When Israeli artist Hanoch Piven visited Epstein Hillel School, the K-8 Jewish day school north of Boston, for the first time in 2017, head of school Amy Gold didn’t know what to expect. Despite the uncertainty, his workshop was a huge success that students and community members raved about for days. When the opportunity presented itself to bring Piven back to EHS this winter, the leadership team jumped at the chance to have him visit the school again. Said Gold, “We were thrilled to bring Hanoch back so that our new students and families could have the chance to participate in this immersive and whimsical art experience, which teaches many life lessons for children and adults.”

Piven went to a Jewish day school much like EHS in Uruguay, and when he got a bit older and moved to Israel, he knew he wanted to be an artist. But he couldn’t draw or paint like his peers, so he started to make art out of objects, morphing everyday items into incredible portraits of famous people. As his bio states: “By reinventing the meaning and use of everyday objects, he forges associations between these and the subject of his creation. Since 1992, Piven’s work has been published in newspapers and magazines across the world, such as Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, London Times, Der Spiegel and Israel’s Haaretz.”

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(Courtesy photo)

Parents were asked to send in all kinds of items leading up to the workshop, like bottle caps, LEGOs, buttons, scraps of fabric, wire; almost anything can be used to create art. The items were then sorted and laid out into a “buffet” for the students to use in the school’s new Sulman Innovation Center, a STEM space unlike anything else on the North Shore. Students in grades 3-8 were given a presentation by Piven and then invited to create either a self-portrait or a portrait of a biblical figure. The results were astounding.

“Mr. Piven taught me to think outside the box and be more creative with my artwork.”
—Eliana, eighth grade

Middle students created biblical portraits of people like Pharaoh, Esther and Jacob, to name a few. The younger students chose objects that had a special meaning to them to create their self-portrait.

“It was a challenge that made me use my brain in a different way than usual.”
—Oliver, seventh grade

(Courtesy photo)

Simple everyday objects were given new life and became an eye, or a hand, or hair. Later that evening, families were invited into the school to create a family portrait with Piven. Parents and students explored the collection tables around the Innovation Center, looking for the perfect objects to represent their family’s interests and characteristics. At the end of the evening, families were invited to share their portraits with the group and explain why they chose each object and why they were special.

As the first event in a very long time in which parents were allowed in the building, there was a closeness felt amongst the families who have not seen each other in person in a year-and-a-half. Parents were grateful to share this experience and be together as a community.

“It was wonderful to be in the school again for the Piven event. Community is such an important  part of EHS and being together again with other families was truly special.”
—Jessica Katz, ‘95, alumnae and current parent

Epstein Hillel School hopes to host more in-person gatherings for parents and community members in 2022.

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