Arts District

Emotional AVAM Exhibit Unites Works By Persecuted Groups

“Esther and the Dream of One Loving Human Family” begins a five-year run this week.

By Christine Jackson | February 27, 2019, 10:21 am

Esther Krinitz's daughter Bernice Steinhardt tells the stories behind her mother's embroideries at the American Visionary Art Museum.
Arts District

Emotional AVAM Exhibit Unites Works By Persecuted Groups

“Esther and the Dream of One Loving Human Family” begins a five-year run this week.

By Christine Jackson | February 27, 2019, 10:21 am

Esther Krinitz's daughter Bernice Steinhardt tells the stories behind her mother's embroideries at the American Visionary Art Museum.

When Esther Nisenthal Krinitz left behind war-torn Poland in the summer of 1949, she had nothing left of the family she’d lost. Her parents, brother, and young sisters, along with the other Jewish families in her rural village, were told to report to a train station and never heard from again.

But Krinitz, 15 at the time, and her 13-year-old sister Maria managed to survive by posing at Polish farm girls and finding work in a nearby village where no one asked to see their papers. They had many memories—of Jewish holidays spent with family, quiet life among their crops and livestock, and playing together as a family —but nothing solid to pass along to tie future generations to their lost past.

According to Krinitz’s daughter, Bernice Steinhardt, her mother was always telling her story. But in 1977, when Krinitz was 50, she started showing it instead. The result is 36 embroidered pieces that are now the highlight of the American Visionary Art Museum’s latest exhibition, Esther and The Dream of One Loving Human Family. Krinitiz’s work depicts her childhood, escape from the Nazis, life in hiding, and journey to America, culminating in her final piece: a portrait of her first granddaughter. It’s also accompanied by a documentary about her life and a recreation of her home in Poland.

“What my mother was doing here was for the family,” says Steinhardt. “It was about the family she lost and for the family that she created. The fact that she was a grandmother, that was what my mother was all about. It was not about expressing herself artistically, although of course she did, it was about remembering her family for her family.”

The pieces are placed in conversation with works from international artists that demonstrate the danger of demonizing the “other,” with the goal of educating visitors on just how devastating the escalation of hatred can be. A “preamble” to Krinitz’s embroideries includes sewn works documenting the genocide of the Tutsi people in Rwanda and life under apartheid in South Africa, as well as painted, carved, and assembled works from Native American activist and artist Judy Tallwing.

“When you take away names or identifiers like Jewish, or Holocaust, or any ethnic group, religion, or color and you look at what the mechanisms of the campaign to permit a genocide or mass slaughter that is orchestrated with a purpose in mind were, it’s all one playbook,” says AVAM founder and director Rebecca Hoffberger.

Together, these art pieces from across the world share the perspective of the innocents whose lives are altered by hatred and warn of its dangers. Words, in the form of essays and quotes around the gallery, play just as big a role in the message, sharing wisdom and forgotten history relating to the need for peace and “one loving human family.”

Just days into its run, people have already traveled from as far as Ohio and New York for a chance to see this expanded collection of Krinitz’s intricate, emotional works, which originally premiered at AVAM in 2001. But there’s plenty of time to catch them in this new installation, which will stay on display through March 2024.




Meet The Author

Christine Jackson is the research editor for Baltimore magazine. A recent transplant from St. Louis, she’s currently exploring all the art, culture, food, and weirdness Baltimore has to offer.



You May Also Like


Arts District

What to Know About New Keystone Korner Jazz Club in Harbor East

Revival of legendary San Francisco venue brought to life by diverse cast of characters.

The Chatter

American Ninja Warrior Taking Over Rash Field This Weekend

Hopefuls from the area are excited to compete in front of a raucous hometown crowd.

Arts District

Sofar Sounds Concerts Keep Performers a Secret Until You Arrive

Intimate shows spotlight area artists—who remain unknown until the set starts.


Arts & Culture

Brush With Life

Self-taught Pigtown artist paints Baltimore’s victims of gun violence to heal and memorialize.

On The Town

Where to Celebrate the Return of Game of Thrones

The best watch parties, food specials, and events honoring the HBO show.

Arts District

Culture Club: CityLit Festival, Abdu Ali, and plant guru Hilton Carter

Our monthly roundup of openings, events, and news from the art world.

Connect With Us

Most Read


Loyola Lacrosse’s Pat Spencer Readies for One Last NCAA Tournament Ride: One of the game’s all-time scoring greats plays at home for the last time Saturday.

City Officials Express Concern Over Elon Musk’s Baltimore to D.C. Transit Plan: Before exploring intra-city transportation options, local leaders hope to address issues at home.

Five Things to Know About Bernard C. “Jack” Young: East Baltimore native knows how to wield power and his first policy moves as mayor will be revealing.

Arts Community Reflects on What The Windup Space Has Meant to Baltimore: Inclusive arts venue in Station North will close its doors on June 1.

Gender-Neutral Bathroom Bill Unanimously Passes City Hearing: Supported by transgender activists and Mayor’s LGBTQ Commission, legislation could be signed during next month’s Pride Weekend.