The classic and lamentable state of affairs in which young artists, fresh out of college and without a substantial track record to show, struggle to make ends meet is, in fact, a hard reality in this country. But all that may be about to change, at least for the lucky few who will soon be chosen as beneficiaries of support from the Ted Arison Family Foundation.

The new project goes by the name of Artport Tel Aviv, and is designed to provide half a dozen young artists, who are on the first rung of their professional ladder, with a financial cushion. The core of the program is the Artport Residency Program which will grant the lucky beneficiaries, whose names will be announced in early May, a comfortable and supportive framework in which to further their craft without the concern of earning a living, or paying for a facility in which to follow their creative muse

The package includes 12 months’ worth of studio space in Tel Aviv, optional accommodation and a monthly stipend. The scheme will also run an enrichment program that will incorporate workshops, master classes, lectures, conferences, exhibitions and visits to various studios. The grant recipients will also benefit from synergies with eight international artists who will be invited to spend time, and work, in Israel for three months each

The successful applicants will be chosen by a panel of professionals including Prof

Yair Garbuz and Sari Golan Sarig from this part of the world, and Gabriela Horn, who serves as curator and researcher at the KW Institute for Contemporary Art in Berlin, and Paul Bayley from Britain

Bayley is, perhaps, the most qualified of the four for the job. He is an experienced artist, lecturer and curator and currently works as director of the London-based Florence Trust that promotes the careers of young artists by offering studio residencies and putting on exhibitions of their work

Bayley says he was hugely impressed with the works he and his colleagues reviewed during his stay in Israel, and that the sorting process went swimmingly well

“I have [had] some experience of sitting on this kind of jury before, and I either find that there is either a great deal of consensus or a completely split jury. I am happy to say that, in this case, there was a lot of consensus.” That was probably a boon, considering that adjudicators had to wade through the offerings of in excess of 150 local artists bidding for the foundation’s generous support

The professionals had several factors to consider, including the specific artistic discipline in which the applicants work and demographics. Bayley says he is all too aware of the minefield young artists have to negotiate in order to survive and, hopefully, eventually cement their place as a recognized and reasonably remunerated professional

“Once you’re an established artist there is a whole support network, with galleries supporting you,” he continues

“But there is this tricky period, in between, when you no longer have the shelter of an academic institution and you’re not quite an established artist – there’s this horrible term ‘emerging artist,’ which applies to 99.9 percent of artists between the age of 20 and 80. The emerging artist stage is the difficult period and there aren’t that many support structures out there for them.” The Ted Arison Family Foundation’s initiative will, hopefully, help to redress that predicament here

Bayley notes that, if talent and inventiveness are anything to go by, the artistic sector in this country is in rude health, and is a match for creative communities around the world

“I have found lots of interesting artists in Israel, and I see a lot of cutting-edge stuff on a daily basis in London. I would have been happy to have taken any of the artists who were in our long shortlist here, to the Florence Trust. These are excellent artists who are politically engaging in what is going on around them, and are producing work of a high quality. It was a bit of an eye-opener for me.” Bayley says that, compared with the London art scene, he has also discerned a particular Israeli approach to producing art

“Here, art is much more ideas-driven, and is about investigating the society in which the artists find themselves, and the artists are bringing something to the table and uncovering something, and it is coming back at you in an interesting way.” While there are common issues for all emerging artists to grapple with, Bayley says there is something unique about the situation here

“A lot of the work I saw was by artists in their thirties. By that age you know you’re going to be an artist – the work I see at the Florence Trust is by artists who are a bit younger. Maybe there is a sort of seriousness to the approach of the artists here. Some of the [Israeli] artists are dealing with serious matters in a lighthearted way, but they are serious about being lighthearted.” Hopefully the efforts of Bayley, his juror colleagues and the foundation will produce serious results for the lucky winners.

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