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Shared Perspectives on Russian Refugees by George Vander Sluis

Final Project By Maggie Mehlman ’18 and Emily Gardner ’18

ED210: Powers of Arts in Education at Colorado College


Professors Andrew Manley and Santiago Guerra, CC students Emma Herrick and Riley O’Sullivan, exchange students Elena Dumbs and Alberta Brown, FAC Curator Joy Armstrong, and community members Mara, Patty, Lossie, and Carmen.


Introduction: In the next few minutes, you will hear perspectives on this painting from Colorado College students, professors, museum curators, community members, and artists. As you listen, take note of similarities and differences between the interpretations. As a member of this community, we invite you to make your own connections while you hear the thoughts of others

Perspectives: This painting makes me think of…

Think about despair.

So this painting makes me feel contemplative.

Maybe poor… they’re definitely not happy.

Definitely desolate.

It seems dark and blue.

Like a rainy day.

Matriarchs and families? Mother or grandmother?


I think it makes me think of time … like former times. I feel like this has happened before.

You know, they’re peasants. They feel like peasants. And it’s not what we use in England. We called them agricultural laborers or something like that.

I see two people.

Do you think they’re women?


Sisters in the evening.

Relatives, friends, neighbors.

Two women in like isolation, like in jail…

Whose family members are these? Who are these individuals of significance to? Right? What community networks are they a part of and valued by?

I wonder where they’re coming from or what they’re doing or how old they are.

They seem like they’ve been through a lot already. This is not their first rodeo. This is something they’ve been going through for a long time.

Does it remind me of anything? Almost like sitting in the subway and or in a public transportation, and you see somebody that’s also kind of down on their luck.

Yeah, it reminds me of kind of the space between one thing and another thing.

Yeah, growing up in a developing country or like umm… this painting is like … not directly what I would say like I knew of how life would be.

So being from a Chicano Mexican community is making me have that same sort of nostalgic feeling for my own female elders.

They’re also sitting on this wood frame. I’m not sure what that is, but maybe it could be a bed. And if it’s a bed, it’s not comfortable.

Like my first thought was that they’re sitting on a bunk bed, like on the bottom of a bunk bed. And that makes me think of like, youth hostels because that’s where bunk beds are always.

Bunk beds. Another day down. Catch your breath. Get some sleep, and we’ll start again tomorrow.

This looks like how they used to board people during the Holocaust. It would be two or three of them to every bunk, I mean from our perspective.

Jewish. Auschwitz.

Of course, it’s a concentration camp, isn’t it? You see this. It’s a bunk, isn’t it? So that could be a boat, but this is a bunk.

It’s very dark, and there’s not really a sign of hope, really.

For some reason, the red shirt, like, grabs my attention. And because the wood frame is right next to it, that’s when I noticed the wood frame. Otherwise, I just noticed the two people.

Actually, first of all, the roughness of the painting, I like that, the actual painting, the roughness of the paint…

I think that the colors are also pretty, like dark or not like joyful.

I guess you could say some earthy tones, but then, this is kind of a pastel, so maybe not.

What does it make me think of?

I don’t know what to say.


I don’t know. I don’t know. I don’t know what to say.

I don’t really know what the woman’s holding in her hands ’cause it looks a little bit like she’s doing like a gesture.

Maybe gesturing as she’s speaking?

I wonder if she is eating something.

The hand held up by one. There’s action in it. Mystery about it, isn’t there? You know mystery overall…

Makes me think of times when I’ve been waiting for something.

And they seem to be waiting. I like waiting because being a Beckett person, I’m very into waiting. They’re waiting aren’t they?

It just, it allows me to both think of them as a collective, but also recognize them for their individuality.

They feel like there’s a nice sense of camaraderie between them.


Gee. That’s amazing.