The Artwork of Nelly Toll Goes International

Imagining a Better World: The Artwork of Nelly Toll, an exhibition originated by the Massillon Museum, has made its international debut. On September 28, 2017, the exhibit opened at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; it will continue through March 11, 2018. As a Jewish child in hiding in Poland during World War II, young Nelly created cheerful, colorful watercolor images of what the artist wished her world would be. 
 
As a child, Toll lived with her mother in a room in the home of a Catholic family, and hid in a “secret window,” standing mutely on the sill of a window bricked-up from the outside when required to hide. As described by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the life of Toll and children like her “was a life in shadows, where a careless remark, a denunciation, or the murmurings of inquisitive neighbors could lead to discovery and death.” 
 
Given a watercolor set by her mother, she painted small pictures of what she imagined a normal life would resemble. The images are filled with friends playing outside, pretty new dresses, parties, dinners, pets, and family—things that young artist could not have in hiding. In stark contrast to the imaginary world of her paintings, Toll also kept a diary that chronicled a young child’s experience of life in occupied Poland. Later, she was able to escape to the United States with her mother, and as an adult wrote an award-winning book about her experience, Behind the Secret Window (1993), based on her childhood diary. 
 
Dr. Toll believes strongly in emphasizing the positive values she took away from her experience to triumph over adversity. She visits middle schools, high schools, higher education institutions and community centers across the country to share her story, making contemporary connections between the Holocaust and the dangers of bullying. 
 
Dr. Toll’s watercolors are exhibited at the United States Holocaust Memorial in Washington, D.C. and reside also in the collections of the Illinois Holocaust Education Center and Museum and Yad Vashem Museum in Israel.
 
Imagining a Better World, guest curated by Craig Joseph, was first exhibited at the Massillon Museum in 2014. Nelly Toll has worked with the Massillon Museum since 2007, when she first showed a selection of her artwork in connection with The Big Read.  The traveling exhibition,which garnered the Ohio Museums Association’s Best Exhibition award, and is supported by a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, has previously been installed in Cherry Hill, New Jersey; Reading, Pennsylvania; Hanover, Pennsylvania; Troy, Ohio; Dennison, Ohio; and San Antonio, Texas. It will open at the Decorative Arts Center in Lancaster, Ohio, in October 2018.
 
To learn more, visit massillonmuseum.org/nelly-toll
 
The Massillon Museum receives operating support from the Ohio Arts Council and ArtsinStark. 
 
The Massillon Museum is located at 121 Lincoln Way East in downtown Massillon.  For more information, call 330-833-4061 or visitmassillonmuseum.org.  A visit to the Massillon Museum is always free.
 
 
Media Contacts:
Alexandra Nicholis Coon, Massillon Museum Executive Director  –  330-833-4061 x111
Heather Bullach, Massillon Museum Traveling Exhibits Coordinator – 330-833-4061 x108
Margy Vogt, Massillon Museum Public Relations Coordinator  –  330-844-1525