering, which isn’t the case for victims at the time,” sophomore Breakthrough teacher Juliette Draper said.

The Butterfly Project was established in 1995 by the Holocaust Museum Houston and has received over 1.5 million butterflies from different individuals and organizations all over the world, including those located in France, Tanzania, Poland and Cuba. The project has even received a butterfly made in space by American astronaut Rex Walheim.

“The Butterfly,” a poem by Pavel Friedman, is what sparked the idea for the project. Friedman was 21 years old when he wrote the poem at the Theresienstadt concentration camp. He passed away two years later.

“Only I never saw another butterfly.”

— Pavel Friedman

After the presentations, students made their own butterfly-themed art projects by cutting out paper butterflies from newspapers. Their creations were later compiled and taped to a wall in the Great Hall to resemble a quilt.

Knowing the background really helped the students be more creative,” sophomore Breakthrough teacher Jackie Ferrufino said. “Hopefully, they’ll include some of the students’ butterflies in the project.”

The butterflies presented at school were just a small sample from the 1.5 million in the project. Some are available to see at the Holocaust Museum in Houston all year long. The Museum has six total exhibits, each containing about 15 butterflies, that are currently traveling nationwide to different locations.