Guest speaker Marsha Lederman addresses the crowd at the launch of the 40th issue of The Scribe on April 19. (photo from JMABC)
Last month, the Jewish Museum and Archives of British Columbia (JMABC) released its 40th issue of The Scribe, the organization’s mostly annual publication that chronicles various aspects of Jewish life in the province. This latest issue features 30 members of the local Jewish visual arts circle: painters, sculptors, mixed media artists, illustrators, textile artists, art educators, art consultants, an art curator and a gallery owner.
The official launch of the publication at VanDusen Botanical Garden’s Floral Hall on April 19 incorporated a silent auction of works donated by many of the artists highlighted in the issue. The items ranged from original paintings and sculptures to art books, sets of cards, and an art consultation.
The festive atmosphere buzzed, as people talked and laughed and greeted their friends. After the mixing and mingling, several speakers addressed the crowd. JMABC past president Carol Herbert acted as emcee, introducing current president Daniella Givon, the issue’s managing editor Carol Crenna and the keynote presenter, Marsha Lederman, who is Western arts correspondent for the Globe and Mail.
Givon gave an overview of the history of the JMABC, calling it the “community storage of history and memory.” She also talked about The Scribe and how it has evolved since its first issue.
Lederman’s address included a video presentation, as she concentrated on the theme of what makes Jewish artists Jewish, how their Jewish identity informs their art. The artists’ Jewishness is much more than the tragedy of the Holocaust, she said. There is a place in Jewish art for humour and family, for traditions and ecology. Lederman didn’t mention every artist featured but she mentioned as many as she could, given the time constraints, and her delivery was laced with admiration for the artists’ love of life, their creativity and their courage.
Crenna, who was hired specifically to lead this issue of The Scribe, talked about her excitement when she received the offer. “I’m not Jewish,” she said, “but so many Jewish people affected my life. I worked in businesses owned by Jews. I ate at Jewish restaurants. I wore clothing designed by Jewish designers.” She spoke about the stories in the magazine, which inspired her. She also said a few words about the visual aspect – the multiple colourful illustrations that made the publication an artistic creation of its own. And she introduced her graphic designer, Sonia Bishop.
“The Jewish artists in this magazine, and the ones we didn’t include – they are all fearless,” Crenna said. “They reinvent themselves again and again.… Their creativity has no limits.”
The magazine itself is a glossy, large format publication. Each of the 30 features inside is based on an interview with an artist, plus several colour illustrations of that artist’s works.
In her email interview with the Independent, Crenna said, “I was hired to complete this issue last June. Before, [Jewish Independent] publisher Cynthia Ramsay edited a number of previous issues on a volunteer basis, but this was the first time that the JMABC hired an editor to create one of its publications. The job was advertised, and I was hired due to my experience and the vision I had for The Scribe.”
Crenna has been a journalist for 39 years, including nine years as a columnist for the Vancouver Sun. “I have been an editor of nine magazines varying in subject matter. I have been the managing editor of the national visual art magazine Art Avenue for the Federation of Canadian Artists for seven years. I am also an artist. It was my wish to create a visually beautiful, more contemporary and more reader-friendly version of The Scribe…. I was very inspired by the incredible stories I read in the previous issues.”
She also said she wanted to make the magazine more accessible to a wider audience, not just Jews, and ruminated about the selection process – how the editorial team chose 30 artists from the much larger artistic community. Every issue, the team must narrow its subjects down to fit the constraints of a finite publication.
“An artist subcommittee was formed in the year prior to the beginning of work on this issue, before I was hired,” said Crenna. “This committee compiled a list of approximately 70 established B.C. artists or those that are emerging…. All are professionals. All have sold their works and have had exhibitions. To reduce the numbers, since 30 is the average number of individuals featured in every issue of The Scribe, it was decided that photographers would be excluded. They will have their own issue.… Some artists opted out, as well. Also, it was decided that the publication should include others within the artistic community…. Therefore, art consultants, a curator, an art educator and a gallery owner were also included in the visual arts issue. After much consideration, only living artists were included, since there are no archival interviews with those who are deceased.”
Crenna explained how the interview process worked. All of the participants were interviewed for this issue in 2022, she said. “These interviews – either on Zoom or in-person – were conducted by JMABC volunteers within the offices, where recording equipment is of high quality, so the future generations would be able to listen to them. The interviewers included Helen Aqua, Carol Herbert, Brynn Gillies, Perry Seidelman, Daniella Givon, Pam Wolfman and Bill Gruenthal. The 30 interviews lasted from one hour to two-and-a-half hours and were from 6,000 to 19,000 words. Afterwards, JMABC interns transcribed the recordings. Then I edited the information and wrote the features, which were then approved by the interviewees.”
Crenna organized with each artist to send her six high-resolution images of their artwork – in different styles/themes for variety – and headshots of them working on their art.
To purchase an issue of The Scribe or find out more about the JMABC, visit jewishmuseum.ca.
Olga Livshin is a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].