Merle Linde, working out of Malka’s Studio in Steveston Village, chose four symbols of Rosh Hashanah for her painting.
The shofar: the mournful cry, sounded 100 times during the traditional Rosh Hashanah service, evokes the freedom we gained when we returned to the Holy Land.
The pomegranate: a symbol of righteousness, knowledge and wisdom because it is said to have 613 seeds (arils), each representing one of the 613 mitzvot (commandments) of the Torah.
The apples: slices dipped into honey are eaten to symbolize the desire for a sweet new year.
The honey: given to us by the bees, who can inflict pain with their sting and yet produce delicious honey. Linde would suggest that we eat only “sustainable” honey (the food of the bees) so that the bees can survive and continue to pollinate the pomegranate and apple trees.
L’shanah tovah u’metukah! Wishes for a good and sweet new year.
Megs Gatus’s solo exhibit, Leaves in Space, runs until Sept. 22 at the Zack Gallery. (photo from Megs Gatus)
Megs Gatus – whose solo show, Leaves in Space, opened at the Zack Gallery on Aug. 24 – unexpectedly stumbled onto an artistic path.
“It started for me when I saw a photograph of a butterfly,” she said in an interview with the Independent. “It was in 2010. I was fascinated by that picture. I thought maybe I could be a photographer too.”
She had never taken photos before that day. She came to Canada in 2002 from the Philippines and worked (and still works) for the City of Vancouver. “But there is a creative gene in my family,” she said. “My brother is a contemporary dancer. My sister sings. I decided I wanted to be a photographer.”
In 2011, Gatus signed up for a photography workshop at a local community centre. “I bought my first camera from Craigslist,” she recalled. “It was only a hundred dollars.”
After that, she started taking photos. Portraits, flowers and landscapes were among her favourite subjects.
“I joined an online photography group on meetup.com because I wanted to share my pictures with the others,” she said. “I was amazed when the group picked my photos to display on their website. It was so encouraging. Later, a friend told me I had an eye for composition. I was elated. I wanted to learn more about the photographic art, so I enrolled in the Emily Carr certificate program, evening classes.”
She kept up her daytime job through it all, even as she graduated from Emily Carr University of Art + Design in 2018.
“I never stopped taking photos,” she continued, “but, by that time, I stopped being interested in reality photography. I didn’t want my photos to reflect the objects by themselves, the way they are off camera. I wanted people to see my photographs as an art form, different from reality. I wanted my pictures to invite curiosity in viewers.”
Gatus began experimenting with her camera settings. She also tried to move the camera while taking the photos, and the results meshed perfectly with her artistic vision. No recognizable objects manifested in her images when she used the technique called intentional camera movement, combining it with multi-exposures.
Each image is a play of colours and patterns, abstract and bright. The lines and the colours dance together in her photographs, which look more like paintings. She seems to invite viewers to use their imagination, while she herself explores every possible hue and shape to convey her ideas. Her camera is her paintbrush. “I do everything inside my camera. No Photoshop,” she said.
In 2016, Gatus joined Photoclub Vancouver. Since then, she has participated in many of their group exhibitions, including those the group held annually at the Zack Gallery. She liked the energy of the gallery, so, a few months ago, put forward the idea of a solo show and it was accepted.
“This is my first solo exhibition in a gallery space,” she said. “But I had a show recently in the Britannia Art Gallery, together with another photo artist, and I often display my works in several coffee shops.”
Gatus created all the work displayed in the current show during the pandemic. “We all felt so isolated, but we all occupy the same space. We are all responsible for our environment: plants, leaves, flowers. That’s why I used the shape of a circle,” she explained. “I took photos of nature: autumn leaves and spring flowers, and the circles enclose them. The circles symbolize all of us. That’s what the name of the show means: Leaves in Space.”
No image in the show looks like a standard photograph. One doesn’t see leaves or trees, but rather abstract compositions throbbing with life and fantasy. They could be science fiction illustrations of distant galaxies, visual representations of a soul or screenshots from a computer game. Or just beauty emerging from the artist’s insight.
“I like taking photos of organic matter. Leaves, plants, flowers – they are all alive,” she said. “I take photos in parks and gardens around B.C. I only enhance the colours a little inside the camera. Through my technique, the images become abstract, and I try to find ways to present them differently. I want to engage viewers.”
Besides the images hanging on the gallery walls, Gatus also offers large silk scarves for sale. All the scarves are imprinted with the photographs she used in the exhibit. The same swirls of colours in a different medium look surprisingly different, almost unrecognizable, but still pretty and vibrant.
“Sales are not my motivation,” she said. “I want to show my pictures, to share them with people.” That’s why she enjoys commissions. “A client of mine liked one of the pictures in this show so much, she asked me to enlarge it and she put it in her spa office.”
Gatus has big plans for these works after their run at the Zack Gallery.
“I’d like to exhibit this collection in other B.C. cities: Surrey, Port Moody, Langley. Later on, maybe even in Toronto and Montreal. I’m going to retire soon, and then I will dedicate all my time to my art.”
Leaves in Space continues until Sept. 22. The official opening reception will be held at the gallery on Sept. 8, at 7 p.m. To learn more, visit the website megsgatus-abstract.myportfolio.com.
Olga Livshin is a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].
Siblings Becky, left, and Margaux Wosk (photo from We Belong!)
The first-ever We Belong! Festival will take place Aug. 27 in Downtown Vancouver. Organized by siblings Margaux and Becky Wosk, We Belong! is a “one-of-a-kind creative arts market with a focus on giving disabled artists the opportunity to showcase and sell their art.”
Margaux Wosk is a self-taught artist, an activist and a disability rights advocate, fighting for disabled small business owners to get resources. Becky Wosk is an artist, designer, writer and musician; she and Emmalee Watts form the duo Hollow Twin.
Margaux Wosk started their business, Retrophiliac (shopretrophiliac.com), more than 10 years ago. Its focus is on visual art.
“Being an openly autistic person,” said Wosk, “I found that there was a void in the marketplace for the type of items I wanted to see and purchase.
“My business has really ramped up in the last five years,” they continued, “and I focus on autistic, neurodiversity and disability pride items, such as enamel pins, patches and stickers. I design retro-inspired pins, stickers and patches as well. I also have other items I offer and I have over 26 retailers between Canada and the United States.”
Wosk also uses their business “as a way to talk to the government about disabled small business owners” and they have gone to the provincial budget meeting two years in a row “to rally for funding and resources for other people like myself.”
They explained, “Currently, as it stands, we have no resources, and any of the funding that goes to ‘inclusive employment’ only goes to employers that hire disabled people, not disabled people who own their own business.”
Part of the mission of the We Belong! Festival is to raise awareness.
“I have been part of other markets and I do enjoy it, but none of them meet all of my needs,” said Wosk. “I find that sometimes there are financial barriers, sometimes the events are just too long and I find that it can take a toll on my mind and body. I wanted to create something with little barriers for other disabled artists and we were lucky enough to be the recipients of the Downtown Vancouver BIA’s [Public Space] Vibrancy Grant. This way, we won’t have to charge our vendors any costs and we can provide them tables, canopies and chairs. I want people to see what we’re all capable of.”
The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association helped secure the market’s space at 855 West Hastings St. (Lot 19), and it is being provided free of charge. The location, which is between Burrard and Howe streets, is close to Waterfront Station and other public transit points.
“Once the location and date were confirmed,” said Becky Wosk, “we were able to figure out how many vendors we can accommodate and, from there, we put out a call to artists/makers. We have a specific budget to work with, so we have been able to gather quotes for the supplies we will need to make this event successful.
“When working on an event,” she said, “it’s important to work backwards from the date that you have secured and determine what needs to be ordered/booked in advance of that date – for example, canopies need to be booked 30 days out etc. [There are] lots of small details to be mindful of!”
In addition to the vendors who will be selling their creations, the market will include four nonprofits: Artists Helping Artists, Curiko, the Jewish Community Centre of Greater Vancouver’s Art Hive, which is run by Leamore Cohen, and the BC People First Society, on whose board Margaux Wosk sits, as regional director, Lower Mainland West.
While the deadline to apply as an exhibitor has passed, the Wosks are still looking for volunteers to help with set up and tear down. Anyone interested should email [email protected].
“She Was Like a Walking Flower, Centred by a Rod of Steel,” by Suzy Birstein, inspired by Frida Kahlo’s “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1940.”
“She Was Like a Walking Flower, Centred by a Rod of Steel,” by Suzy Birstein, was inspired by Frida Kahlo’s “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1940.”
In her artist’s statement, Birstein writes about this ceramic work: “‘Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird, 1940,’ is one of my favourite Frida self-portraits. In it, she is at her most beautiful, surrounded by flowers, butterflies, her monkey and cat. Her direct stare compels us to reflect upon her body in pain, her complex relationship with Diego [Rivera] and her relentless drive.
“The metal headdress references an iron-clad spirit, topped with a golden bird holding my mother’s pill box. Both Frida and my mother required medication to alleviate their pain, which they housed in these beautiful containers.”
Marty Katzoff’s The Light Within the Shell was created specifically for the Zack Gallery. (photo by Lauren Zbarsky)
The Light Within the Shell exhibit opened at the Zack Gallery on July 4. There is a sign beside the door: “This space is meant to be explored. Wander, sit, experience, enjoy.” The show was created specifically for the gallery.
Created by artist Marty Katzoff, it doesn’t involve traditional paintings hanging on the walls. Instead, it looks like a huge folding screen comprised of a dozen panels. They encircle the room, leaving only a narrow passageway along the walls. Each panel has a colourful abstract painting on its inside surface and a black and white image on its outside. A few small copper sculptures scattered outside the enclosed space complete the installation. Viewers are invited to sit down and meditate on the benches inside the vibrant shell of the exhibit or wander along the outer passageway.
Born in Rhode Island, Katzoff grew up playing sports. “I didn’t do much art until my teenage years,” he told the Independent. “I was going through difficult times in high school. My friend was an artist. She introduced me to the arts. I started making collages and found it therapeutic.”
He never completed high school and worked a variety of jobs. “For the next 10 years, I worked in construction, in restaurants,” he recalled. “And, all that time, I made art. I taught myself to paint. Then I went back to school and completed my BA at Bard College in New York.”
For years, Katzoff worked as an artist in New York, created large murals in indoor and outdoor spaces. He graduated from the University of British Columbia’s master of fine arts program in 2021.
His artistic education vaguely coincided with his newly found fascination with kabbalah, specifically the Tanya, which he has been studying for the past few years. “Before, I had separate ideas about art and spirituality. Now, I’m exploring how Jewish learning is connected to my art, how mythology and tradition transform my spiritual life into my paintings,” he said.
As a child, Katzoff went to a Jewish day school, but kabbalah offered him a different perspective. “I started with a book by Gershom Sholem. Before, I always painted with music in the background. This project is the first I’ve ever done without listening to music. I listened to kabbalah lectures online while I painted. I wanted to discover what I could create while listening to something complex and different … [by the late] Rabbi Yehoshua B. Gordon.”
The idea for the current installation came to him when he was finishing his graduate program at UBC. “One of our family friends lives in Vancouver,” Katzoff explained. “She is Jewish and she told me about the Zack Gallery. I submitted the proposal, and it was accepted. I wanted to create an installation specifically for the gallery, an interactive space, a visualization of light. This show took me 11 months to complete.”
Katzoff sees this exhibit as an amalgam of dreams, painting, architecture, Jewish learning and personal symbolism. Vancouver artist Rosamunde Bordos’s essay about the show, which is available in the gallery, expresses her visual composition in words.
Katzoff’s media, the plywood panels, are all recycled materials. “I have a friend who works in art shipping,” he said. “They ship large pieces in plywood crates. That was where the panels came from. Some of them have holes, so customs could look inside the crates to see the art. I painted around the holes. It was like a collaboration with someone else.”
The size of the panels, some of them taller than a person, left him undaunted. “I always liked to work on a large scale,” he said. “That’s why I did murals in New York.”
His oil paints are also recycled. “I use lots of recycled materials in my art,” he said. “My grandmother was an artist. She gave me her entire collection of pigments for the oil paints I use. I’ll probably work with her paints for the next decade.”
In addition to painting, Katzoff also works as a printmaker. Currently, he teaches printmaking at UBC as a sessional instructor. “For me, printmaking provides the connection with literature, with storytelling and history,” he said. “My brain seems to process that connection better while I’m drawing and etching. My drawings are illustrations, while my painting remains more like a therapeutic activity.”
His abstract copper sculptures, several of which are included in the exhibit, grew organically out of his printmaking. “I make my sculptures reusing the copperplates from my prints,” he said. “I have lots of copper plates. Copper was an important part of Judaism and, after I use the plates for prints, I want to share the metal, recycle it. I make sculptures from it. I also make bracelets and amulets. You can see the remains of the etching if you look closely.”
To learn more, check out martinkatzoff.com. The Light Within the Shell is on display until Aug. 22.
Olga Livshin is a Vancouver freelance writer. She can be reached at [email protected].
Lilian Broca stands with “Mary Magdalene, The Sacred Union,” which is one of seven panels comprising her current exhibit, Mary Magdalene Resurrected. (photo from Lilian Broca)
Lilian Broca’s artistic canon includes four series on biblical women. The latest, Mary Magdalene Resurrected, is at Il Museo at the Italian Cultural Centre until Aug. 15.
“Each series is an interpretation of a different concern,” Broca told the Independent. “Lilith is the rebel signifying hope for human courage and gender equality. Queen Esther, also courageous and wise, her story addressing the theme of sacrifice and self-empowerment, is actively involved in politics; in her time, known as an almost exclusive masculine realm. Judith, a warrior at heart who single-handedly saves her town from total annihilation, speaks of female effectiveness in the military world – a masculine tradition that she breaks, proving women don’t necessarily excel only in the domestic sphere.
“Unlike Esther and Judith, both actively involved in the masculine domain, Mariam [Mary] is a much more complex figure,” said Broca. “Her story has been greatly redacted in the first couple of centuries CE, leaving us various versions, which offer divergent perspectives of her importance and placement in the life of Yeshua Ben Yosef [Jesus]. One of the concerns in this series is about women’s place, or lack thereof, in institutions – which even in our 21st century – are restrictively based on gender.”
While it may seem odd that Mary Magdalene is included in Broca’s body of work, she reminded the Independent that Mary was “also Jewish until she died, as Christianity did not appear as such until the Edict of Milan in 313 CE and, universally, only at the Council of Nicea in 325 CE.”
A painter for many years, Broca’s Lilith series was created and exhibited in that medium, while Esther, Judith and Mariam are portrayed in mosaics.
“In 2000, I attended The Creation of the World in Jewish and Christian Art with Discussion on Illuminated Manuscripts at the Vancouver Public Library with speakers/presenters Bezalel Narkiss and Dr. Aliza Cohen-Mushlin, both of Israel,” explained Broca. “There, I saw a slide show Bezalel presented on ancient synagogues in the Levant. The Dura Europos in Syria had a beautiful fresco illustrating the Queen Esther story. I was mesmerized and, once home, I started to do some serious research on the Esther stories (more than one version)…. It was during the research that I found out that the palace in which Esther lived with her Persian king, Hashayarshah/Xerxes, had floors ‘encrusted with rubies and porphyry in pleasing designs.’ These were mosaics and, for me, a good omen. I knew I should return to creating mosaics one day, something I experimented with as a student (at 19) but stopped soon after. So, I decided to create the whole Esther series in mosaic glass.”
More than 10 years ago, Broca’s interest in Mary Magdalene was piqued by something she read on the discovery in the 1940s of the Gnostic Gospels, but various circumstances delayed further study, including a visit to her studio by Dr. Adolfo Roitman, curator of the Dead Sea Scrolls, who was in town to give a lecture. He loved the Esther series and suggested she do one on Judith, which she did.
Only in 2016 did Broca return her attention to Mariam. Over eight months, she read dozens of books and essays, and drew and painted the cartoons (drawings for mosaics) for the series now on display. In making the panels, Broca had the help of Adeline Benhammouda, who used to work for Mosaika Studio in Montreal. When Broca was diagnosed with cancer, she asked the studio to make the last two mosaics in the series.
“In the meantime,” said Broca, “the pandemic slowed down activities in all institutions, especially art galleries, and I didn’t know what would happen to my future exhibition.”
The pandemic also temporarily reduced the supply of N95 masks that protected Broca – who suffered a lung infection after her radiation treatment was complete – from the silica dust that results from grinding the glass mosaic tesserae.
One of Broca’s projects as a Shadbolt Independent Scholar at Simon Fraser University was to write a letter describing her activities during the self-isolation months of COVID. All the scholars’ letters were published and Broca’s can be found at the bcreview.ca/2021/02/14/broca-pandemic-magdalene. It is addressed to Mariam and, in it, Broca explains why she chose large (79-by-48-inch) panels for this series.
“In the past, women artists, their works and their stories were mostly associated with the intimate and the small, as though they dared not take up valuable space and time,” she wrote. “As you know from my past art works, I resent that timid notion. My heroines insist and demand the space and importance that long ago was offered to masculine achievements in the military, politics and commerce.
“And, finally, Mariam, after reading so many diverse accusations, betrayals, and the vilification you were subjected to over the centuries, I have decided to express the existence of disparate accounts of your story with text in each mosaic panel, hence the illuminated manuscript composition and unifying motif. Each panel displays three to four lines in an ancient language spoken during your time on earth.”
The languages featured are Aramaic, Hebrew, Ancient Greek, Armenian, Latin, Amharic and Coptic. Broca chose to make seven panels because seven “is a sacred number in the Jewish tradition.”
“Symbolism plays an important part in my artworks and this series is no exception,” Broca told the Independent. “Each drawing includes symbols that are meaningful in both Judaic and Christian traditions. Whether they are flowers, fruit, boats, pottery or textile patterns, these symbols speak of the distant past, yet most of them are recognizable today. Just like an illuminated manuscript page, I sought to illuminate what lies hidden or repressed through the symbols on the borders of each ‘page.’ Hopefully, through them, new ideas can be brought to life.”
While the Esther and Judith stories have a beginning and an end, Broca said, “Mariam unfortunately is a figure that appears suddenly in Yeshua’s (arguably) 33rd year and disappears right after the Crucifixion that same year. The Gnostic Gospels and other historical documentation that refer to her following the crucifixion are interwoven with legend and myth, none of which is accepted by academics. I chose scenes from all sources, scenes that I felt relayed best her high social status during Yeshua’s life, the love and closeness the two shared, her marginalization once Yeshua died and there was no one to protect her against the ill will and jealousy of the Apostles, the relationship with Mary the Virgin and, finally, my personal vision of a balanced religion, any religion.”
For the series, Broca studied the history of the Jews in the first-century BCE to first-century CE period. “I loved all that research,” said Broca. “I learned so much about Judaism in the process. It was reassuring to read Yeshua’s Jewish parables and to realize that he was very, very concerned with the lack of faith he found in the small beit hamidrash(es) they had in those days and, of course, in the temple. The political situation at that time was extremely complex and the ‘ruling class’ of Sadducees and Pharisees kept the masses in poverty while most of them aligned themselves with the Romans and became wealthier than they had ever dreamed. Yeshua never planned on starting a new religion; on the contrary, he wanted a return to the old ways. My understanding is that the 12 disciples were responsible for all the changes that ensued after Yeshua’s death.”
During the drawing stage of the series, Broca said she consulted two academics – Dr. Mary Ann Beavis and Margaret Starbird – about “‘how far can I push the envelope?’ before I get reprimanded by Christians for profanity or blasphemy.” For instance, wondered Broca, is it OK to portray Jesus washing Mary Magdelene’s feet?
“Each time I heard their answers,” said Broca, “I weighed them carefully, because, after all, I do retain an artistic licence for expressing my own perspective in art. But, at the same time, as a Jewish woman (not a Jewish artist) who embarks on a sensitive subject, I had to make sure I respect the Christian beliefs. I would not appreciate a Christian person making art that endorses what I consider derogatory Jewish images or symbolism.”
At the exhibit’s opening, Broca said, “I am not a theologian nor a religious person and my point of view remains, as always, a feminist one.”
She noted, “Mary Magdalene lived in a strict patriarchal society when women had few rights and freedoms, yet she left her sanctuary, her home and family, in order to follow a single man, without a job or an income, without a fixed address, a man traveling with an entourage of 12 other men spreading the word of God.”
She said, “For 20 centuries, Yeshua, or Jesus, has been both a bridge and a barrier between the Jewish and the Christian faiths. Although I find Jesus equally fascinating, this body of work here, is not about him. It is strictly about his favourite and beloved disciple, Mary the Magdalene.”
The documentary Mary Magdalene in Conversation with Lilian Broca is in post-production. The film, for which Broca wrote the script, is fully subsidized by the Canada Council for the Arts. It follows the journal Broca started in early 2016, when she embarked on her research.
“My hope is that the Mary Magdalene series will open new avenues to perceive the hugely influential relationship between Yeshua and Mariam … as well as considering what happened to that relationship in the hands of the male founders of Christianity,” said Broca. “In addition, I hope that, through my Mariam mosaics, viewers will be profoundly motivated to reexamine this whole critical episode of human history.”
In a 2020 article, Italian Cultural Centre director and curator Angela Clarke spoke in this context about Broca’s body of work as a whole, noting: “Through her mosaics, Broca looks to glass shards as a means to remind viewers that the traditional paradigms associated with traditional institutions and power dynamics can be broken through and reconstructed into a world that is more healing.”
Beverley Kort is a registered psychologist by day and a cartoonist in her off hours. She recently took a course in comics journalism at the School for Visual Arts in New York and one of the assignments was to do a local story. Bigsby the Bakehouse is her local bakery in Vancouver and surviving the pandemic is a current topic. She decided to merge these two interests to create this article.
Suzy Birstein’s “Ladies-not-Waiting: Harlequin Zsa Zsa.” (photo from ParkerArtSalon)
Suzy Birstein’s “Ladies-not-Waiting: Harlequin Zsa Zsa,” made of fired ceramic with glazes and lusters, is featured in the book the poetry project: where poetry expands upon a visual idea, published by ParkerArtSalon. The artwork is accompanied by a poem it inspired, written by Majka Pauchly: “I’m not home décor / I shift on the shelf, and plot / To make my next move.”
Beedie Luminaries students were invited to participate in the project by submitting a work of poetry, inspired by a selection of art provided by the ParkerArtSalon artists. The book launch and an exhibit of the poems with the corresponding artwork by the artists – who also include Miriam Aroeste – takes place at Gallery George June 1-July 3, Wednesday-Sunday, noon-5 p.m., with the official opening weekend June 4-5, 2-4 p.m., with artists in attendance. Visit parkerartsalon.com for details.
Vivian Claman was one of the founders of Shalhevet Girls High School and served on the school’s board for 14 years. (photo from Vivian Claman)
Vivian Claman was one of the founders of Shalhevet Girls High School. More than 14 years later – during which time she has served on the board of the school, including until recently as president – she is being celebrated at the school’s 2022 gala celebration May 22.
Leslie Kowarsky, president of the Shalhevet board, credits Claman with the school’s very existence.
“There is no one in our community who has not benefited from Vivian’s efforts, whether for Schara Tzedeck, for the Jewish Federation, or for many other worthy causes,” said Kowarsky. “I can say with confidence that Shalhevet would not exist without her tireless commitment.”
Shelley Rivkin, vice-president of the Jewish Federation of Greater Vancouver and the honoree at last year’s gala, echoed those words.
“Vivian has shown unswerving dedication and passion to maintaining and strengthening Orthodox education for girls in Vancouver,” Rivkin said. “She is a dynamic and energetic volunteer and she brought this commitment to her work on Federation’s allocation committee and other community organizations.”
Claman reflected back on the school’s creation. Ten parents, including Terrance Bloom, who would serve as the first board president, came together to address where their daughters would continue their education after they completed Grade 7 at Vancouver Hebrew Academy (VHA).
“My daughter was one of six girls in the Grade 7 class,” Claman said. “We had a little evening meeting to discuss the idea of doing a high school for the girls. My daughter said, I’m willing to try and convince the other girls to try, so we started the school.”
The availability of Orthodox Jewish education in Vancouver has been a recurring challenge and is among the range of issues being address by a new initiative called Torah West, which seeks to retain and attract more Orthodox Jews to live in Vancouver.
VHA now offers Orthodox education for boys up to Grade 10 and Claman said talks are underway to move the boys school and Shalhevet under a shared administrative umbrella.
“It makes the most sense, certainly for the donors,” she said. “They would prefer to have one institution so that we are not separate institutions going to the donors and asking for money.”
Whatever administrative structure is adopted, there will always be a separate boys school and girls school, adhering to Orthodox standards, she said.
Shalhevet is experiencing challenges that reflect larger trends in the community. With the departure of the Pacific Torah Institute yeshivah, some Orthodox families have left Vancouver.
“We absolutely need to have a strong Orthodox community and the only way we’ll do that is if Vancouver Hebrew Academy thrives and Shalhevet thrives,” said Claman. “Right now, though, to be honest, we’ve had a lot of attrition in the last couple of years. We are down numbers in our school. It is very upsetting, but that’s the reality of Vancouver. We kind of have waves. We have ups and we have downs. Right now, we are in that slump. That’s one of the reasons why Torah West is being created.”
In the school year now winding down, there are 10 students across five grades at Shalhevet, down from a peak of 25 or 27, she said.
While those numbers are disappointing, she said, there is a silver lining.
“Because of small numbers, we really can cater to the individual needs of each girl,” she said. “That’s really important. There are a lot of girls who have different issues and it’s really wonderful that they get that kind of attention. At a normal high school, there could be 30 kids in the classroom. The competition is pretty fierce.”
She added that single-gender education has been demonstrated to be advantageous, especially to girls.
“Studies have shown that girls do extremely well when they are on their own without feeling the competition or the pressure of being around boys,” said Claman. “It really does make a difference.”
On being recognized at this year’s gala – the first in-person gala in three years – Claman said she is “overwhelmed, to be honest.”
“I just announced my retirement plan – I had warned them I was going to be leaving the board after 14 years. I thought it was enough – so they decided to honour me. I’d really prefer not to be, but I didn’t really have a choice in the matter,” she said, laughing.
However, she acknowledged: “It’s a really nice way of the school showing appreciation for the many years of really hard work I put into the school.”
As past president, Claman still attends every board meeting and remains very active in school affairs. Nevertheless, as time permits, she plans to devote more hours to her emerging role as a painter.
“I was a fashion designer by profession for many years,” she said. “I retired because it was just too much time away from being a mother of three kids.”
Because she likes being busy and creative, Claman took up painting about seven years ago.
“I had taken a class many years ago in acrylic with a teacher here for one year but this time I decided to take it seriously and I’ve been painting ever since,” she said.
After a friend’s dog died, Claman painted a portrait of the pet and gave it to the grieving friend. That has led to a raft of pet portraits, but she is also receiving commissions for other works as well. (Her portfolio is at vivianclaman.com, though she acknowledges she has not had time to keep it up-to-date.)
Although she is concluding her time as a board member, Claman’s commitment to the school remains steadfast.
“To me, the most important thing about Shalhevet is we provide an Orthodox education for the Orthodox families here,” she said. “It’s wonderful to have a pluralistic community, but we absolutely must have the common denominator of the Orthodox community here. Orthodox families will not live here unless they know that they can send their kids, their girls and boys, to a high school that caters to their guidelines as to what an Orthodox Jewish education should be.”
For tickets to the May 22, 6:30 p.m., gala, which takes place at Schara Tzedeck Synagogue, visit shalhevet.ca.
“At Rest” by Dov Glock, mixed media. Glock is one of several Jewish artists participating in this year’s West of Main Art Walk. (from artistsinourmidst.com)
The West of Main Art Walk Preview Exhibition and Sale kicks off at the Roundhouse Community Centre May 18-19. The West of Main Art Walk itself welcomes guests into artists’ studios May 28-29. Among the artists participating are many from the Jewish community, including Michael Abelman, Olga Campbell, Dov Glock, Pnina Granirer and Lauren Morris.
The preview – which is open for visitors 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. both days – features a reception at the Roundhouse on May 19, 7-9 p.m. Preview visitors will be able to buy the work of some of the 80 local artists taking part. There will be paintings, ceramics, jewelry, textiles and photography, as well as free art demos.
Artwork will also be for sale on the walk, which includes studios from Point Grey to Main Street, and from Granville Island to 41st Avenue over the May 28-29 weekend. Dozens more artists are showing their works all under one roof in larger hubs like Aberthau Mansion, Art at Knox and Pacific Arts Market. There, you’ll also find art demonstrations and more. At Lord Byng Mini School for the Arts, you’ll discover young emerging artists.
Also part of the month’s events is the annual (since 2018) Art for All Fundraiser. More than 70 artworks have been donated – and all are on sale for $50 each. Proceeds will go to the art program at Coast Mental Health. Its resource centre’s art room opened in 2000, and is a place where clients discover their creative potential while developing new ways of expressing emotions, healing pain and growing their self-esteem and self-awareness. Supported by volunteers – including clients and professional artists and art instructors – who give their time, feedback and encouragement, clients are able to work in a number of media, including paint and sculpture; supplies are provided. An annual art show brings together the artists, other resource centre members and Coast clients, family and friends and the general public to celebrate their work and their journey towards recovery.
Granirer, who was a co-founder of the very first open studios walk in Vancouver in 1993, is doing something a little different from the main event. On May 18, 7 p.m., at the Roundhouse, she is launching her poetry-art memoir, Garden of Words. (For more on the book, see jewishindependent.ca/poetry-and-painting-flourish.) Some of the paintings featured in the book will be exhibited and the books will be available during the whole time of the preview and at Granirer’s studio during the walk weekend.
During the walk, Granirer is inviting people to her studio, where she will be offering her works for 50% off, with proceeds being donated to Stand up for Mental Health, which has helped people suffering from mental health issues to do away with stigma all over Canada, the United States and Australia.
Artists will be opening their studios from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. on May 28 and 29. This is a unique opportunity to meet the artists, enjoy the art and ask questions. More information and the interactive online map can be found at artistsinourmidst.com.
– Courtesy Artists in Our Midst and Pnina Granirer