Fusion of art, artistry: Studio of Her Own moves into Litvinovsky's home

The new Studio of Her Own in the Litvinovsky Painter’s House – Beit Hatzayar will be a home for women artists to meet, learn and create.

ARTIST HEDDY BREUER ABRAMOWITZ (center) and Studio of Her Own founder Zipi Mizrachi look through pieces of original artwork left behind by the late Pinhas Litvinovsky.  (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
ARTIST HEDDY BREUER ABRAMOWITZ (center) and Studio of Her Own founder Zipi Mizrachi look through pieces of original artwork left behind by the late Pinhas Litvinovsky.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Women artists from Jerusalem, the country and eventually around the world have a new place to create.
Last month, Studio of Her Own signed a long-term lease with the Jerusalem Municipality and moved into the home of the late and famous artist Pinhas Litvinovsky on Kaf-Tet BeNovember Street.
“The fact that there was a person living and creating art there for so many years, and that it was shut down for so many decades but left untouched – it’s in the home’s DNA to create, it is meant for people who create,” said Ruth Oppenheim, who will serve as the art director and curator of any future traveling exhibitions.
“I think it is necessary for Israel – far beyond Jerusalem.”
Studio of Her Own in the Litvinovsky Painter’s House – Beit Hatzayar, which is undergoing renovations and will officially open before the end of the year, is the next stage of the Studio of Her Own NGO, explained its founder Zipi Mizrachi. The group was started in 2010 to provide religious women artists with the basic needs for professional and economic advancement: workspace, basic business education, marketing tools, a supportive environment for professional feedback and the development of a wider professional artistic network for continued career development.
Over the past decade, the women have put on more than 30 exhibitions, introducing what the website describes as “a new, unique, and high-quality voice into the contemporary art scene in Israel, leaving its imprint as the first breakthrough project for art from the religious sector.”
In addition, over the years, the program expanded beyond religious women to encourage art making and idea sharing among women artists from all sectors. Earlier this year, Studio of Her Own put on its first exhibition with Arab artists. The “Embroidered Scaffolds” exhibition at the Hansen House exhibition featured pieces by Jewish and Muslim religious women.
Mizrachi said the new facility will allow the program to expand in all aspects.
First, they are working on establishing a residency program by renovating a storage room and unused sauna off the vacant porch – soon to be a studio – into a bedroom and bath that could accommodate a mother and child. Mizrachi said such programs are lacking around the world and many women artists with babies are therefore ineligible for artist-in-resident programs. Studio of Her Own hopes to change that reality.
They will also launch a research center and library open to anyone interested in exploring women in the arts.
But mostly, said Mizrachi, it will be a space to share and create art – a place unique to the whole country. The studio will host poetry readings and book launches, be open for dance performances and rehearsals and, of course, exhibitions.
“Coffee, tea, sugar and inspiration,” said Mizrachi, with a warm smile.
MUCH OF the inspiration will come from the special environment found in the home.
Litvinovsky came to Israel in 1912 from Novogeorgiyevsk (today part of Ukraine) to study at the Bezalel Art School, though he returned to the Caucus region for a short while to study at the Russian Academy of Arts in Saint Petersburg.
He returned first to Tiberius, then, in 1928, he moved to Jerusalem and joined the young modern artists’ movement, painting the daily reality of the Middle Eastern environment, its glowing colors and landscapes and the local subject matter: Arabs, rabbis, colors of the landscape, stressing exotic subject matter, such as the simple Arab lifestyle and rabbinic leaders.
He is known for paintings such as The Chicken Seller (1920s), The Orange Seller (1925) and Arab with a Flower (1925). He also designed the logo of the Ohel Theatre in 1925.
“We really feel like guests in his home,” said Mizrachi, who said despite planning renovations they will preserve certain aspects of the house the artist left behind. After his passing in 1985, the house sat virtually untouched. Many of the artist’s belongings – books and blankets, chairs and canvases and tooth and artist brushes – remained in the house.
Studio of Her Own is planning a short “pop-up exhibit,” during which a small group of Jerusalem artists will enter the home for nine to 12 hours and create art in reaction to their surroundings.
“We want them to see it with all the dust and create,” Mizrahi said.
Underneath a thick layer of dust is Litvinovsky’s light table, an old dial radio, a flower vase, racks for canvases, a mirror and scraps of notepaper. His mug hangs in the kitchen alongside an old towel.
IT TOOK several years to secure the home.
Oppenheim said that the NGO first identified it almost five years prior. She noted that the group was drawn to the home not only because of who lived inside, but also because of who works and lives around it: it is just below the Hansen House cultural center; across the street from the Beit Chinuch Comprehensive High School, which focuses on technology and vocational training; and above the Beit Hatzayar High School for youth with behavioral disorders.
Hila Smolyanski, head of the Visual Arts Department of the Jerusalem Municipality, said that the city runs a program by which NGOs can request abandoned property that belongs to the city for long-term rental if the programs they offer benefit society. In her estimation, this project fit the bill.
“Litvinovsky was a classic Israeli artist from before the founding of the state and this NGO was willing to keep his name and his tradition of doing art in the home, which is just great,” she told In Jerusalem. “We saw it as a win-win situation.”
She said that it is important for Jerusalem to have a robust art scene, because “it serves the spiritual needs of our residents as much as they need good education, health services and a strong economy.”
Smolyanski added that she has watched for nearly a decade as Studio of Her Own brought together an extremely diverse group of artists into its circle in Jerusalem.
“It is so important to share those voices and bring even more voices into the circle. This is the most exciting thing in a way and it really makes me happy,” she continued. “Studio of Her Own breaks down barriers while creating great art.”
A festive opening ceremony in the new artists facility will be held on Tuesday, December 24 at 7:30 p.m.