Photograph by John Jackson

Photograph by John Jackson

Under the Radar

by Molly Secours

Terry Lapidus Freudenthal was 9 years old when she and her family boarded the SS Theodore Roosevelt to flee Nazi Germany in 1938. Months before leaving, her father avoided capture by escaping to Berlin where he worked and saved enough money to board the New York City-bound ship with his family. 

Meanwhile Terry’s mother packed up their belongings and endured interrogation by the SS, who arrived unannounced—day and night—searching for valuables. Hitler’s rigid policies forbade Jews from taking any assets that might generate revenue in America, and only old or used possessions were allowed.

Terry explains: “We were very fortunate because we were on one of the last ships that allowed Jews to take personal belongings out of Germany. After that people could only take what they had on their backs.” 

Beginning again in New York City was difficult. Her father worked as a janitor, courier, and window dresser. Fortunately, a year after their arrival, Terry received a full scholarship from a Russian ballerina who needed students for a new school, and, at the age of 10, she began the life of an artist.

By the time Terry arrived in Nashville with her new husband, Curt, at age 20, she was a highly skilled papier-mâché artist. She set up a freelance shop in her basement working with Castner Knott and Harveys—while raising three daughters.

After becoming a widow twenty-nine years ago, Terry began art classes at Centennial Arts Center, first with clay, then painting. Over the years her paintings, sculpture, and pottery have been featured in local exhibitions—and even a national one—and are frequently auctioned off to benefit her favorite charities. 

When I inquired about a sculpture of a young dancer on her coffee table, she smiled shyly and said, “Perhaps it’s after class and she’s relaxed—but still posing in a way.” The dancer appears reflective, and Terry reveals that for those coming from another country, artistic expression is essential in finding one’s home. And for years Terry has found a home at Nashville Opera Company where she serves as a board member. 

Art and music have always been part of me, starting with the ballet. I couldn’t imagine a life without art.

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