I love papercutting – and I love teaching others to cut paper, leading them to try something new and engage with our tradition in a manner very different from their usual methods. That's why I lead papercutting workshops throughout the year — and why I spend two weeks every summer at URJ Camp Newman doing so with high school-age campers. This summer was my TENTH YEAR at Newman, and a spectacular one.
The Hagigah program at URJ Camp Newman is the premier Jewish arts teen program on the West Coast. Campers choose majors and minors in visual and performing arts, studying with distinguished Jewish artists in an exploratory and collaborative atmosphere.
Their experience culminates in the camp-wide “Mark & Peachy Levy Hagigah Festival of the Arts” to celebrate their work – and the 2016 festival is tomorrow night, July 14. This year, with thanks to Dream Lab and generous support from The Covenant Foundation, I produced a booklet featuring all of the campers' work — to be distributed at the festival to all attendees.
This summer I had 16 campers in my papercutting workshop – two hours every day for two weeks. The campers made some wonderful art, and I'm pleased to share it with you here.
First, the "mizrach" project. Each of the 16 campers made a mizrach (מזרח means "east"). East is the direction that Jews outside of Israel traditionally face during prayer, and a mizrach is an ornamental wall plaque used to indicate the direction of prayer – and that's what the students made, after some group brainstorming about what imagery might work in such an artwork. They were allowed to interpret the idea of a mizrach however they wanted. What I find fascinating about the process is how everyone starts in the same place, with the same goal... but each piece is different, expressing something about the camper-artist who made them.
The second project we do is "paper midrash" – each camper had to identify a story or character from Jewish tradition, and explore and develop it with the aid of knife and paper. Some worked with one of the camp rabbis to find fascinating little tidbits, others made up their own commentaries, and all of them created stunning work. I've included their descriptions of their work in the captions of the photos – their words about their inspiration and process.
|Dani: "I wanted a piece that illustrated the forbiddenness of secular music in biblical times. The colours I used are meant to symbolise the beauty that music — religious or not — can bring to the world."|
|Ethan C.: "I chose the story of the burning bush because I thought that it was interesting that ‘the bush burned with fire, and the bush was not consumed’ [Exodus 3:2]."|
|Ethan R.: "Judah ben Tema said, ‘Be fierce as a leopard, light as an eagle, swift as a gazelle, and strong as a lion to do the will of our Father in heaven’ [Mishnah Avot 5:20]."|
|Hannah S.: "My midrash is a depiction of the creation of night and day [Bereshit 1:4].|
I like the idea of the sun and moon because they are everyday things we see, but don’t fully understand."
|Sam: "As a kid, I always loved the song, ‘There’s a Dinosaur Knocking at My Door, [and He Wants to Have Shabbat with Me]’ and every time I think of that song, I get nostalgic."|
|Thea: "I chose the creation/separation of night and day for my midrash [Bereshit 1:4]. I chose this theme because I think the sun and moon are very pretty. By using this story, I could incorporate the sun and moon into my art."|
|Yaron built an ark to house the Torah – an original design, backed with super hero comics.|
I'm so proud of these campers – they created such beautiful, meaningful work. Yasher koach to all of them!