Hana Hertsman's Blog

Posts from the “art” Category

A Bond of Hearts: A heartwarming encounter with Jews and Israelis in New York

Posted on May 7, 2015

With Tsipi and Zigi Ben-Haim and Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York

With Tsipi and Zigi Ben-Haim and Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York

The hardships, dangers, and fears involved in living in Israel often make us feel isolated. In recent years, it seems, this feeling of isolation is getting even more intense.

During an exciting encounter held recently in the United States, I was happy to realize an entire community is thinking of us from across the sea, feeling connected to us, empathizing, showing interest, and even willing to pull their weight.

As part of our efforts to bring about an innovative educational initiative in Holon – the Digital Kindergarten Digitaf – I had the privilege to attend an especially heartwarming event and share the latest news of Israel and Holon with members of the New York Jewish community. I felt that I succeeded in laying the foundations for a new perception, a new attitude that places the younger generation in the center, seeking to provide the younger generation with targeted tools and skills required for personal development and success, while creating a powerful values-driven community.

Tsipi and Zigi Ben-Haim, former Israelis, have been living in the United States for many years. Like many of their compatriots, they immigrated to the United States in order to pursue their professional career. Zigi Ben-Haim, a valued artist, has won multiple prestigious awards for his art. His pieces are displayed in prominent museums such as: the Guggenheim and Brooklyn Museum in New York; the Israel Museum and Tel Aviv Museum. The couple had been so kind as to volunteer their house for a special Holon-oriented gala, in the presence of tens of participants from the Jewish and Israeli community in New York.

In addition to Ido Aharoni, Consul General of Israel in New York, the event attracted a large number of visitors, who expressed a great interest in Israel, who were eager to hear about every piece of information related to contemporary life in Israeli society, and were willing to delve into issues such as Israeli education, culture, zeitgeist, and perceptions among the younger generation in Israel. I was surprised by the young age of many of the visitors, who shared information about themselves and wanted to better understand the meaning of Holon as the Children’s City.

Those young visitors were thrilled to hear about Holon’s unique initiatives, and about our efforts to foster the younger Israeli generation through exposure to culture, which equips them with knowledge and skills that will eventually make them into knowledgeable, curious, moral, creative, and productive citizens. I told them about the special activities held in Design Museum Holon, about the unique workshops for the entire family, about the synergy between our formal educational system and our cultural institutions, and more. Appreciation, fascination, and curiosity permeated the discussion; the participants expressed their willingness to tighten the bond with Holon and Israel, as well as invest in mutual learning.

Acknowledging the importance of sustainability for the sake of leaving a clean and healthy environment for the next generations, they were naturally impressed with the ideas I laid before them: investing in children, instilling values of tolerance, social engagement, and community involvement.

Without doubt, this evening was nothing short of exhilarating. I hereby wish to thank our hosts and all who participated in the event and helped organize it.

Toy Visit – Toys and Childhood Games from a Nostalgic Contemporary Perspective

Posted on February 24, 2015

“Give your child endless opportunities to develop, so that together with you he could live a full life and a better one. Give yourself the opportunity to invest in your child and enjoy the time you spend together”… Prof. Pnina Klein

A new exhibition is like a new journey: across galleries and far distant collections, across workshops, across the entire country: across cities and rural areas, north and south, inside the world of artists’ imagination, which turn dreams into reality. This time, more so than before, this is a self-reflective journey as well: a journey to long forgotten memories, recalling all those magical moments of our childhood. Suddenly I am there again, a young girl in a Moshav, holding five jackstones, a pointy stick, wooden dominos and homemade dolls, sailing between past and present, personal and universal, in search of long forgotten memories, yet rejoicing over the power of the here and now, over the sights, the feelings and the scents that will be engraved in the minds of today’s children.

The Toy Visit exhibition, which I had the honor to curate, is the product of my own nostalgic longing for toys and childhood games of my generation, made out of simple materials, produced and reused by crafty people, without being officially labeled as “green” or “recycled”. Those included carts and rickshaws built out of orange crates found near the orchard, an improvised wooden horse with a handcrafted head and a body made of broomstick, as well as toys and didactic games my mother, who was a kindergarten teacher, purchased but also handcrafted on her own for her kindergarten children and for her daughters. Big hollow cubes, colorful puzzles, cards carrying photos of local Israeli sites and flowers, miniaturized musical instruments, a toy kitchen built out of old stoves, unused kerosene burners and obsolete pots. These simple items had created an entire world for us to play, share, experience, and develop, preparing us for the real world. In the words of Maria Montessori: “play is children’s way to learn what cannot be taught”.

It is only natural that Holon, the Children’s City, will openly display nostalgic as well as contemporary toys and games. The journey I made across the country in preparation for the exhibition made me realize how immortal toys are; as long as new generations of children exist, those unique, heartwarming items will be there to enable them to explore themselves and the world around them, to expose them to the joy of searching, experiencing, and sharing in a whole wide world, sometimes created around one small item, in a relaxed individual play or in an enthusiastic group play. There comes a time when even today’s children of the “screen generation”, who supposedly ignore their surroundings, come up with creative ways to share experiences, even through online games or virtual multiplayer games… What counts most is the basic desire to share feelings, to discuss achievements, and to give tips to friends: how to proceed, what are the best ways to win, etc. For what is the point of success if we cannot share it with our friends?

Undoubtedly, the scenery of our childhood is immensely different from that of today’s children; however, basic human needs actually remain unchanged, and toys and games – even if they take on a different look – remain the key to a world of imagination, senses, social experiences, cooperation, motion, challenge, patience, negotiation, ambition, and more.

Toys and games, it seems, are indispensable. As adults who experienced a different kind of childhood as children, and to a certain extent re-experienced childhood as parents, we are given the chance to get a rare glance at toys and games, this time from a different angle, an experienced, curious and joyful one, along with the members of the next generation, our grandchildren. So… who goes first?

For further information about the exhibition, please click here.

The Future Town Square: a Real Experience in a Virtual Reality

Posted on November 27, 2014

A while ago I received a letter from a girl, a Holon resident, where she told me that on their free time she and her friends hardly ever go out: they stay at home, chat on Facebook and WhatsApp, and keep chatting on their mobile devices even when they meet face to face. Her parents, she wrote, keep nagging her to go outside and play – like they had used to do back in the day – but there is nothing to do outside. “Maybe at City Hall”, she was asking, “you would think of a place where we could play outside?”

This letter, which follows other requests of the same nature, has reaffirmed my longtime feelings and thoughts: the virtual world cannot be the only option. Even in our digital era, people are still seeking social connections, yearning for unmediated face to face encounters. A study has been published recently on the importance of social connections in the maintenance of mental and memory-related skills at an advanced age. If social interaction is beneficial to this extent with adults, then clearly it is crucial for children, who are constantly developing physically and mentally. Prolonged sitting in front of screens is undoubtedly one of the causes of early age obesity, which has become worryingly prevalent.

An American study has identified 200 social street games in the United States in the 19th century, compared to today’s 30 at best. Apart from the physical activity, the benefits of outdoor play lie at their contribution to the development of social skills, leadership and cooperation skills, and to the understanding of rules and boundaries.

Drawing inspiration from Children’s Games, I believe people in general, and children in particular, should regain their hold of the squares. This can be done by using innovative technological means which are suitable and attractive for today’s younger generation.

In my vision I can see a square, our Mediatheque Square for example, which is active throughout the day and changing according to the different crowds.

This way, for example, in morning hours the stone floors show different shapes, while music plays in th background (possibly only through headphones that are connected to a mobile device), and a virtual guide conducts a gym class for senior citizens. Later in the day, in late morning hours for instance, the floors of the square turn into a giant Checkmate board, and pensioners meet in order to enjoy this challenging thinking game. During afternoon hours, the square can become a playground for parents and young children, who gather and play age-appropriate games. Obviously, evening hours are dedicated to teenagers, when the square turns into a colorful disco party. One of the advantages is that players get to customize a certain area of the square using their mobile devices: they get to choose games and activities according to their preferences. Visitors can watch and participate, and enjoy newly discovered connections with members of their community.

כנס ערים חכמות ברצלונה 2014

The technology is already here: the challenge is to implement it according to our needs. Of course, the project is yet in its conceptual stage, seeking a technological/entrepreneurial partner, but I believe that in this case we can harness technology, which has long been notorious for making us alienated and estranged, for the purpose of promoting the opposite process of bringing people together and strengthening the sense of community, while breathing new life into the town square and the public space it provides.

What do you think?

Is Sport Becoming Elegant or is Elegant Becoming Sport? Sport Elegant – a new exhibition as part of the Holon Fashion Week

Posted on November 5, 2014

Fashion in general and fashion design in particular have always intrigued me. Gladly, the new Sport Elegant exhibition has given me the opportunity to fulfill my love of design and my knowledge in the field of curatorship. The exhibition will open at the Beit Meirov Art Gallery, as part of the 2015 Israeli Design Season in Holon.

As we all know, fashion expresses and reflects a period, a social stance, a zeitgeist. Elite fashion, “elegant clothes”, has been the masterpiece, the most expensive part of one’s wardrobe. Throughout my childhood in Israel, formal wear had been treated with a sense of awe, while everyday clothes had been basic and practical. The expensive clothes of high quality, meticulously sewn in the style of Western journals, had been reserved for special occasions.

As for myself, I have always been attracted to unique clothing items and accessories. Luckily, I was able to showcase my love of elegant clothes right at the beginning of my professional life. As a young hotelier, I had been expected to show up for work wearing meticulous – even formal – clothes: tailored skirts, suits, and jackets. I had become accustomed to it and had actually been enjoying it. Years later, I had my first interview in the Holon Municipality. True to my habit, I showed up wearing a formal outfit, only to later realize that it had caused quite a stir. The municipality’s veteran ladies had been dumbfounded by the girl who walked the City Hall corridors on her elegant high heels, wearing a red tube skirt, a matching red jacket and a white top…

Obviously, apparel has changed over the years: gradually, pants have taken the place of skirts, no-need-to-iron shirts have taken the place of tailored tops, and the elegant heels have cleared the way for much more comfortable shoes. And yet, I will always take a moment to mix in some uniquely designed accessory that cannot miss the eye… even when it is made out of inexpensive materials.

Throughout the years, along with my own personal taste, fashion has undergone changes: the boundaries between elegant clothes and everyday clothes are not clear cut. On the one hand, the elegant style does not have to adhere to strict Dos and Do Nots; on the other hand sportswear, which had been based solely on comfortable, light, and practical clothes, had been influenced by elite fashion. Nowadays, joggers at the jogging trails along the beach and trainees at the fitness center present the most cutting-edge selection of sports fashion, made out of high quality fabrics. The sporty clothing item sends a message of who I am, what I want others to think of me, what my social status is, and so on and so forth.

More of a fashion buff than a sports buff, I nevertheless find this combination stunning. I have chosen to present this combination at the Sport Elegant exhibition, which seeks to examine this mixture between Sport and Elegant while looking at their mutual influences.

A variety of Israeli designers will be displaying their interpretations while using unique technologies and materials that put sportswear functionality in question.

Everyone is invited to this special experience. Entrance is free.

For further information on the featured designers and on the items on display, click here.

For information on the 2015 Holon Design Week, click here.

“Adi Polani”(Polish Jewel) – a thought provoking meeting between times and worlds

Posted on September 21, 2014

Dreams sometimes come true.  Recently, I realized a dream when, in the presence of a great many guests, residents, artists, friends and family members, with great fanfare we opened the “Adi Polani” exhibition at the “Mishkan Gallery” – Myerov House in Holon, for which I am the curator.

This exhibit is actually two exhibits combined.  One is an international jewelry exhibition that took place in Poland.  All of its displays were created in order to transmit messages of social and ideological protest, rebellion, and outcry.  The second is an exhibit of jewelry that I gathered over the years during my visits to Poland while searching for traces of my father’s family, which was murdered in the Holocaust.  The two exhibitions are presented under a single roof, bringing about an unusual encounter between different worlds and eras, because, among other things, I chose to “wrap” the walls of the gallery with authentic photographs portraying life in Poland during the 1930s.

This interplay between the displayed items and the photographs creates an inevitable association in the mind of the visitor between a world that no longer exists and our current world, and again raises the big issues concerning the ability of a single person and an entire society to perceive reality, realize its significance at the time, and rise up or protest.

On the ground floor, about 50 pieces of jewelry and items are displayed by artists from 43 countries around the world, who use their art to express protest.  The jewelry pieces are a select collection from an international exhibit and competition on the subject of “uprising”, which took place for the 22nd time this year in the city of Legnica, Poland.  625 works were sent to the competition by 319 artists dealing, each in his own way, with the social tensions fed by economic crises and rising unemployment rates, while hinting at mass protest.

The jewelry displayed is made of materials and objects that are unusual in jewelry-making, including wood, paper, glass, chipboard, plastic, and – a dead dove, a dog-fur coat, dog food, a horse hoof, fish skins, chewing gum, a dried apple, razor blades, Lego, and even coffee powder or beans.  They were all designed by young and sharp modern designers expressing their opinions on a variety of social phenomena in a penetrating way that cannot leave the viewer apathetic.

I placed the jewelry in an unusual manner, for instance on recently peeled tree bark.  The walls are covered with authentic photographs taken in Warsaw.  In the entry hall, there is a photograph of the “Polanya” luxury hotel in Warsaw, designed by Michael Paticz Borkovski, and the internal hall contains streets and buildings of Warsaw from the previous century displaying magnificent and impressive urban architecture.

I chose to dedicate the top floor to jewelry that I gathered over the years, all made of simple and inexpensive materials, some recycled, and all with a very modern look.  The jewelry is displayed against a background of photographs that have been handed down from generation to generation in my family and other families, which remain as silent witnesses to life in Poland before the war: men, women, young girls and families, handsome people clothed in the best and most up-to-date fashion, spending time at nature and leisure sites, enjoying a vibrant urban life, a life of blossoming culture and commerce, economic well-being, family celebrations and leisure activities.

The contrast between the idealized scenes of the 1930s in Poland and the modern art of protest creates a sense of discomfort and conflict, and arouses each person’s private associations together with the collective contexts.  Personally, it was not easy at all for me to go back and look at the faces and images, to wonder what of them is in me and in my children, and what might have been…

Visit Adi Polani website: www.adippolani.folyou.com

Introducing Children to Dance at an Early Age – A True Social and Cultural Need

Posted on August 30, 2012

Introduction of the new generation to what is widely considered, (wrongly, I believe), “high culture” and dance and motion in particular are a necessity rather than a desirable choice.

Today, as the concepts of emotional intelligence and multiple intelligences are frequently used and skills such as interpersonal and intrapersonal communication are widely considered the key to success and fulfillment of one’s potential, one would expect art education and acquaintance with culture and art to become an integral part of our lives and the lives of our children. Yet unfortunately, perhaps due to the various challenges and difficulties encountered by the educational system, it appears as though the importance of introducing children to culture and the arts in general and particularly dance and motion from an early age has yet to be acknowledged.

Almost each and every one of us can recall the magic of their kindergarten’s rhythm and music lessons. Yet today, these weekly lessons have gradually become rarer even in kindergartens, and, obviously, considering the very limited lessons provided to elementary school children, one cannot expect dance and motion – even if only as spectators– to be part of the schedule of every pupil.  

I believe that introducing children at a very young age to culture classified (wrongly, I believe) as “high” is more of a necessity than of a desirable choice. The world of creation, culture and the arts must be accessible to each and every child. This has various explanations and accounts based on multiple theories – psychological, educational, social, cultural and of course, ones related to dance and motion.

Dance as an Empowering Experience

To realize the great value of the dance experience only few children are lucky to be introduced to, all one needs to do is watch the four and five year old at the end of the school year show. For them it is a primal experience which connects them to internal energies and powers, allowing them to connect their bodies and souls and provides them with powers that only in later years will they be able to grasp.

Today’s education systems encounter unprecedented difficulties: more children are diagnosed as attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder; discipline and boundaries, which used to be so clear and explicit in the past have turned vague; parental authority is experiencing a severe crisis and children are more exposed to multiple distractors and stimuli, spending time in passive activities, in front of screens within their homes, with less motion and direct communication.

In contrary to that, let us go back to the excited child, as the stage lights turn on and they are required to apply what they learned and exercised, use their body strength and intelligence, combine them together, be courageous, concentrate, be accurate, listen, look around, fit in a group – and they manage to do so successfully – how delightful must they be!

One of the main difficulties we encounter today is the overload of information, combined with great uncertainty – at the personal, familial, occupational, public and national levels. Making decisions is complex, complicated, requiring innovation, originality and ability to “think out of the box”, while fully understanding the systems and their limits, reality and its formal and informal rules. Dance is, it seems, the essence of this so-called clash between emotional discharge, creativity and originality on the one hand and rules and limits of systems on the other.

In her book An Invitation to Dance, Zofia Naharin writes: “how can one combine methodology and creativity, freedom to create and boundaries? The answer is: you always walk a tightrope. Creation occurs between the freedom to experience on the one hand and the boundaries set by the teacher on the other (An Invitation to Dance, p. 16)

It seems, then, that the importance of developing those skills from a very early age cannot be exaggerated. Creative thinking goes beyond the boundaries of art. It contributes to every aspect of one’s life – at work, in interpersonal relationships and personal happiness – motion is one way, among many others, to develop better creative thinking. (p. 16)

Naharin also write: “Dance is, first and foremost, a social activity. People strengthen their sense of belonging through dance, expressing emotions shared by the entire group – love, happiness, grief – they express their individual feelings and communicate with their environment” (p. 13).

If we fail to teach the younger children this language, we shouldn’t be surprised if they fail to understand it as adults. We should not introduce them only to the particularly talented, gifted and skillful few, and those whose parents can afford it – to this fascinating rich world of dance.  Rather, we have to find a way to provide all children access to it. Today’s children are tomorrow’s culture consumers. They are the audience we will find in next years’ dance premieres and festivals. Moreover, they are tomorrow’s citizens – who we would like to be enlightened, open-minded individuals, who will turn the society where we live into a better, more benevolent, high quality one.