Flowering cadets

Every day, we face questions about the art of reality and the reality of art. In a recent exhibition, young artists attempt to answer those questions.

flowers of bezalel 298.8 (photo credit: Bosmat Ibi)
flowers of bezalel 298.8
(photo credit: Bosmat Ibi)
Sometimes, even in the most unexpected places, we come across an exhibition or even a single piece of art that, if only for a brief moment, pulls us out of our daily routine. The children's exhibition at City Hall, entitled "Flowers of Bezalel" (which could also be translated as "Bezalel Cadets") and sponsored by the Bezalel Academy of Art, the Jerusalem Education Administration, and the Fund for Initiatives, is just such an event. The exhibition is the culmination of this years's "Flowers of Bezalel" project, initiated by Dr. Michal Sela, Dean of the Bezalel Academy of Art, and Sheli Hershko, head of the Art Department. The project seeks to expose the children and youth of Jerusalem and its environs to different kinds of art and design and to identify extraordinarily talented students, selected by their teachers, from the third grade through the twelfth grade. For a year, more than 100 select students meet at least once a week in workshops in the Bezalel building on the Hebrew University's Mt. Scopus campus, where they are tutored by students of Bezalel. To date, more than 500 children have participated in the program. Since the beginning of time, says Hershko, people have understood the significance of art as a savior for the soul troubled by stress and grief. The art enables the children to process their feelings in a deep and most personal way. These children have experienced Jerusalem's most difficult years; some have been directly affected by bombings and have lost friends or family. Some are socially alienated or psychologically troubled. For all, the project enables them to work with art, expressing their feelings without having to directly confront their everyday life patterns or their traumas. Although expensive, especially due to the costs of the art materials, funders have ensured that the cost for each child remains low or minimal, providing an equal opportunity for children from diverse areas of the city. The budding artists are tutored by students from the Bezalel Academy. Although they do not get paid for the tutoring, the students do receive a stipend and the tutoring hours are accredited toward the hours they must accumulate to obtain their teaching certification. Like the young artists, the mentors are selected by their professors and all have completed at least two years of university studies. The didactic part of the program was crafted by senior Bezalel personnel, combining practical applications with theoretical studies. To fully develop as artists, they believe, students should learn to understand, and even be influenced by, the work of different artists. To achieve this, the mentors expose the children to slides and books that broaden their perspectives on the topics they are studying. For example, while learning about colors, the kids were shown slides of Van Gogh's use of color and paint. The mentors encourage group interaction and the kids learn to constructively criticize each other's work and to interact with and learn from each other while still preserving their own individuality. While the creation of art is an individual process, it is influenced by the surroundings. Even after a year of difficult work, the mentors remain enthusiastic. The connection with a young soul, they say, is inspiring for both sides. "This has been an emotional and amazing experience," says Anat Dahari, a student at Bezalel and a mentor. "I learned so much about patience and love of art. The children interact so beautifully with each other; it means something to the entire community." The exhibit builds confidence and mastery. One of the young artists talks about his excitement and pride as he displays his art work for the first time in a public place. "We used to study art at school," he says. "But this is the first time I feel that I can really be proud of my own work. I invited all of my friends and my family to come and see my exhibition." The observer can experience the innocent, virginal quality of the exhibition, in which the children reflect their deepest realities. The talented children choose simplicity and reveal raw feelings, as they are, without the boundaries that confront most older artists. A series of self-portrait photographs - a portrait, a fence, and a face - expresses a child's feeling in a city environment. A third-grade child painted a picture of "Ir David" and added his name in big bold letters. The donation of city space, says a municipal spokesman, is also a statement of support for the program and its goals of furthering cultural development and encouraging interaction through art among children from different backgrounds and neighborhoods. The setting is symbolic. The backdrop is mundane - but the art is expressive. And Kikar Safra itself is filled with people from different communities and cultures, who have the opportunity to stand together, quietly observing the exhibition. If only for one brief moment, even the most harried citizens are encouraged to open their minds to something else. A universal language, the art touches each person differently, encouraging them to stop and reflect, if only for a moment. "It is very nice to enjoy this small beautiful exhibition and see other people's reactions. Hopefully, in the future, the Jerusalem City Hall will continue supporting Jerusalem's diverse culture," says a passerby. "It simply makes my day happier," says another.