Returning the Sparks and The Consulate General of Israel to New England, along with local partners, the Jewish Federation of Central Massachusetts and Clark University Hillel, are thrilled to announce that a new Israeli art lending library (IALL) just launched at Clark University.
The national IALL program initially began in fall 2020 at Northeastern University, when the pandemic had shut down in-person Hillel campus events and Birthright trips to Israel, as a way of keeping students engaged in celebrating, connecting with, and learning about Israel.
Clark is the fourth school to launch an IALL program, joining other IALL’s at Northeastern University, University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass Amherst), and the University of Connecticut (UConn). Altogether, the IALL collection includes more than 100 pieces of art. Even though the pandemic is over, the program has remained very popular among students and serves as a creative, outside-the-box way of using art to engage students who may not otherwise engage with traditional religious aspects of campus life. Numerous other campuses have inquired about launching local IALL programs at their schools and new IALLs will be announced next year.
Ambassador Meron Reuben, Consul General of Israel to New England, addressed the group gathered for the Ribbon Cutting ceremony, saying: “The Israeli Consulate is thrilled to be supporting the launch of Clark University’s Israel Art Lending Library—the fourth Israel art lending library in New England. Art is the soul of every society. It keeps one’s senses alive and adds color and reason to our daily life. The Israeli art lending library is a fantastic way of bringing Israel into the students’ homes, even though they are thousands of miles away from Israel. We are hoping to enrich Americans’ acquaintance with Israeli society through showcasing its diverse cultural landscape.”
IALL provides an opportunity for any Clark University community member to borrow a piece of Israeli art for the year for just the cost of a fancy cup of coffee. The modest rental fees are collected to subsidize Clark University Hillel’s repair of any damaged artwork at the end of the year, which can then be lent out again. Framed IALL art is also reusable, whereas posters often end up in a landfill, torn in the process of annual student move-ins and move-outs.
Jeff Narod, executive director of Clark University Hillel, provided additional background on the deep cultural connections between Clark U Hillel students and Israel: “Students connect to Israel at Hillel events through many art, culinary, and music events, discussion sessions, leading Israel celebrations, and participating in exciting activities with our emissary and Israel coordinator. We organize many student trips to Israel each year, including two Birthright Israel trips and opportunities such as MASA internships and JNF tours and missions.”
Arinne Edelman, executive director of Returning the Sparks and creator of IALL, added that the program stands to benefit the participating artists as well: artists of multiple faiths, LGBTQ artists, children and senior citizens, artists with disabilities, and more. “American students learn more about the artists in the process of visiting the website to select their art. As a result of their participation, we know there are students who purchase from the artists independently each year.”
For at least one Clark University student, the reverse is true as well. Ethan Quinn, an active Clark U Hillel leader and Birthright Israel alum, was the first student to pick up his IALL artwork this fall. He examined his rose sculpture crafted by Yaron Bob proudly and smiled, saying that he had first met the artist in his shop in Israel on a Birthright trip, where he watched him welding pieces. Ethan was delighted to reconnect with Yaron’s work back in Worcester, reminding him of his experience on his free 10-day trip to Israel.
One of the artists with two pieces in the Clark collection is Fatma Shanan. Shanan (1986) was born and raised in Julis, a Druze village in Northern Israel, and now lives and works in Tel Aviv. Her works, which can be seen at fatmashanan.com, are characterized by theatrical and enigmatic views on pre-staged scenes, in which participants belong to various circles of her own life. In the works available to Clark University students, Shanan deals with images of rugs, considering them as heterotopic zones, and has harnessed the female body to examine the physical and symbolic boundaries of the rug in relation to the body.
This year, the Consulate and Returning the Sparks also partnered to launch an IALL student internship at Clark University, Northeastern University, and UMass Amherst, overseen by Shachar Pinsky, Returning the Sparks’ Cheryl Aronson z”l Director of IALL Campus Experience. Shachar reflected on his experience this semester, highlighting that the student interns have been instrumental in sharing their appreciation for Israel’s diversity and beauty through the arts with their communities.
For more information and artworks, please visit the Clark Hillel IALL website.
For questions regarding IALL, please be in touch with Arinne Edelman at: Arinne@ReturningTheSparks.org or 617-650-2124.
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