May 5, 2022

Renowned Artist, Holocaust Survivor Sam Bak to Offer Keynote Address at Montserrat College Art Commencement 2022

by Felicia Cheney

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Commencement for the Montserrat College of Art Class of 2022 will be held Friday, May 20 at 10 at The Cabot Performing Arts Center, 186 Cabot St., Beverly, MA.

The college expects to award the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree to 85 graduating seniors during the annual ceremony.

The keynote address will be given by artist Samuel Bak, whose work was on display in Montserrat Gallery this past winter. He will receive an honorary doctorate from the college. Mr. Bak’s work speaks to his memories of the holocaust, the hope people use to survive, and the resilience humans find when faced with such horror. President Kurt T. Steinberg recorded a talk with Mr. Bak during the winter that may be viewed here to learn more about him and his work. His talk will be particularly meaningful during these globally uncertain times.

Samuel Bak was born on August 12, 1933 in Vilna, Poland at a crucial moment in modern history. From 1940 to 1944, Vilna was under first Soviet, then German occupation. While both he and his mother survived, his father and four grandparents all perished at the hands of the Nazis. At the end of World War II, he and his mother fled to the Landsberg Displaced Persons Camp. Here, he was enrolled in painting lessons at the Blocherer School, Munich. Bak’s studies continued as he immigrated to Israel, and he later received a grant to pursue his studies in Paris. In 1959, he moved to Rome where his first exhibition of abstract paintings met with considerable success. In 1961, he was invited to exhibit at the “Carnegie International” in Pittsburgh. And, in 1963 two one-man exhibitions were held at the Jerusalem and Tel Aviv Museums. It was subsequent to these exhibitions, during the years 1963-1964, that a major change in his art occurred. There was a distinct shift from abstract forms to a metaphysical figurative means of expression. Ultimately, this transformation crystallized into his present pictorial language. Since 1959, Samuel Bak has had solo exhibitions at private galleries in New York, Boston, London, Paris, Berlin, Munich, Tel Aviv, Jerusalem, Zurich, Rome and other cities around the world. Numerous large retrospective exhibitions have been held in major museums, universities, and public institutions around the Globe. Publications on Samuel Bak’s work include twelve books, most notably a 400-page Monograph entitled Between Worlds, and his touching memoir, Painted in Words. He has also been the subject of two documentary films  

The Class of 2022 has chosen Professor Ron DiRito, chair of the Studio Arts division as the faculty speaker this year, and Erein James Ruiz, a senior from River Edge, NJ who is studying interdisciplinary arts, as the student speaker. 

The ceremony will also include remarks by President Steinberg, Dean Brian Pellinen and Montserrat Board Chair Mercedes Sherrod Evans.

Several awards will be given out to members of the class during the event, which will be live-streamed at

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