Artistic fare

Spanning three decades, the Hutzot Hayotzer fair has grown together with the city.

arts fair 88 (photo credit: )
arts fair 88
(photo credit: )
Sarah Malka has produced the Hutzot Hayotzer fair for the past 30 years, with only a brief interruption during the three years of the second intifada. "We have been making the fair bigger every year," she promises, "but this year, it really is going to be the biggest fair we have ever had - in terms of space, participants, and variety of programs." After more than six months of intensive work, with a budget of more than $1 million, 400 artists and craftspeople from Israel, the region, and the world, the Hutzot Hayotzer fair is returning, for the second year in a row, to its original location in Sultan's Pool. More than 100,000 visitors are expected, making the fair Jerusalem's largest event of the summer. According to Tzion Tourjeman, Director of the Ariel Company, the municipal subsidiary responsible for production of large-scale municipal events, the fair has already become a national event. "More importantly," he adds, "while, for different reasons, some events even in the center of the country have been cancelled, the Hutzot Hayotzer fair is growing bigger and better than ever." Malka still remembers how it all started, some 30 years ago. "We were looking for an open-air event that would help the artists of the workshops in Hutzot Hayotzer ("Artists Lane") to gain recognition in the local public. We were thinking of some kind of summer fair, something very local, very focused on the artists' works and crafts." The scope was modest. "We just opened the workshops at night for a week and the artists exhibited their works outside. It became very successful. Jerusalemites liked it and came to look forward to it. With time, we began to think bigger." This year, in addition to more than 200 Israeli participants, the fair will host craftspeople from some 25 different countries, including China, Morocco, Indonesia, Jordan, Uzbekistan, Serbia and South Africa. Yet for years, the fair was produced by the East Jerusalem Development Company, and for nearly two decades, only Israeli artists and craftsman participated. "Nobody thought to include foreigners," recalls a municipal veteran. "In those years, Jerusalem was still a little city - and more important, Jerusalem thought of herself as a little city. Not like today." Says Malka, "We came to realize that the visitors were interested in a larger scale and a greater variety of events. The workshops of Hutzot Hayotzer continued to be the center of the fair, but we began to gradually expand. In cooperation with the Foreign Affairs Ministry, we established contacts with local artists and craftsmen from different countries, some of them very remote." Organizers also reached out to foreigners through international artists' associations, which provided support and contacts. "We already have quite a few artists who are regulars, coming back every year, along with new ones who join," says Malka. The fair expanded as Israelis' horizons expanded, she continues. "More and more, Israelis were looking for new places to discover and tour. So we thought, 'Well, they cannot bring back all the beautiful, local crafts they have seen. So why not bring it all here, all together?' And so we opened the fair to foreign craftspeople and, indeed, it was an immediate success." Ruth Tzadka, director of the Jerusalem Artists' House, says that the fair is a success because it "conforms to the Jerusalem formula for success." She explains, "Average Israelis like to go to fairs, to buy crafts and sometimes even pieces of art at bargain prices, and to have a good time doing what they like to do best: to buy, to buy, and then to buy some more." Tzadka says that she supports the fair as long as it doesn't require public subsidies, but adds, "I would like to see the public have a greater opportunity to be exposed to real art, to artists and not only craftspeople. Crafts are fine, of course, but we also have high-level artists here, and the public should meet them and their works, too." Malka seems to agree, noting that, "This year, we have also invited graduates of the Bezalel Academy and we are producing a video-art marathon." This year, for the first time, the Israel Broadcasting Authority has set up a local studio and is broadcasting from the fair. As the fair grew, live performances were added to the program. This year's roster includes Arkady Dukhin, Tea Packs, Nurit Galron, Aviv Geffen, Habreira Hativit and Matti Caspi, among others. The fair also includes a large Bedouin tent, a food festival, and open-air demonstrations Citing achievements particularly important to Jerusalem, Malka emphasizes that numerous craftspeople from east Jerusalem are participating this year, together with glassblowers from Hebron and Ramallah - who will provide fair-goers with an opportunity to test their glassblowing skills. "We have a very good feeling about these participants," she says. Organizers were also pleased that none of the foreign artists or craftspeople cancelled, despite the war in the North. "Anyone who ever participated in this fair knows that it conveys a powerful message of fraternity, festivity and peace - a message that people throughout the world can appreciate," Malka concludes. The Hutzot Hayotzer fair opened Tuesday, August 8 and will continue through August 19, from 8 pm to 11 pm every day except Fridays. Prices are NIS 40 for adults and NIS 30 for children, with discounts for soldiers, senior citizens and residents of the North. For further information, visit: