Following her time at Sotheby’s Summer Institute and the final assignment on the pre-college Painting and Drawing class, Mia has gone on to create 6 Million Known (6MK) - an advocacy project with the mission of sharing the stories of Holocaust survivors and creatively intersecting art with historical remembrance. We spoke with Mia about her Summer Institute experience and the inspiration behind 6MK.
Can you tell us about your organization, 6MK, and what led you to create it?
When I was in the ninth grade, I had the opportunity to meet Holocaust survivors and hear their stories first-hand. The following summer, I enrolled in the Painting and Drawing class at Sotheby's Summer Institute. For our final project, we were asked to make a piece of art that would “spark a change in the world.” While brainstorming what to create, I thought of the Holocaust survivors I had met the previous year. It scares me that there are people who deny the existence of the Holocaust, and if there was ever a time to educate and advocate, it’s now, as the survivors are an aging population.
With that in mind, I made an acrylic painting of a survivor, and I wrote the Hebrew word “La-daat” — “to know” — beneath her portrait. Typically, when referring to the Holocaust, the Hebrew word “Leez-chor”, or “to remember”, is used. I wanted the project to convey that it is essential not only to remember, but also to know. I then wrote up the survivor’s story and attached it to a QR code at the bottom of the portrait so viewers could read about the survivor’s journey and get to know them, in addition to seeing them.
The course really inspired me, and I realized that I wanted to take my final project further. I decided to meet with more survivors in my own time, draw their portraits, write up their personal stories, and attach a QR code to each piece. I wanted this to be an advocacy project called 6 Million Known (6MK). My short-term goal was to meet with more survivors, draw their portraits, and write about their stories. My long-term goal was to turn this body of work into a traveling exhibit that would spread awareness and combat Holocaust denial and antisemitism.
What was the most interesting thing you learned/experienced at Sotheby’s Summer Institute?
Sotheby’s Summer Institute introduced me to color theory. I have always been fascinated by color — how colors interact with one another, how they convey emotions — but I didn’t know it was a field of study. I now think about the role and meaning of color in everything I see and create, not only in art, but in books, movies, and music.
What have you learned as you’ve built your organization from the ground up?
The greatest lesson I’ve learned is that if you truly believe in something and put in the effort to make it happen, it just might work. When I conceived of the idea for 6MK, I had no idea how to create a traveling exhibit. The thought was daunting, so I broke the process down into small, doable steps: Find a survivor. Meet in person and conduct an interview. Take a photograph. Draw a portrait. Write up a story. Attach a QR code. Frame. Repeat. 6MK has taken nearly three years to create and there have certainly been moments of doubt, but step by step, it has come together.
How do you plan to incorporate your passion for art into your academic and career path moving forward?
As I am in 11th grade I’m not sure yet, but I am very interested in art history. I’d like to learn more about being a museum curator or an art historian. It would also be cool to work at Sotheby’s!
What advice would you share with this year’s Summer Institute students?
Summer Institute really changed my life. It not only sparked this idea but it also gave me the tools to view and analyze art. The class was so much fun and such a great experience. If I were to offer one piece of advice, it would be to not waste this opportunity.
What’s in store for the future of 6MK?
My hope is that 6MK will reach and resonate with as many people as possible. It would be a dream for this series to become a traveling exhibit in public spaces.
Learn more about Mia’s advocacy project, 6MK.