Corcoran Gallery: Art as Reflection of Israel
By Heidi Krizer Daroff
A unique relationship is growing between the Corcoran College of Art & Design in Washington D.C. and Bezalel Academy of Art and Design in Jerusalem as they embark on a joint art student collaboration project.
This endeavor is the brainchild of Corcoran Professor Na'ama Lewin. While Na'ama travels to Israel every summer to photograph the Jewish Homeland, sometimes her students travel with her and experience Israel for the first time in an incredibly creative way.
In an effort to share a dynamic reflection of Israel through art, the Corcoran hosted the "Bezalel on Tour" exhibit at the The Corcoran Gallery, an American institution located in the heart of Washington DC, surrounded by the White House, the Capitol, and all the beautiful monuments. Yet, all the attendees had arrived that evening to celebrate the creative endeavors of Israeli students.
The exhibit included a wide variety of creative pieces, ranging from artistic videos, paintings, craftwork, and a compelling and astute short films. As a committed supporter of Israel and a member of the Israel Forever team, it was thrilling to attend this event, for it was a beautiful demonstration of the dimensions of Israel that we try to emphasize.
Looking around, I was filled with happiness as I realized that all the attendees were there to celebrate the creative endeavors of Israeli students. The blues, greens, oranges, reds, purples, and pinks were so full of life, reminding me so much of the people of Israel.
There were two elements to the evening that struck me the most: The short films were played on a running loop were the first that caught my attention. I sat through several of them and while they ranged from very happy to extremely sad and everything in between, I could not help thinking that these stories were so human and not the image of Israelis that is usually portrayed in the media.
The Israeli people come from every corner of the globe bringing with them a rich diversity of backgrounds and ideas. The Bezalel student film makers captured this diversity through a range of emotions and ideas. Their goal of wanting to connect with others creatively outside the realm of Israeli politics or baseless prejudice was achieved.
Within this emotionally charged exhibit, there was also a wall display of photographs taken in Israel by Corcoran students - the second piece that really caught my attention, and captured my heart.
It was fascinating to see the Jewish homeland through the eyes of these artists, some who were Jewish, some not. The images they chose to present demonstrated the Israeli quest to live as a free people in their own land. The growing friendship between the Corcoran and Bezalel communities only helps in bringing art to life.
This exhibition marks the launch of the Deane and Paul Shatz International Student Exchange Program, a new education exchange partnership between the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington DC and the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem, Israel's oldest artistic initiative now celebrating 106 years. Now, more students will be able to share in a cross-cultural learning experience.
We are very excited that Naama's dream of bringing artists together from these two fantastic schools is coming true. We hope the continuing exchange of ideas and artwork serves to strengthen the personal connections of the artists to Israel and all that her history and culture has to offer.
The Bezalel on Tour exhibition has traveled to the Maryland Institute College of Arts (MICA), Sotheby’s (Chicago) and the Maltz Museum for Jewish Heritage in Cleveland, Ohio. The exhibition includes more than 150 objects, including 2D and video works. Following the presentation at the Corcoran, the exhibition will travel to the Brown Creative Arts Center in Providence, RI from February 28th until March 15th.
Named after the chief artisan of the Tabernacle (Exodus 31:1-16), the Bezalel Art Academy was established in 1906 by artist Boris Schatz, with the support of the founder of Modern Zionism, Theodor Herzl. Bezalel has become Israel’s leading academy of art and design, and one of the most prestigious in the world.
The Academy’s unique strength lies in its ability to respond to cultural changes, as demonstrated by the numerous artistic breakthroughs for which it has been responsible.
Both the faculty and the student body are driven by a passion to create and by their meticulous attention to quality and excellence. These two cornerstones, plus the Academy’s commitment to fostering creativity and opportunity amongst all communities in Israel, have positioned Bezalel at the center of Israel’s creative and artistic scene, making it instrumental in shaping and enriching the country’s cultural identity.