bezalel 88 298.
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It's been 100 years since the founding of the original Bezalel Academy of Arts, an institution that has shaped Israel's budding artists and influenced the face of Israeli art and design.
The Knesset has called today's centennial celebration "a national event," and indeed several dignitaries - including President Moshe Katsav, Vice Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Minister of Education Limor Livnat - will be on hand to honor the academy.
The event represents a major milestone in Israeli cultural achievement, according to Prof. Arnon Zuckerman, Bezalel's president.
"We are proudly celebrating abundant achievement in Israeli arts and design education, achievements by our founders, and by generations of artists and students," he told The Jerusalem Post.
An evening ceremony at the Israel Museum will open the main centenary exhibition. The exhibit, Boris Schatz: The Father of Israeli Art, will open to the public on January 5 and will feature paintings and sculpture by Schatz, the founder of the original Bezalel school, as well as works he created while serving as court artist to the Royal House of Bulgaria at the turn of the century. These works will be on display in Israel for the first time.
Additionally, the exhibition will include Schatz's depictions of scriptural heroes and of Jewish contemporary life as well as some of the most important works created at the Bezalel workshops during its early years.
A retrospective exhibition of the work of Boris's son, the painter, sculptor, and graphic designer, Bezalel Schatz, will open at the Jerusalem Artists' House on January 28 .
Schatz conceived the idea of creating an Israeli school for the arts in 1903, while heading the Royal Academy of Arts in Sofia, Bulgaria. After inspiring Theodor Herzl to back the idea, Schatz succeeded in 1906 in opening a school which had both practical and loftier goals. It aimed to train Jerusalemites in handicrafts as well as help find a visual expression for the new national identity, bringing together East and West, as well as incorporating older Jewish traditions in pioneering art.
The academy proved to be a success artistically, but closed down in 1929 due to financial difficulties. By 1935, the school was up and running again, greatly aided by the immigration of skilled teachers from Germany. Over the years, it evolved from a vocational school to a prestigious institution of higher learning, known internationally as the home of artisans at the cutting-edge of their fields.
In 1990, all of the academy's departments were transferred to a new campus on Mount Scopus, where it is located today. As part of the centenary celebration, journalists will have an opportunity to tour the grounds of the academy and meet with Zuckerman.
He and other members of the school's administration are already looking forward to Bezalel's next century of achievement.
"Alongside preserving the tradition of Bezalel, we will lead the Academy into the twenty first century equipped to deal with new challenges, and ready to guide the world of art and design, both in our local cultural sphere and across the globe," Zuckerman said.