J Teen Art Scene’s 2018 Grand Opening Showcase welcomed art enthusiasts to enjoy a program of speakers, musicians and teen artists. Presented by the J's exceptional Teen and Arts & Culture Department, this year’s teen exhibit for students ages 13-18, in its 9th year, seemed the most inspiring yet as its theme, CommUNITY, held special meaning for all, especially the teen artists who participated after the devastation of Harvey’s wrath.
Beren student, Isaac Gateno, explained, “In times of disaster, communities seem to collapse, caught up in the ensuing chaos. Fortunately, communities often times see themselves strengthen in the face of disaster. Gateno’s piece, a painting, depicted his view of how when experiencing destruction tranquility triggers people to come together stronger than before to rebuild their broken communities. He added, “Hurricane Harvey inspired me to paint my piece because of the powerful sense of community I witnessed.”
Another teen artist, Aerin Kalmans, senior Kinkaid student, reflected on the exhibit’s theme, as well. “I really liked the theme of CommUNITY. My great grandma was the epitome of an amazing woman who worked for the good of the community.” Her entry, a beautiful watercolor portrait of her great grandmother highlighted her ideas. In contrast, Kalman’s other entry, a pointillism of a succulent reflected a different view of the exhibit’s theme; that the succulent “was a reminder that we have a responsibility to live in unity with the natural world around us.”
Asher Siegel, one of the event’s leaders said, “It is amazing how everyone interpreted the theme for themselves and learned from each other.”
Under the first-year direction and guidance of Sarah Foster, Teen Community Director, six students worked diligently as the driving force of JTAS, from the start of the school year, meeting and planning regularly with energy and enthusiasm to ensure the success of this year’s event. Brady Brazda (Kinkaid), Rachel Buxbaum ( Emery), Ellie Gershenwald (St. John’s), Ely German (Emery), Jacklyn Kleiman (Beren), and Asher Siegel (Emery) served on the Teen Leadership Committee.
Buxbaum explained, “As ambassadors, we encouraged our friends to participate. Teens in this community feel a commitment to expressing themselves through the arts.” Gershenwald added, “It has been incredibly exciting to see JTAS grow. I have been involved since middle school, as a participant, teen committee member, and chair. This event is one in which teens (ourselves) play a strong role in working with staff.”
The committee selected the theme, worked on the design and marketing of materials, and used social media and direct phone calling to promote this year’s exhibit and recruit artists from high schools around the city. Their efforts landed the event 40 artists who submitted 57 pieces. Adult engagement lay leader of JTAS, Elyse Kalmans, also lended her assistance, and noted, “JTAS is a great event to engage teens who may not participate in Maccabi games. It pulls from across the community by having teens from many schools be represented.”
Those schools included Beren, Emery, Kinkaid, Lamar, St. John’s, and Westside. Teen artist exhibitors included Tyler Altman, Jillian Barry, Isaac Blue, Frieda Borden, Brady Brazda, Julia Cotlar, Abby Cowan, Julia Danziger, Ben Dauber, Daily Desenberg, Jackson Fisher, Maya Friedberg, Isaac Gateno, Ely German, Molly Goldstein, Anna Greenberg, Kate Greenberg, Gracie Halperin, Zoey Hess, Haley Johnson, Mia Kalinsky, Aerin Kalmans, Kendall Kalmans, Michael Kaplan, Jacklyn Kleiman, Jolee Levintin, Kylie Markowitz, Lexi Markowitz, Jacob Plumb, Max Roffwarg, Gabriella Rogers, Morgan Rosenbaum, Asher Siegel, Samantha Sorkin, Morgan Spielman, Julia Strug, Liam Strulovich, Ethan Tarnopol, Bracha Teigman, Rina Yanowitz, and Shifra Zonana.
Not only were the works of these artists highlighted in the exhibit, but for the second year, art created by Friendship Circle artists was displayed and appreciated by all. Gershenwald had the idea to expand outreach as she realized that JTAS had not reached out to the special needs group. So, for the second year she spearheaded an Art Day, along with the assistance of fellow committee leader Siegel. She admitted, “It was so rewarding to work with these artists and their volunteer buddies. Their enjoyment of the process was evident from their smiles and eager participation.”
The Hebrew expression, “V’ahavta L’reicha Kamocha,” embodied the CommUNITY theme beautifully -”to love your fellow as yourself.” The artists unified their piece by taking an individual letter from each work to convey their important message. Zally Lazarus, Director of Friendship Circle, was extremely proud of the artists. “Children with special needs are a part of this community like anyone else. If we truly want an art exhibit as beautiful as the JTAS to reflect the community appropriately, it needs to be inclusive. Including the Friendship Circle artists for the second year running is a reflection of that.”
Friendship Circle artist exhibitors included Jodie Coorsh, Gwendolyn Friedman, Lian Hicks, Rachel Kaplan, Zak Katzenellenbogen, Elian Micha, Thomas Munoz, and Ian Sterusand. Friendship Circle JTAS volunteers included Jennifer Blum, Callie Caress, Anya Edelman, Ellie Gershenwald, Zoe Katzenellenbogen, Maya Lieberson, and Asher Siegel.
Not only were the visual arts represented at the opening evening but teen violinist and student at HSPVA and member of Houston Youth Symphony, Arielle Ollagnon, performed a solo: Adagio movement from Bach’s Sonata in G Minor Adagio. She selected the piece as a solo without accompaniment. Although unusual, she said, “It highlighted the technique and musicality of the violinist.”
The Opening Showcase evening was thoroughly enjoyed by all. Foster welcomed guests and remarked that JTAS provided teens an outlet to express themselves and gave members of the J community a chance to hear the voices of teen artists.
“Teen voices are not always heard by adults, but this outlet allowed them the opportunity to express themselves and show that expression off to the greater community.” Rabbi Jill Levy, Director of the Bobbi and Vic Samuels Center for Jewish Living and Learning, addressed the audience as well. She reflected on how art connected the teens to shared history, deepening their Jewish identities.
Special thanks were given to JTAS lay leader advisor, Donna Gershenwald; President, Board of Directors, Debbie Kaplan; Executive Vice President, Joel Dinkin; Judges Elli Samuels and Lisa Sheinbaum; portfolio reviewer, Orna Feinstein, Debra Horwitz and Kim Hart (EWS art instructors); Colleen Bryant (Beren art instructor); Daily Desenberg and Kendall Kalmans, event photographers; Marilyn Hassid, Assistant Executive Director, Arts and Culture; Anita Bormaster, Director of Annual Giving; Laykie Donin of Laykie’s Gourmet Cafe at the J; and Esti and Zally Lazarus of Friendship Circle.
All teen exhibitors were winners for their participation. However, award-winning artists included Photography Conceptual Excellence Jacklyn Kleiman, “Warmth,” 1st place Jillian Barry, “Tied to Tradition,” 2nd place Jacklyn Kleiman, Skeleton. Sculpture/Mixed media 1st place Jackson Fisher, “The Fox and the Robin,” 2nd place Julia Cotlar, “Interwoven.”
Works on paper high school 1st place Ely German “Hanging On,” and Bracha Teigman, “Hanging Faith,” 2nd place Lexi Markowitz, “Looking Out,” middle school 1st place Gabriella Rogers “What Comes Next,” 2nd place Anna Greenberg “Displaced.” Painting 1st place Isaac Gateno “Tranquility At Last,” 2nd place Lexi Markowitz “Protection,” and Morgan Spiegel “Planting Love.”
Best in Show middle school Gabriella Rogers “What Comes Next,” Techical Execution Best in Show Kylie Markowitz “Dragonflies,” Honorable Mention Frieda Borden “Survivors,” Best in Show high school Conceptual Excellence Isaac Gateno “Tranquility At Last,” Technical Execution Best in Show Daily Desenberg “Picking Up the Pieces,” Conceptual Excellence Best in Show Friendship Circle artists “V’ahavta L’reicha Kamocha,” People’s Choice Award Bracha Teigman “Hanging Faith,” and Ethan Tarnopol “Silver Girl.”
At the conclusion of the showcase guests enjoyed light bites provided by Laykie’s Gourmet Cafe at the J.
The 9th Annual Opening Showcase truly was a huge success due to the hard work, dedication, and support of all involved. Through a vibrant collection of teen art, JTAS is a shining example and celebration of the CommUNITY theme that captures the genuine and imaginative expressions of Jewish teen artists from around the city.