Director, development, education, and The Studio
The Corning Museum of Glass
One Museum Way
Corning, NY 14830
I wish to thank you and AIDA for the wonderful experience I have just had in Israel. It was an absolutely fantastic week. I would like to give you a day-by-day account of my time there and then some thoughts on the program.
On Friday, November 11th, I was picked up at Ben Gurion airport by AIDA’s representative in Israel, Aviva Ben-Sira. Aviva is a person who seemingly effortlessly created an itinerary that flowed from learning about the glass scene to the art education scene to the museum and gallery scene to historical and contemporary Israeli culture. I was busy from the moment I set foot off the plane until the moment I set foot back on it a week later.
First stop was at Aviva’s apartment to freshen-up as my hotel room was not available so early in the morning. Aviva kindly indulged me with a lunch of falafel and humus in a busy neighborhood near my hotel. After that, we visited Israel’s only open access hot glass shop and met its owners, Boris Shpeizman and Maayan Feigin. Boris and Maayan are both working glass artists and they teach glassblowing at their studio.
We then visited Hiyuli Lieberman’s studio. Hiyuli was an AIDA scholarship student at The Studio several summers ago. Hiyuli does casting and fusing and has a small space with one kiln in it. She showed me two books featuring her work in exhibitions. Both featured objects had been made during her time in Corning. Nirit Dekel (beadmaking artist) joined us at Hiyuli’s studio.
After that, we went to Jaffa and met Dafna Kaffeman. Dafna has been an AIDA scholarship student at The Studio and she is currently the head of the glass program at the Bezalel University in Jeruselem. Her studio is very small, but her work is very delicate and detailed flameworking, so the space seems to suit her work. Dafna lives in Jaffa, and after the studio visit she joined us for dinner at the Jaffa Port. We were also joined by Sara Lahat, who is a glass collector, an AIDA board member and an amazing woman who is supportive in areas of child welfare, art, and culture. Sara is someone whom I will surely see again. She is a friend of Marianne and Doron Livnat, who unfortunately were not in Israel during my time there. They were in Brazil, and Sara and I called them to say hello from Israel.
Day two – Saturday, November 12
Aviva and I visited the Eretz Israel Museum. Sara joined us. We saw the glass pavilion with its ancient glass collection. I was happy to see clips from the video I created called “Processes and Properties” playing in the pavilion on a video monitor with Hebrew subtitles. We then went to an exhibition of Israeli Glass Artists curated by Henrietta Bruner. Sixty-five Israeli artists working in glass were represented. About 10 artists who have taken courses in Corning (plus a few who hope to) came to say hello to me at the exhibition. It was great fun to see people who I’ve met in Corning over the past several years. Some of the artists joined us for lunch at the Museum.
Aviva went off to pick up Stu Kestenbaum (Director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts) and his wife Susan at the airport while Nirit and I walked on the Tel Aviv boardwalk. Then we met Aviva and Sara and visited artist Ayala Serfati at her factory. Ayala makes beautiful pleated fabric lighting fixtures. She also uses thin glass rods to create a glass skeleton that she then coats with a spray on polymer for a different kind of lighting fixture. After this impressive visit we had dinner on the beach in Tel Aviv.
Sunday, November 13 began with a guided walking tour by an architect of the Bauhaus style buildings that are all over a certain neighborhood of Tel Aviv. We then visited Shenkar College of Engineering and Design. We met with the university president and some of the staff. After presentations about the Corning Museum of Glass, The Studio, and Haystack, we toured the facility with the faculty. The most interesting part was the knitting machines and their connection to machines that inflated the fabric. They had also knitted with Corning fiber and were anxious to show this to me. The head of this department had studied architecture at Harvard University. I have already received an email from her and I think there may be possible for future collaboration. She seemed very interested in our program in Corning. Some of their faculty has worked in glass, but they did not have a glass program.
On Monday, November 14 we visited the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. They have a new building as part of their campus. We saw several good exhibitions, one of which came from the collection of Sara and one of her friends. After that we headed for Jerusalem. For the next couple of days we are escorted by a driver, David, who knew all the intricacies of Jerusalem.
Our first stop was at Yvel, a company making pearl and diamond jewelry. Yvel is owned by AIDA board member Orna Levy. We saw a 3D orientation film about the company and were able to visit the factory and the showroom. Orna’s husband and partner in the company immigrated to Israel from Argentina when he was four. He wanted share his success by giving back and helping current day immigrants. He chose to start a school for Israel’s current immigrant group from Ethiopia. The school provides a year long program for 21 Ethiopian immigrants to learn goldsmith skills. The first class just graduated. 11 of those are ready to move into working for the factory. The rest will continue their studies. Working in the factory is not mandatory for graduating students. Yvel even offers transportation to the school for its students. Quite an amazing program!
We toured the old marketplace and ate yet another wonderful dinner in the market.
On Tuesday, November 15 we visited Bezalel School of Art and Design. Bezalel is the only school in Israel with a proper glass program. They have a furnace and two glory holes. They have highly rated programs in visual communication and animation. We were able to provide lengthy presentations about Corning and Haystack to both faculty and students at Bezelel.
Wednesday, November 16 began as a sightseeing day. We visited Masada and the Dead Sea before heading back to Tel Aviv. There we visited the Litvak Gallery. There was an exhibition of 15 Czech glass artists. Muli Litvak met us and showed us around his gallery.
One Thursday, November 17, we headed north to Akko. At Akko, we met with Batya Margalit, who was a student two summers ago at The Studio. After her time at Corning, she felt compelled to start a glass center in northern Israel. She took us to her new “glass center.” So far, she has a small space, two kilns, and the support of the town. She feels that support for the project could evaporate at any moment, but she is also very excited about how far she has gotten with her project.
We then visited with a small group who were doing fused glass. They had a small space and were mainly selling their work to hotels and other retail outlets. We gave presentations to this group.
After that, we went further north to visit Tel-Chai University. After presentations about our programs to their staff, we toured the small facility. Tel-Chai is a university, but the craft program there is not a degree program. It is a three-year technical program. The student work was very good but there was no glass. Their focus was ceramics, jewelry, and fine art (painting, drawing). There was interest in glass from the faculty.
On our last day, Friday, November 18, we visited Beit Binyamini,a ceramics facility in Tel Aviv. This space was the nicest work space we had seen. There was a gallery, a work space, and a small library. The center was working with artists and providing classes to the general public. We presented our programs to this group. One of them had been to Haystack twenty years ago and said that it was “a life changing experience.”
This was a very worthwhile trip for me. I met artists, collectors, and students, visited schools, galleries, and museums, and was able to see the historical sites and contemporary cultures of Israel. The people were fantastic and the food was beyond good at every meal. I enjoyed the time with Stu. We were able to discuss and compare our programs and came up with several ideas for future collaboration.
Israel’s glass community is very small and the facilities the artists have to create work are very limited. AIDA has been very supportive with artists taking classes abroad, however, once an artist leaves the limited facilities at Bezalel, there is only one studio where he or she can blow glass. It is admirable that Dafna, Nirit, and Hiyulli have been able to set up their own small studios. Continued interaction with glass artists from other countries at programs such as The Studio is essential for continued growth of Israeli artists.
The best thing for the future of Israeli glass is a public access studio with excellent facilities where artists can meet and create their work.
Jewelry making is a well established discipline in the university programs. Perhaps AIDA can support using glass on a small scale in jewelry making in current programs.
Aviva Ben-Sira made the trip informative and enjoyable. She was a wonderful host, a charming woman, and an amazingly creative spirit. Everyone wanted to talk to Aviva and everyone stuck to the program which Aviva had setup. She knows everyone in Israeli craft and design, having managed the shop at the Eretz Israel Museum for 15 years.
This trip was a great way to create connections between glass in and out of Israel. I understand this was the first trip of this kind that AIDA has coordinated and I am sure you’ll create many more connections if these trips continue.
I expect to have further contact with individuals from all three institutions that we visited and in fact I have already received emails from people at two of the institutions.
The only thing I would add to the schedule of future trips is to visit the Israel Museum in Jerusalem. I would have liked to see the historical glass collection and the new James Carpenter wing. There wasn’t time on this trip, as every day was already a twelve hour day, so I’ll have to return again sometime to see it. I wouldn’t remove any of the visits from the wonderful itinerary. Thank you so much for inviting me on this trip and for having Aviva be my host.