Artists Lab: Reading Between the Lines

 Reading between the Lines: Text/Context/Subtext

A project of the Milwaukee Jewish Artists’ Laboratory


In 2010, the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center was the recipient of a generous grant from the Covenant Foundation, a national foundation with headquarters in New York City. The grant was for a “Jewish Artists’ Laboratory of the Upper Midwest.” It was a unique idea: three Jewish Communities, Milwaukee, Madison and Minneapolis, would create an ongoing artists’ lab which would study together on a common theme, and would produce works of art related to the theme. Last year, 5772 (2011-2012), the first of the labs created in Milwaukee was the model for the parallel labs which emerged this year in Madison at Hillel, the Jewish Student Center at UW Madison, and Minneapolis at the Sabes JCC.  In April, we had our first regional artists’ retreat in Madison which gave the artists from different cities and in different media a chance to meet, brainstorm, and share our work.

 Our theme this year is - Reading between the Lines:. Text/Context/Subtext.  According to the ancient rabbis, “There are seventy faces to the Torah.” In other words, the Torah, which is considered to be the word of God in the traditional Jewish world, can be understood on multiple levels. Every story . . . every sentence . . . every word . . . can be understood in seventy different ways. This year we have been studying this concept in the arts and in contemporary thought, as well as in sacred text. If we can interpret a traditional text in seventy different ways, can we apply this idea to art? Can it be applied to great works of art? Can it be applied to our own art?

For the second year, our project has been a huge success. Our cohort has included seventeen different artists of all ages and of a spectrum of interests and of modes of artistic expression. Again, the group has become a close knit community. Again, each artist has pushed herself/himself in unexpected ways. And we have created our own “Texts” which have resulted in the exhibit you see before you. The goal of the Laboratory has been to foster community, to support each other as artists, to create new work, and to expose you, the public, to the Power of Art within a Jewish context. Our second year has been as strong as our first.

 We are especially grateful to Ryan Hainey and Bill Appleby for taking our very diverse offerings and designing a spectacular exhibit.

 The Milwaukee Jewish Artists’ Laboratory has been the recipient of the 2012 JCC Association Zahav Award for Excellence in Jewish Impact.

 And without the generosity of the Covenant Foundation, this project might not have been born.