Shi learned she was a semifinalist from her Honors Art Teacher Trinidad Garcia. She attended an Awards Ceremony on March 7 with her proud parents, art teacher and Principal Susan Arzola.
This year, students from 175 schools across 20 states entered the national contest. Middle and high school students create poetry, artwork or films in response to survivors’ oral testimonies about their Holocaust experiences.
About 40 survivors and their families and the young students who told their stories of hope and survival came together for the event held at Chapman University’s Memorial Hall.
Shi was named the National1st Place winner in the Middle School Division, Art Category. The top winner took to the podium to read a short description about her entry.
“When Hailey took the stage and shared the story behind the art, the room silenced. Mrs. Billauer stood and listened. It immediately brought the artwork to life and both the artist and subject were changed from the experience. It was a remarkable moment and we all felt it,” said Principal Arzola.
The 13-year old artist learned about the contest while she was looking online for a competition to help build her portfolio for college.
“I thought, I want to do this one,” she said.
The contest required research, listening to testimonies, and then creating the art piece about the story, she said.
Shi began the process by listening to oral testimonies and eventually selected survivor Engelina Billauer for her artwork.
“I chose this one because her story was the only one I listened to for the entire time,” she said.
It took Shi four weekends, working six hours each day, to create her entry titled “Never Again.”
The piece combines sketch and watercolor techniques to depict a 15-year old Billauer and her older sister, Frieda, who were separated from their deaf parents and taken away by the Nazis in 1942.
“When they were first separated they boarded a train. A Nazi officer made the young girls stay back to clean the train tracks. They looked up and saw their parents arrive on another bus and they ran onto the bus to comfort them. But a Nazi officer saw them and forced them out and told them they would see them again,” Shi explained.
“Billauer used sign language but didn’t know if her parents knew what was happening,” she said.
“I named my it (the artwork) Never Again because they never saw each other again and I hope the Holocaust never happens again,” Shi added.
Shi even located a black and white family photo.
“But I couldn’t see the parents’ faces because it was a very old picture,” she said.
It ended up being a day she would never forget. Shi spotted Engelina Billauer with her husband at a reception held before the event.
“We saw a couple walking. I didn’t know she would be there and felt very lucky,” she said. Shi was one of the only contestants who had the opportunity to meet the subject of their project.
The pair took a photo with the original artwork. Shi also received a copy of the Jewish Journal that featured the survivor’s story.
“Meeting her was very wonderful,” Shi said.
“I hope that people generations from now will still hear it and understand that it was a very hard time to live through, but it will never be forgotten,” she added.
High School Art Division is Hannah Wheeler of
Shi won $500 and an all-expense paid trip to Washington D.C. on June 22-26 to visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
“And we get to ride in limos!” she said.