Using Art to Honor Anne Frank and Inspire Action

Ninety years after her birth, Anne Frank continues to inspire new artistic expressions of the themes articulated by the 20th century’s most influential diarist. Through an art contest, William Blair is partnering with the Anne Frank Educational Centre to provide youth an opportunity to live out her legacy by promoting peace and tolerance.

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Anne Frank

During her short and remarkable life, Anne Frank used her diary, eloquence, and courage to convey ideas that have inspired countless people around the world to take a stand against prejudice and oppression. For the last six years, youth from across Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Poland as well as refugees from the Middle East and Eastern Europe have been using their unique voices and creative visions to make sure those values continue to shape hearts and minds for generations to come.

Since 2014, the Anne Frank Educational Centre in Frankfurt, Germany, with the support of William Blair, has hosted an annual art competition that invites German students to share their artistic interpretations of the ideas that Frank so vividly captured in her diaries—exclusion, prejudice, and hatred, as well as hope, democracy, and human rights.

On June 11, 2019—the eve of what would have been Anne Frank's 90th birthday—the Anne Frank Educational Centre and William Blair are hosting a "Remember Reception" in Frankfurt. The event, held at Frankfurt's Union International Club, Villa Merton, will showcase the artwork that students have submitted for the competition's first six years and celebrate the ways that youth are inspiring peace and tolerance across generations.

Outside the Anne Frank Educational Centre in Frankfurt, Germany

Fostering a Legacy Through Art

The inaugural competition in 2014 invited students to create art that captures what Frank's legacy means today. Since then, the competition has chosen a variety of annual themes, including human rights, refugees, and stories of ordinary people doing superhero-like things to counter intolerance.

The submissions from students of various age groups have included paintings, collages, albums of originally composed music, and multimedia presentations. William Blair's Philipp Mohr, who worked closely with the Anne Frank Educational Centre to create the youth art competition, said that the variety of mediums used by students is a testament to the power of finding unique ways to express one's voice and engage.

"We are honored to partner with the Anne Frank Educational Centre for the annual art competition," said Mohr, who heads William Blair's investment banking office in Frankfurt. "Our goal was to give students an opportunity to engage with Anne Frank and express these important lessons in a way that is personal and meaningful to them. The thoughtfulness and creativity of these young artists shows that Anne Frank's legacy is alive today and continues to inspire hope and tolerance."

Eva Berendsen, Anne Frank Educational Centre; Fritzie Fritzshall, Holocaust survivor and Illinois Holocaust Museum president; Philipp Mohr, William Blair partner; Susan Abrams, CEO of Illinois Holocaust Museum; and Laura Coy, William Blair director of philanthropy strategy

From Personal Inspiration to Action

Throughout his life, Mohr has been a student of the Holocaust. During his studies, he has been most driven by the question: "How could it happen and what can we do to make sure this never happens again?" He wrote his master's thesis on Hitler's seizure of power and his Ph.D. dissertation on the persecution of Jewish people at the beginning of the Nazi dictatorship.

In 2012, Mohr was visiting the Jewish Center of the Hamptons and encountered a painting by Michael Knigin, "The Touch," that depicts a page from Frank's diary. Mohr was captivated by the painting, which he purchased and then permanently loaned to the Anne Frank Educational Centre in Frankfurt on Frank's birthday in 2013.

The donation of the artwork inspired Mohr to work with the centre's leadership to think of ways to connect today's youth with Frank's legacy. The youth art competition was born from these conversations. Since its founding in 2014, the competition has received more than 1,000 submissions.

William Blair's Commitment to Philanthropy

One of Anne Frank's greatest lessons is that a single person—guided by courage and humanity—can make a lasting impact. This belief that change starts with empowering its employees guides William Blair's approach to philanthropy.

"The mission of the William Blair Foundation is to inspire the next generation of philanthropists," said Laura Coy, William Blair's director of philanthropy strategy. "Our partnership with the Anne Frank Educational Centre is an example of how our employees around the world are making a difference in their communities. Philipp's personal vision and passion were the inspiration for the partnership, and now it's become something the whole firm supports."

John Ettelson at award ceremony

In April, the Illinois Holocaust Museum hosted an event to celebrate Frank's life as well as William Blair's partnership with the Anne Frank Educational Centre. The previous month, the museum honored William Blair President and CEO John Ettelson with its prestigious Humanitarian Award for his leadership, integrity, and commitment to our global communities. Former President Bill Clinton was the keynote speaker at the awards dinner; nearly 200 Holocaust survivors attended and were honored for their strength and testimony.

"The world continues to be a very complicated place, but the concepts espoused by the museum are so very relevant," Ettelson said in receiving the award. "[The museum] serves as an inspiration and catalyst for change and remedy for the issues we are facing. The role of the Holocaust survivors with us tonight best represents the heart and soul of the museum."

Whether articulated in a formal speech by an executive at an awards dinner or painted on a canvas by a young student in Germany, William Blair is proud to know that the lessons Anne Frank wrote in her diary continue to inspire action around the world.

People looking at artwork

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