Art transcends languages, cultures and even oceans, a group of American artists
proved recently when they served as “artists in residence” in the Western
The artists came on a program organized by the Jewish Agency’s
Partnership with Israel, which has bonded the Western Galilee with a consortium
of 15 American cities in Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Nebraska, Ohio and
sends Israeli artists to US
Like other affiliations between Israeli and American communities,
the partnership aims to promote mutually beneficial endeavors, forging
relationships through programs that build Jewish identity and strengthen
connections. But while other partnerships mainly focus on student exchanges and
business networking, the Western Galilee-Central Area Consortium Partnership is
the only one that also features exchanges of artists.
“We use art as a
vehicle to connect people,” said Kim Goldberg, the American chair of the
partnership’s arts task force. “The fact that our partnership does this program
is really an expression of who we are. The Western Galilee has so much art here.
Everywhere I go, I feel creativity, which opens people up, so it is very
effective in connecting people and overcoming the language
Goldberg, who resides in Omaha, is one of seven artists who
came for the week-long residency. The task force also facilitates a performing
arts series that brings top artists from the Western Galilee to the US to
perform, and a special project each year to try out innovative ideas.
other six artists in residence were Daniel Christiansen of Omaha, Bonnie Cohen
and Janice Woll of Akron, and Jane Petitjean, Sharon Frankel and Prof. Dena Eber
Cohen and Woll worked at artist Dalit Ben-Shalom’s studio in
Yehiam, which is called Mosaica. The three artists worked on a mosaic for the
wall at the entrance to the Jewish community center of the Mateh Asher Regional
Council that was a labor of love of students in Akron and Israel.
Cohen and Woll designed the mosaic with 25 Jewish eighth graders in Akron, who
brought it here in their suitcases on a class trip.
Students from the
school in Moshav Regba added to the project with help from Cohen and Woll. A
special addition was made by Frankel and her counterpart, Stephanie Egozy, who
are glass art specialists, at Egozy’s studio in Shavei Zion.
The theme of
the mosaic was “Planting for Peace,” which is symbolic of the growing
relationship among the Americans and Israelis involved. It included messages
hoping for peace in English and Hebrew from the students on both sides of the
“We are so glad the partnership paired us with Dalit,” Cohen
“The kids have been so polite and hard working. The experience on
this program has been beyond all our expectations.”
Besides the mosaic,
Woll worked on a quilt with the same “Planting for Peace” theme in Akron and
with local children at the Fence Festival of Kibbutz Gesher Haziv. The quilt
features pictures of the children working on it that were printed on fabric and
added to the quilt. Kids from both countries put messages on the
“I wish there will be peace in the world and everyone will play
music together with their friends and everyone will live together in a happy and
beautiful world,” one students wrote.
Eber, who heads the Digital Arts
Department at Bowling Green State University, worked with students at Western
Galilee Regional College.
Christiansen made paper cuts with Jewish themes
at the Hatomer and Shazar schools in Acre.
Frankel said she normally
worked on her art solo in a workshop in a basement in her Toledo home, so she
appreciated the social interaction the program provided.
“It has been an
exciting experience working together with artists from Israel and Akron,” she
PETITJEAN HAD a similarly inspiring time as a VIP guest teacher at
the Acre Arts Center for Kindergarteners, which teaches art and art appreciation
to more than 1,000 Jewish and Arab three to six year olds from 35 separate and
mixed kindergartens in Acre. She helped several groups of 30 children draw
self-portraits and decorate pet rocks and then explain their art to each
“I showed them my artwork on my laptop, and they asked me
questions about my art and my family in the United States,” she said. “The
children understood my art in a way adults in the US don’t. This is a very
special place for these kids to come.
I have had a blast.”
each group concluded its experience with Petitjean, the children gave her
presents and sang her songs about Israel and peace, which made her
The arts center is purposely located in the heart of a mixed
Arab-Jewish neighborhood. Director Orly Shay said that art teaches tolerance and
respect for your surroundings and your peers. She said that working with an
American artist was a great opportunity for the students.
“Jane gave us a
special experience,” Shay said. “I respect everyone who comes and wants
I told the kids she paid to come here on her own, give her time and
The kids were so happy to connect to Jews in
Petitjean said her viewpoint on Jewish-Arab interaction as well
as that of the other artists on the trip had changed dramatically from
experiences. She said that while she had previously seen the issue in
white terms, she now saw shades of gray.
“We saw a paradigm shift in our
thinking,” she said. “Seeing the students interact gives us a different
understanding of what Israel really is. We will share our experiences
communities and enlighten people about how vital these programs are for
and the world as a whole. This is where the seeds of peace are planted. I
learned so much more from the students than they have from me. I will
kids home with me and hold them in my heart forever.”