By Avrum (Avy) Ashery Often I have heard from other artists about their work of art—-“it’s an expression of my feelings and one day it will hit you and maybe you will understand.” I come from a school of communications and was trained to create a visual, either in graphic design or in the fine arts that sends a message, sometimes strong with impact. For the past 40 years, I have attempted to accomplish just that, using my training, both in my secular and Jewish designs/illustrations. It has been my desire and goal to use my work in creating visual messages that inspire Jewish interest, pride and identity…today all problematic factors in the Jewish community. As a Jewish educator, my hobby for over 40 years, I have come to know and understand that there is now a big challenge to our Jewish future and at its core is our Jewish educational process. Understanding and appreciating such factors as our history, philosophy, traditions and values can be highly successful tools as we attempt to inspire our community- both young and not so young in promoting Jewish continuity as they grasp just how unique our Jewish way of life has been in civilization and human history. Often these Jewish life factors need inspiration both inside and outside the classroom. As a Jewish educator, I have observed just how effective Jewish music has been used as a tool of inspiration as we sing in Hebrew, Ladino and Yiddish. This has not been quite the case for Judaic art/craft outside of Judaic craft used ritually. Other aspects of the Judaic visual art has too often been seen with a crayon mentality by Jewish educators and leadership, yet rarely seen as a serious inspirational tool in Jewish learning. I wonderful educational tool for showcasing Jewish values and creativity is the JUDAIC ART GALLERY which could be an integral part of the learning process in a Jewish day school, or synagogue religious school, federation community facility, adult learning programs or Jewish Community Center, but such is not the case today. Judaic artists today are now starting to hear…”we no longer have a priority for Judaic art, but rather Jews creating any secular art or just secular art itself.” Or the Judaic art gallery that was …is no more!. When Judaic art is properly marketed and promoted to both Jewish and non-Jewish communities, it can be a fine extra revenue source as well as a good symbol of Jewish continuity when being given as a gift for the home. Having experienced this personally and observed this in too many Jewish communities with other Judaic artists, I have now taken to the road to reach out to the American Jewish community to educate, explain and guide them down a more constructive direction in establishing meaningful needed Judaic art galleries that will serve as important tools for Jewish education and inspire needed Jewish identity and continuity.
Have you ever been to a circus? Well, I went to a wonderful one this past weekend. At Moriah Congregation, the 11th biennial All-Judaic Art & Jewelry Fair was held in Deerfield, Illinois from February 25-28 and it was kind of like a circus. As an active participant in making this event a success, and now as the current president of The American Guild of Judaic Art, I can reflect on the excitement and the sincere appreciation of Judaic art by Chicago area collectors who attended the Moriah show. Some AGJA members joined other talented contemporary Judaic artists to showcase their beautiful and meaningful work. The AGJA’s Online exhibition is another example of bringing more of this kind of art to a wider audience year-round. On Sunday morning on February 21st, Moriah volunteers and staff walked into a totally empty building that magically became transformed. All of the furniture had been removed from two major rooms in the building which became completely bare. A troop of men and women came in to measure out the booths and laid the tape. Next, rooms were wired for electricity, each booth had its own lighting and clip on lamps so that work displayed would be well lit. On Monday, all of the many grids went up in the various rooms and on Tuesday, tables, waste baskets, chairs, and most important of all, boxes of magnificent art went into the booths. Wednesday, the artists began arriving and opening the boxes and putting up the fabulous art which would be for sale beginning the following evening. Thursday, all of the artists arrived and finished their booths. The show began for our donors on Thursday evening, but before they arrived, those of us who had worked on the show took a moment to simply open the doors to the rooms and revel in the magnificence of the Judaic art and jewelry which surrounded us. It was like being in the most wonderful castle, surrounded by beautiful things, hannukiot; candlesticks, mezzuzot, challah coverings, challah boards, tzdakah boxes, a complete sukkah, wall hangings of various scenes in the Torah and in Israel, seder plates, matza plates, omer counters, dreidels, and every other ritual or thematic Jewish object one could imagine, in any medium one could imagine, all surrounded by the most beautiful jewelry which could be imagined. Then came the crowds. There were times when we literally couldn’t get down the aisles. And then it was over. The artists began taking down their masterpieces which weren’t sold and re-packing them to go to their next show at the 2nd Annual All-Judaic & Jewelry show held at the Hebrew Educational Alliance which began on March 3rd in Denver and continues through March 7. Taking down the show takes much less time. We are left with an empty room again, but with such fond memories of both the artists and their work. It was a glowing moment. The American Guild of Judaic Art was well represented at both shows and we are delighted to announce that we have two new AGJA members already and are hoping for many more. This year’s on-line exhibition was curated by Arthur Feldman of the Arthur Feldman Gallery of Judaica in Highland Park, Illinois. What I said above about the art which was shown at Moriah at the end of February is indicative of the magnificent art which was submitted by our members – many of whom were participants in the Moriah show. Thank you for participating the AGJA’s 2016 On-Line Exhibition and for being a member of the Guild. Should you ever have any questions about the Guild feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit our website: www.jewishart.org Karen Walanka, AGJA President Arthur Feldman, 2016 AGJA On-Line Exhibit Juror