The Butterfly Project

Thousands of butterflies create a beautifully poignant art installation.

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The Butterfly Project is a large-scale art installation that is the result of an educational program launched by the Museum that includes the work of hundreds of families and more than 90 schools across central Texas.

The project is inspired by the poem "The Butterfly," a 1942 poem written by a young man in a concentration camp, and calls upon children to take a stand against intolerance by creating a uniquely beautiful butterfly. Using art as a starting point, the Museum provided teachers and parents with the tools to have conversations with children about issues of tolerance, morality, and shared responsibility — ultimately creating more than 5,000 vibrant examples of how words of hope, change, and love can counter words of hatred.

The Butterfly Project is created in collaboration with St. Edward's University and in conjunction with the exhibition State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda, which explores Nazi propaganda and challenges citizens to actively question, analyze, and seek truth. The Butterfly Project celebrates the resilience of those who stood up against the Nazis and their propaganda that was fueled by hatred and quests for power. In this project each colorfully decorated butterfly represents a stand against intolerance, and the commitment we each must make to honor the free flight of all people. The gold butterflies echo these sentiments and serve as a beacon of hope, for each person has the freedom to soar despite humanity's potential for injustice. While no person has the power to change human history, we can bear witness to the past and vow to prevent the atrocities of our ancestors from occurring again.


 
The Butterfly

The last, the very, last,
So richly, brightly, dazzlingly yellow.
Perhaps if the sun's tears would sing
against a white stone....

Such, such a yellow
Is carried lightly 'way up high.
It went away I'm sure because it wished to
kiss the world good-bye.

For seven weeks I've lived in here,
Penned up inside this ghetto.
But I have found what I love here.
The dandelions call to me
And the white chestnut branches in the court.
Only I never saw another butterfly.

That butterfly was the last one.
Butterflies don't live in here,
in the ghetto.

- Pavel Friedmann, June 4, 1942

I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children's Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp 1942-1944


 
More About the Project

Historic Connections

Between 1942-1944, more than 15,000 children passed through the Terezin Concentration Camp. The vast majority of these children did not survive the Holocaust. Brave teachers in the camp taught art lessons to the children, as a form of art therapy. Some of their poetry and art, saved in suitcases and later discovered, have been published in a book, I Never Saw Another Butterfly: Children’s Drawings and Poems from Terezin Concentration Camp 1942-1944. These poems and pictures drawn by the young inmates of Terezin illustrate the intense emotions of these displaced children, ranging from fear, sorrow, hope, and courage.

Encouraging Conversation

We encourage you to have conversations with your students about issues of tolerance, morality, and shared responsibility. By making art, children will have a visual outlet to express their feelings about these difficult issues, and see that their small work makes a difference in the completed whole—just as small acts against injustice can ultimately create an environment where hate cannot flourish.

  • What line in this poem means something to you?
  • Why did Pavel write this poem?
  • Why is it important to study and remember the Holocaust?
  • Have you witnessed acts of intolerance in your community?
  • How can you take a stand against intolerance?
Make a Butterfly!

Though the installation is complete, you can still make a butterfly to join the Museum's call to stand up for hope and tolerance.

Get inspiration from the photos in our gallery below, then download the Butterfly Project template for a simple lesson plan and further design instructions.

The Butterfly Project is a collaboration between the Bullock Museum and St. Edward's University.

Support for the Bullock Museum's exhibitions and education programs provided by the Texas State History Museum Foundation.