Maria Jutasi Coleman is an artist. She’s a student at Cochise College. She’s also a Holocaust survivor.
Coleman’s collection of paintings and ceramics were the featured art exhibit at the El Paso Holocaust Museum throughout spring 2012. “A Child Survivor’s Legacy” was the artist’s first solo exhibit. The work also will be exhibited through March 15 at the Tucson Jewish Community Center, with a reception set for 2 – 4 p.m. Sunday, March 10, and again in April at The Gallery in Douglas, where she anticipates a chance to share her experience with Douglas High School art students. A reception in Douglas will take place from 2 – 5 p.m. Saturday, April 13.
Coleman began taking art classes while living in Phoenix but didn’t start sculpting until she moved to Bisbee and continued her studies at Cochise College. There, with a bit of coaxing, she discovered and developed her skills in ceramic sculpture, going public about her memories when a survivor affiliated with the El Paso Holocaust Museum visited with students at the Douglas Campus.
Born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1935, Maria wore a yellow star on every dress or coat from ages 7 to 9. In 1944, her family was ordered to move to a ghetto, but she and her mother fled, then waited. By the end, half of her family had been exterminated in Auschwitz. The other half was found in hiding, lined up and shot on the shores of the Danube. In 1956, during the revolution, Maria and her mother escaped to Austria, then to France and then to Milan, Italy, where Maria studied music at The Verdi Conservatory. In 1962, she immigrated to the United States. She married and had a daughter and a son. She has four grandchildren.
“For over 60 years I have been silent about my experiences, losses and feelings of my childhood — a period of my life permanently marked by the genocide I survived,” Maria writes in her artist’s statement. “Now, with my children and grandchildren around me, I can allow the silenced but not forgotten memories to surface. This I do through my art.”