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Opening of Special Exhibition Marks Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden

The Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden commemorated Holocaust Remembrance Day on April 12 with the opening of a special limited exhibition, The Life and Works of Alfred Tibor, which will be on view until May 15.

The exhibition features nine of Alfred Tibor’s sculptures and two charcoal drawings from Delaware artist Marty J. Kalb’s The Holocaust Series.

Born in Hungary in 1920, Tibor was the youngest of three brothers. Early on, the effects of anti-Semitism were felt in many ways. A self-taught gymnast, Tibor qualified for the 1936 Olympics, but was denied a place on the Hungarian team because of his Jewish heritage.

The persecution he faced reached a crescendo as Nazism spread across Eastern Europe in the late 1930s. Later, after World War II, he would be faced with oppression by Soviet Russia.

Tibor lost 82 relatives in the Auschwitz-Birkenau Concentration Camp, among them his oldest brother, Tibor. After the war, Alfred and his lone surviving relative, brother Andre, honored the memory of their sibling by changing their last name to Tibor.

From these harrowing experiences, Tibor found his artistic inspiration. He created works that expressed the theme of man’s inhumanity to man. But more often, he created sculptures that captured the joy and celebration of life that he believed was inextinguishable even in the darkest of times.

Tibor emigrated to the United States in 1956 during the Hungarian Revolution with his wife and two children. The family originally settled in Miami, Florida, where Tibor was a successful commercial artist before finding his way to Columbus in the 1970s.

In Ohio, Tibor was able to pursue his passion for sculpture and create art for more than art’s sake. Drawing from his own experiences as a Holocaust and World War II survivor, he used his life as a catalyst to detail the human experience.

“As a Holocaust survivor, I believe that my life was spared to do work so people may enjoy it,” Tibor stated on a plaque accompanying his sculpture With Knowledge, located at Saint Charles Preparatory School. “Whether it is one of my Holocaust sculptures, a biblical figure, or a woman standing proud and tall, the human aspect of the piece is what is being expressed to the viewer.”

At the exhibition’s opening reception, Ohio’s First Lady Karen W. Kasich reflected on Tibor’s message and legacy.

“The governor and I believe in the importance and power of the arts, not just because they beautify our world, but because they allow us to express what is inside ourselves,” she said.

Casting raw human emotion into bronze, marble, and slate, Tibor’s works can be found in museums and collections around the world, including at Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to victims of the Holocaust.

Although many of Tibor’s works are in private collections, several of his sculptures can be seen in public spaces throughout central Ohio. Full-scale versions of exhibited pieces such as Celebration of Life, Second Step, and Spirit of the Springs are housed, respectively, at Battelle Riverfront Park, Upper Arlington’s Sunny 95 Park, and Ohio Dominican University.

Despite being faced with unthinkable challenges during his lifetime, Tibor used his art to reshape his experiences. His work not only focused on the Holocaust, but also humanity. In his sculptures, he often depicted positive defining moments in an individual’s life, such as pregnancy, motherhood, and friendship.

“There are pieces that really remember those who were subjected to the atrocities of the Holocaust and those pieces hit you really deeply when you see them,” Kasich said of the selected works at the Governor’s Residence. “But Tibor also created pieces of great joy that celebrate the beauty of life no matter how dark things get.”

Tibor passed away in 2017 at the age of 97, having won a lifetime achievement award from the Liturgical Art Guild, an Arts Freedom Award, and the Ohioana Pegasus Award. Through it all, he always sought to identify the positive aspects in even the bleakest situations, as he explained in the plaque at Saint Charles: “There is beauty and value to be found in all our lives, for I truly believe that life is a celebration.”

Members of the public who wish to view the exhibition can schedule a free tour of the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden by calling 614-644-7644 or online at

The Jacobean Revival style home was originally built for the family of industrialist Malcom Jeffrey in 1925, and has served as the official Ohio Governor’s Residence for nearly 60 years. Examples of Ohio art, industry, and craftsmanship are showcased throughout the house while outside, the surrounding Heritage Garden reflects the state’s diverse native botanicals and landscapes. Free tours of the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden can be scheduled by calling 614-644-7644 or online at

The Ohio Arts Council is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally, and economically. Connect with the OAC on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, or visit our website at


Article by Kayla Draper, 2017-18 Social Media and Events Fellow
Photos by Fan Su, Featured photo: “To Life” photo courtesy of the Ohio Governor’s Residence and Heritage Garden

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