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Inspired by a young girl’s thoughts

Student creates winning painting of Anne Frank

Cora Hovermale writes in a journal nearly every day. Her entries used to be brief and without much detail, but after she read, “The Diary of A Young Girl” by Anne Frank, she was inspired.

“Now my entries are four or five pages long,” said Cora, a ninth grader at East Kentwood’s freshman campus. 

Cora read the famous memoir written by the Jewish girl in the 1940s who was a victim of the Holocaust. Anne Frank received her diary at age 13 while growing up in the Netherlands, and wrote in it during two years in hiding before she was discovered and sent to live in a concentration camp, where she died.

“She was very detailed and smart, and she wrote about things people my age would write about, but so much was happening and going on at that time,” Cora explained.

Anne Frank was also Cora’s inspiration for a painting she created, titled “Anne’s Death of Choice”. The work won a $200 prize in the art category of the Kappy Family Anne Frank Family Art and Writing Competition hosted by the Holocaust Memorial Center, in Farmington Hills.

Cora loves art and writing, so when Crestwood Middle School language arts teacher Anne Brown told the class about the competition she was eager to enter. She was the only student in her class to do so. The challenge was to write poetry, prose or create artwork around the theme “The Power of Choice.” Students were also invited to create a written or artistic response to the questions: What does a better world look like to you? What choices can you make to make our world a better place?

Cora Havermale, now in ninth grade, won a competition hosted by the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmingtion Hills, for her painting ‘Anne’s Death of Choice’

Reflecting, Creating, Learning

With extra time on her hands due to the school shutdown and stay-at-home order, Cora got to work, spreading her art materials on the floor and going through five different designs. She drew her final design in pencil on canvas and painted it in acrylics, and wrote a Statement of Purpose connecting the theme to her piece.

Cora’s painting illustrates the haunting progression of Anne from happy schoolgirl to skeletal prisoner. Learning about the Holocaust– her class took a field trip to the Memorial Center last school year, shortly before school closed– made Cora wonder how a society could let something so horrible take place.

“I didn’t understand how they could let that happen so easily,” she said.

She thought about how Anne Frank lost all her rights. In the diary, “she’s losing all the choices she had, basic choices you have to make every day. She couldn’t choose anything,” Cora explained.

Mom Angela Hovermale said she was happy to see Cora put a lot of effort into her work and submit a piece she was proud of.

“I loved the process of her creating it. I felt that was a win before we even got the contest results. I loved seeing what she learned and then created this picture. As she made it, she was sharing stories with me about Anne Frank.”

Brown spent eight weeks teaching on the Holocaust and Anne Frank with Cora’s class.

“When you really let that time in history sink in, you can’t help but look at the world a little differently,” Brown said. “I think Cora’s painting shows just that. It is a painting of the changes of Anne Frank, but also expresses her own changes as well.  I could not be more proud of Cora and her artistic ability, but even more than that I am proud of how she went beyond what we learned in class and was willing to share her gift with others.”

Cora, who hopes to be a hairdresser someday, also loves to write realistic fiction and bake. She spent her prize money on retainers for her teeth. Her painting is on display at the Holocaust Memorial Center, and she and other winners were honored during a virtual ceremony.

Cora’s piece and Statement of Purpose is published in a program and on the Holocaust Memorial Center’s website
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Erin Albanese
Erin Albanese is associate managing editor and reporter, covering Byron Center, Kentwood, Wyoming and Grand Rapids Community College. She was one of the original SNN staff writers, helping launch the site in 2013 and enjoys fulfilling the mission of sharing the stories of public education. She has worked as a journalist in the Grand Rapids area since 2000. A graduate of Central Michigan University, she has written for The Grand Rapids Press, Advance Newspapers, On-the-Town Magazine and Group Tour Media. Read Erin's full bio

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