In its latest Art at the JCC exhibition, the Santa Barbara Art Association will pay tribute to one of its best-known members, Holocaust survivor and local icon Margaret Singer. Showcasing a wall filled with the late artist’s work, 100 pieces submitted by other SBAA members, and a short documentary film entitled “Margaret Singer: Seeking Light,” the new exhibit will open with a free reception on August 25 and run until October 16, according to a press release.
By the time she passed away on May 14 a month before turning 98, Ms. Singer was the association’s longest-standing member, involved for 67 years dating back to the SBAA’s founding, according to Jewish Federation volunteer services and programs manager Mike Witt. Mr. Witt told the News-Press that his organization felt “obligated and honored” to host the SBAA’s tribute to her.
While she lived Ms. Singer was a regular attendee at the Jewish Federation’s community center at 524 Chapala Street and is a permanent fixture in its photography exhibit “Portraits of Survival: Life Journeys During the Holocaust and Beyond.” Last year, Ms. Singer met the News-Press at the center to be interviewed for one of several stories on local Holocaust survivors.
In 1939 Ms. Singer was displaced from her birth country Germany to the United States, while her parents stayed behind and were taken to concentration camps. Though her father lived to see the end of World War II, her mother was killed in the gas chambers of Auschwitz. Decades later, the Holocaust remained a painful subject for her to talk about, so painting was her preferred method of discussing her experiences.
“I feel at home when I sit on the floor painting,” she said.
While speaking to the News-Press on Wednesday, Mr. Witt said Ms. Singer’s works featured in the exhibit were in the midst of an intake process. He added that her catalogue of artwork is extensive, to say the least.
“It’s crazy how much art she produced. That’s all she did,” he said.
In addition to Ms. Singer’s pieces, the exhibit will feature works of various genres by SBAA members selected by Jana Brody from the nonprofit Squire Foundation. Mr. Witt said the non-Singer pieces will be chosen entirely at Ms. Brody’s discretion and won’t have any unifying theme or apparent tie to Ms. Singer’s work.
“We are just participating in the arts and culture of the Santa Barbara community,” he said.
Without a theme to guide her choices, Ms. Brody said she would select the 100 submissions and the exhibition’s prize winners by judging the professional execution, good technique, and power of the images. She will particularly look for contemporary images with perspectives that she has not yet seen. Because the jurors change for each Art at the JCC exhibition, the differing views on what looks good can make for some surprising winners.
“It’s a very hard challenge to do the selection, but it’s always a very good exercise for the artist because you never know what’s going to be pleasing to someone’s eye,” Ms. Brody said.
When asked if she knew Ms. Singer, Ms. Brody was nothing but complementary, calling her a “vibrant community member” and a “mainstay of the community.” As an artist herself, Ms. Brody most admired how Ms. Singer was active in the art world up until the very end of her life.
“She was a personal inspiration,” Ms. Brody said.
The opening reception for the Art at JCC exhibition will run from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. on August 25 at the Jewish Federation’s Bronfman Family Jewish Community Center, located at 524 Chapala Street. It is free and open to the public.