On Tuesday, June 19, CJP’s israel360 hosted a graffiti-painting event with Canadian-born French-Israeli artist Murielle Cohen. Known for her incredible street art, which can be seen all over Tel Aviv, Cohen brings buildings, walls and really everything she touches to life. From pieces on technology, to dance, women and so many other topics, every piece she does is unique in its expression.
What is israel360, you might be asking yourself? Aviva Klompas, associate vice president of strategic Israel engagement at CJP, described it as follows: “We like to think about israel360 as the opportunity for experiential education around Israel. We offer the chance to interact with the real Israel, the diversity of Israel, the Israel experienced by the 8.5 million people who live there…. There’s so much to explore. It’s not just our in-person events, we also have the website, and we have social media—Twitter, Facebook, Instagram. You can also find our app, israel360, in the app store. We also have a podcast channel. There are so many different ways to engage with our content, and to interact with all of these incredible Israelis.”
This evening, she was joined by 100-plus others in creating beautiful expressions of art on the walls of Somerville’s WAREHOUSE XI. Lit by a menagerie of twinkling lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling were stencils of Israel’s founding fathers and mother, and giant white spaces, ready to be painted.
The night began with delicious kosher food, drinks and the amazing Tel Aviv-based DJ Itay Shlayer, playing popular Israeli music. Outside was a table where attendees could paint on canvas with smaller stencils of everything from Yoda to Gandhi, and a delicious snow cone table.
What started as a trickle of guests soon turned into a flood of people filling the large space, and with it the excitement for the evening to come. This event was different from all the others israel360 has put on before, and the staff and planners couldn’t have been more thrilled.
Matty Burns, program officer for strategic Israel engagement at CJP, shared some thoughts: “I think people were really excited to have a chance for some creative expression and to rally around something that they often care about, but don’t get to do. How often do you get to have a warehouse party for Israel? And get to draw on the walls?”
After everyone had time to mingle, Cohen stood and addressed the room, sharing her story with all of us. She spoke about her past, her family and, of course, her art. Her advice to those who would be painting during the evening? “Feel like a child again; let yourself go!” she exclaimed. That, in fact, is her favorite thing about being part of other people’s art experience, when she sees people let themselves go, she later shared with me.
The evening carried on with everyone setting to work on painting around the stencils, everything from giant rainbows, to words of peace in Hebrew, Arabic and English, to giant faces, and the walls quickly went from a blank canvas to a beautiful technicolor work of art.
Attendee Jennifer Brownstein had only positive things to say. On top of being impressed by the diverse Jewish crowd, Brownstein shared, “I feel like there are so many Jewish events that go on in Boston, but most of them revolve around alcohol, or are more religious, and this one is more unique in the sense that we’re using creativity to connect with one another.”
So, what’s next on the israel360 docket? Klompas explained that they have had great success with and particularly love the hands-on component of this event. “We’re talking to another type of Israeli artist who uses ordinary objects found all around you to create extraordinary things,” she expressed excitedly.
If you’re curious to hear more details of Cohen’s life and adventures, Burns has some advice, with a little sneak peek: “I would encourage people to listen to the podcast we did for a bit of a better assessment of Murielle’s life as a street artist. She did a recording with us and tells some funny stories. It was really hysterical!”
As the night wound down, I took advantage of the moments of quiet to ask Cohen what advice she has for somebody who has no experience with art but is looking to give it a try. Cohen mused: “I think that there’s a point where research needs to stop, and you just go for it. There’s no mistakes, because every mistake is an opportunity to learn.”
Theodore Herzl was once quoted as writing, “If you will it, it is no dream.” After seeing the great success of israel360’s first graffiti night, it’s clear to see that their drive and will to bring Israeli culture to us is not just a dream, but a giant success.