The Israeli counterculture art scene is alive and growing, as can be seen both on the streets and hidden in basements. Take a look at the vagrant teenagers, breaking off from the familial norm, guitar in hand and backpack filled with messy stacks of notebook paper for songwriting purposes. Young artists perform Dadaist humor skits, defying the mainstream comedy structures offered by shows such as A Wonderful Country. Long, thick dreadlocks descend down the back of a 23-year-old reading her protest poetry denouncing the "evils of war." This Israeli avant-garde came together for a night of open art performances last Thursday at Galleria, an art gallery and performance space in Ra'anana. The event, entitled "Song and Story Night" - or "Shira V'sipur" (a word play on "shira b'tzibur," a common term for sing-alongs) - was an open platform for up-and-coming artists to perform their pieces without the tight scrutiny often found in more formal art events and exhibits. "Through our open performance and exhibit nights, we try to give artists in Israel a place to come together to share their art and to feel free and uninhibited," explains Asher Whitman, cocreator of the event. ABOUT A year ago, Whitman, a theater student at Seminar Hakibbutzim, and Yoav Alon, a writer from Kfar Saba, started the group Avocado Ltd., and planned to hold events bimonthly. Now, each event generates more word-of-mouth advertising that reaches a wide network and creates a niche of young artists in the Dan area. About 15 performances ranging from short skits to poetry readings to musical recitals took place at the packed space last week. Adi Leibovich, 21, from Kfar Saba, says the atmosphere of a community of artists with "wide open ears" is what inspires her to read her poems at Avocado nights. "The ambiance here is not pretentious and everyone comes here to get a bit from each other," she says. This was her second time at such an event, and she plans on continuing her involvement. And the gallery space has its own story. Many young artists from Ra'anana and the surrounding areas know about Galleria, located at Rehov Ahuza 100. When it's not hosting one of Avocado's art events, Galleria is an open space for youngsters to hang out and read one of the many books available, or just work on their art in a more inspiring environment. In the basement, where smoking is strictly forbidden, quirky, artsy kids create a colorful, vivid scene strangely reminiscent of the film version of David Grossman's Someone to Run With, about a network of talented young Israeli musicians all living together in Jerusalem. THE SPACE is run by Ehud Ehiel, a photographer who first opened the place as a gallery for selling his and others' artwork. But he soon decided to turn it into an open house for the community. A network of city kids volunteer at Galleria, which is used as a lounge facility as well as a performance space. Ehiel politely declined an interview, explaining that all of the credit should be assigned to "the kids who run the place." According to Elan Perach, a member of Avocado, the concept of an open gallery for youth has even garnered interest from the city council of Ra'anana. "The Municipality has begun to work on some proposals with Ehiel to sponsor more artistic events for young people," he noted. Summing up Avocado's purpose, Whitman remarked, "We are here today and every day to inspire a cognitive revolution through our art."