2013 Essay | AIDA 2.0

2013 Essay | AIDA 2.0

AIDA 2.0

AIDA’s mission is to foster the development of contemporary decorative artists from Israel by connecting them to an international audience of galleries, institutions and collectors.

By Doug Anderson

Dafna Kaffeman
Evoking the Grotesque (Wolves series)
flameworked glass
Collection of The Corning Museum of Glass 
(2006.3.1, gift of Dale & Doug Anderson).
When Mark Lyman, SOFA’s founder, asked that I write this essay for SOFA CHICAGO’s 20th annual catalog, I looked at AIDA’s web site (www.aidaarts.org) and saw that we had written about AIDA six of the seven times we showed at SOFA. Without SOFA, AIDA would never have happened. Mark gave us the chance to walk and now we’re running.

One of the artists my wife Dale and I met on our first trip to Israel was Dafna Kaffeman. She was at the Eretz Israel Museum showing Henrietta Bruner, the Museum’s Curator of Glass, something she had made and we loved it. Indeed, Dale offered to buy it on the spot but the Museum got first choice and we wound up commissioning Dafna to make a different piece. It has lived in the same place, under our staircase, for a decade (quite unusual for Dale). In addition to simply being a terrific work of art, it serves as a daily reminder of how AIDA began.

But how do you measure success?

I guess one of the metrics would be to look at who owns the work 10 years later. In Dafna’s case, I asked if her work was in any public collections and she sent me this list:

The Montreal Museum of Fine Arts | Montreal | Canada
Corning Museum of Glass | Corning, NY | USA
Museum of American Glass | Milville, NJ | USA
Racine Art Museum | Racine, WI | USA
Glas-Museum Alter Hof Herding | Ernsting Stiftung | Coesfeld-Lette | Germany
Victoria & Albert Museum | London | England
Coburg Museum | Coburg | Germany
Alexander Tutsek-Stiftung | Germany


Tip Toland, AIDA visiting lecturer,
with her sculpture Monkey Mind

Now that’s impressive. But there’s more. Dafna balances her career as an artist with her family and her job as Head of the Glass Department at Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, where she has helped to develop a community of artists working in glass in Israel.

And so, if showing the work of mature artists from Israel at SOFA CHICAGO was the start of AIDA, what about AIDA 2.0? Our jury—Jane Adlin (Associate Curator, Department of Modern and Contemporary Art, The Metropolitan Museum of Art), Dale Anderson (Contemporary Art Collector) and Davira Taragin (Consultative Curator, David Owsley Museum of Art, Ball State University )—went to Israel in June 2013 to find out.

When we brought artists from Israel to SOFA and then to COLLECT, the Philadelphia Craft Show and Craft Boston, it was interesting to watch how they handled themselves with collectors. Most had not had face-to-face experience with collectors but were fast learners and, along with the confidence they quickly developed, they digested comments about their work and the subtleties of the marketplace. Cameras clicked and clicked and clicked...Israel is a small country and, to some extent, insular. Exposing these artists, many of whom are teachers, to the full array of the world’s contemporary decorative arts was an unexpected bonus and it was then that we realized that part of the way we needed to look at our programs was to give the unexpected a chance to happen.

And so, we began to bring artists from the United States to Israel to teach workshops and to expand our scholarship program.

Scholarship recipients Dana Landau, Olga Razin,
Orit Marili attended Pilchuck Glass School as “Poleturners”.
Pictured with Randy Walker who led the 2013 project.
The Poleturners work as a team to make
centerpieces each year for sale at the Pilchuck Auction.

One of our programs is a partnership with the Watershed Ceramics Center. Nicknamed “AIDAshed”, three ceramists are chosen to go to Israel and work on a kibbutz with the ceramics community for two weeks. The relationships that have been made are so intense that artist Christa Assad occasionally gives a talk about it and artist Nan Smith has just published an essay about AIDAshed in a ceramics magazine.

Since the program was such a success, one of our Board Members suggested that we create partnerships with schools in the United States and bring the Directors of the Studio of the Corning Museum of Glass, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Penland School of Crafts and Pilchuck Glass School to Israel to meet everyone and explain their programs...and so we did. It soon became clear that we should bring the department heads from Israel’s art schools to visit their new friends in the United States...and so we did.

The result is a full-blown scholarship program serving more than 20 artists each year. Our partnership with Haystack is for students who are chosen by the department heads at Israeli schools Bezalel, Shenkar and Tel Hai. The department heads in Israel award scholarships and Haystack gets the best students. The programs at Corning, Penland and Pilchuck are for committed, practicing artists and teachers.

And so it came to pass that AIDA’s director, Aviva Ben-Sira, brought Dale, Davira and Jane to “Boris and Mayanne’s Studio” in Tel Aviv – a studio that didn’t exist a decade ago – for a visit with the “glass community”...a community that didn’t exist a decade ago. Twenty-nine artists sat in a circle talking with two knowledgeable curators and an art collector about their work and their future. It was amazing. Each of the artists had spent time at Corning and/or at Pilchuck. With these programs, AIDA has had a significant impact on the use of glass as an artmaking material in Israel.


Joy of Transition (SOMA series), Ayala Serfaty, 2012.
Glass rods and polymer membrane 180 x 120 x 60 cm.
Collection of Mint Museum, Charolotte, NC.
Photo by Albi Serfaty

So how do you measure success?

Three years ago, we realized it would be a good idea to expand the number of museum curators who were familiar with Israel’s contemporary decorative arts and design scene. We developed a program for museum curators with “our cousins” at Artis who had been running trips for curators of contemporary art for a few years. Emily Zilber (Ronald C. and Anita L. Wornick Curator of Contemporary Decorative Arts at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston) was our first curator and Aviva supplemented the Artis trip with a few days focused on decorative arts and design. It was a complete success. Not only did Emily get to see the full sweep of Israel’s art world, she “infected” the other curators with an interest in the decorative arts. Cindi Strauss of the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and Matilda McQuaid of the Smithsonian’s Cooper-Hewitt Museum visited Israel next. This year, we will be bringing Ulysses Dietz of the Newark Museum and Diane Charbonneau of the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.

Curators are the ultimate collectors and there’s no telling what they will acquire for their permanent collections...and there’s no telling what they will see that will spark a thought that will lead to an exhibition. Clearly, there is nobody better to teach than teachers and there’s nobody better to bring to an artist’s studio for a visit than a museum curator. We keep adding to our list of curators we would like to bring to Israel (now 17) and we are open to your suggestions.

So how do you measure success?

Aleksandra Stoyanov

Aleksandra Stoyanov
From the First Person-Number II
wool, rayon, synthetic fiber
76 1/2 x 78 1/2 in. (194.3 x 199.4 cm).
Collection of the Metropolitan Museum of Art,
Gift of Doron and Marianne Livnat, 2012 2012.307.

For the last few years, jewelers from Israel have been juried into museum shows to sell their work, including “LOOT” in New York at the Museum of Arts & Design and “BIJOUX” in Palm Beach at the Norton Museum. Aviva, Dale and Davira have worked to help choose the applicants and AIDA has supported travel costs to help level the playing field.

Sales may not always be the measure of success, though sales are important. One of the jewelers who sold little in Palm Beach was picked up by a dealer and signed a representation agreement...her work is extremely intellectual and perfect for the gallery.

We’ve been asked “who are AIDA’s stars” and how do you measure their success?

This is a hard question. Sasha Stoyanov might be considered a star because she is represented by browngrotta arts and one of her large weavings was acquired by the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ayala Serfaty might be a star because her furniture and lighting designs are represented by important dealers in New York and Paris and her works have been acquired by the Mint Museum, the MFA Houston, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the MFA Boston and the Museum of Arts and Design. The winners of the “Andy Prize” (www.theandy.org) might be considered stars because they are chosen each year by an international jury and have had solo shows at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art as well as a work acquired for the Israel Museum’s permanent collection.

I prefer to think that the 135 artists we’ve touched are all stars...each at a different stage in his/her career.

We communicate best by e-mail and if you would like to be added to our list, send an e-mail to info@aidaarts.org. Not only will you be kept up to date on what AIDA is doing, you’ll get some oddball information and some “freebies”. Additionally, you might check our website (www.aidaarts.org) or our Facebook page.


Doug Anderson is an AIDA Co-Founder.

Published in conjunction with the SOFA CHICAGO 2013 lecture Is It As Good For You As It Is For Me?, presented by the Association of Israel’s Decorative Arts (AIDA) with panelists: James Baker, Executive Director, Pilchuck Glass School, Seattle; Jean McLaughlin, Executive Director, Penland School of Crafts, Penland, NC; Stuart Kestenbaum, Director, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, Deer Isle, ME; Amy Schwartz, Director, Education & The Studio, Corning Museum of Glass; Aviva Ben-Sira, Director, AIDA; and moderated by Doug Anderson, Founder, AIDA

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