On the line between Israel and America – an arts exchange

The Visiting Israeli Artists Program brings 10 Israeli artists for one semester each year as guest teachers at American universities.

Flo Low (photo credit: Courtesy)
Flo Low
(photo credit: Courtesy)
“I believe that artists generate transformative experiences,” says Flo Low. “Arts experiences can move hearts and introduce people to new ideas.”
As the newly appointed associate director of Arts Programs for the Israel Institute, Low will direct the Visiting Israeli Artists Program, which brings 10 Israeli artists for one semester each year as guest teachers at American universities. She sees this as an opportunity to provide American college students with moments that will impact their world view for years to come.
The Israel Institute, founded in 2012, is a non-advocacy organization dedicated to expanding knowledge about modern Israel by providing learning and discourse opportunities on and off college campuses. The Visiting Israeli Artists Program is a key initiative in the Institute’s broad range of activities. “This program is dear to me because it gives us the opportunity to share the incredible creativity and vibrant Israeli arts culture with campuses and communities in the US and that is a real privilege,” Low explains. “I think it’s very valuable for students to have opportunities for exposure to international perspectives and I believe that personal relationships really matter. One of the things that I’m passionate about is facilitating opportunities for dialogue and exchange.”
Low has the kind of exuberant speaking voice that could beautifully animate a beloved cartoon. Her rolling laugh is infectious and her sincerity tangible. Prior to taking on her role with the Israel Institute, Low served as the associate general manager of the La Jolla Playhouse, where she worked on several shows that transferred to Broadway and off-Broadway stages in New York. She describes herself as “a cultural ARTivist and creative producer.”
Her new role is the fruit of the labor of two influential women: Lynn Schusterman and Marge Goldwater. The former is the chair emeritus of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation as well as founder of the Jerusalem Season of Culture and the ROI Community; the latter, an established curator, gallery owner and director and entrepreneur. In 2008, Schusterman called on Goldwater to help her breathe to life a new venture, the Visiting Israeli Artists Program. The program aimed to create points of contact between American academic communities (student bodies and faculty) and the thriving Israeli arts scene. Since its inception, more than 100 artists have participated at dozens of reputable institutions throughout the country.
Now, a decade later, Low’s aim is to pick up precisely where Goldwater left off.
“I have a lot to learn from Marge,” said Low. “She’s built a program that is absolutely beautiful. It has touched so many campuses and reached so many students and artists. My first goal is to maintain the fabulous impact and reputation of the program and the incredible caliber of talent that she has been able to identify recruit and select.” One month into the position, Low had begun to identify a few areas that she plans on bolstering.
“I am passionate about equity, diversity and inclusion and I want to be sure that we’re showing the many faces of Israel,” she explained. While the students of each participating university will come into contact only with the one artist stationed there, Low stays conscious of the bigger picture composed by up to 10 selected artists each year.
“There’s a cultural richness that we need to draw in. We bring one artist to each campus, I also want to look at the cohorts that we bring and make sure that, over the long-term, we are giving voice to the diversity of perspectives within Israel.”
Low is also keenly aware of the importance of good matchmaking.
“We have to find the best placements possible for our artists. I care about looking at each individual artist and finding the campus and community that will be their best creative home,” she said.
“One of my goals is to foster ongoing collaborations between Israeli artists and their American counterparts. I think about longterm relationships,” she added. “In the summer following a choreographer’s residency, eight of her students traveled to Israel to participate in the Gaga Intensive of Batsheva Dance Company. That’s incredible to me because it shows she created an ongoing, creative, collaborative opportunity for everyone involved.” On a personal side, Low is already engaged in an ongoing creative collaboration with Israeli artists.
“I’m working with two American artists, a playwright and dramaturg. They visited Israel last year and we are making plans to go back and work with Israeli artists to devise a movement-based piece. In my work, I bring Israeli artists to the US, and in my personal artistic practice, I’m bringing American artists to Israel to create work with their Israeli counterparts.” The offer to take on the role at the Israel Institute thrilled Low, specifically because it nestled in with the back-and-forth she was involved in between the two countries.
“This position allows me to connect my two deepest passions in the world. It’s very exciting to me and it feels like what I’ve been working toward in my career and professional training,” she said.
For more information, visit https://israelinstitute.org/programs/visiting-israeli-artists