Nearly 200 artists from across the U.S. will converge next week for the 43rd annual Philadelphia Museum of Art Craft Show from Nov. 8 to Nov. 10. at the Pennsylvania Convention Center. But this year they’ll be joined by 22 guest artists from Israel.
The show brings nearly 12,000 people to the city each year and has raised more than $13 million for the museum. For the past two decades, the show has hosted artists from a select foreign country through its Guest Artist Program. Anja Levitties, show chair, said previously selected countries include Germany, South Korea, Lithuania and Canada. In 2008, Israel was selected and it was such a success that the show decided this year to reach out again to the Association of Israel’s Decorative Arts. Since 2003, AIDA has worked to connect artists from Israel with museums, galleries and shows to promote the nation’s art.
“We look for a country with a strong arts program and an organizing body to coordinate bringing them here. Not every country has that,” Levitties said.
AIDA Director Aviva Ben-Sira of Tel Aviv said about half of this group are jewelers while others work in pottery, glassware and fiber. Israel is a much smaller market than the U.S. for arts and crafts, so these artists appreciate the opportunity to make new contacts and find additional outlets for their work. Ben-Sira said she’s gotten word of Jewish organizations from New York and New Jersey planning to visit the show in support.
“We are very excited to come and expose ourselves,” Ben-Sira said. “Israel is very strong in fine arts. Our big success in arts is really fine arts and video art and photography. In the creative arts is a bit more of a competitive market, but we are trying.”
When the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia heard of this year’s special guest, the organization decided to partner with the show to help promote them. Jewish Federation Chief Development Officer Melissa Greenberg said this is an opportunity to provide the Jewish community with more access to the craft show and to support Israeli art. (Attendees who use the code “EXPONENT” either online or in person get a $4 discount.)
“Anything we can do to foster appreciation for Israel and the people of Israel is part of what we want to do,” Greenberg said. “I’m excited for them to come to Philadelphia. I’m excited for people to support their work because it’s a great opportunity for them to have their crafts featured in Philadelphia collections and for everyone to enjoy their artistic expression.”
The Israeli artists appearing in this year’s show are Tali Abraham, Sarit Assaf, Tal Batit, Maiyan Ben-Yona, Tamar Branitzky, Nirit Dekel, Noa Fein, Yael Friedman, Anat Gelbard, Liat Ginzburg, Dana Hakim, Johnathan Hopp, Gily Ilan, Dikla Levsky, Noa Liran, Tzachi Nevo, Itay Noy, Yael Rozen, Inbar Shahak, Sara Shahak, Sharon Vaizer and Yasmin Vinograd. The show will also feature Tamar Navama, an Israeli metalsmith and leatherworker based in Dallas, Texas.
Also attending is Joy Stember, a Jewish metal artist from Abington who specializes in contemporary pewter Judaica. In 2017 she took home the show’s Eric Berg Prize for Excellence in Metal. Stember said the show is one of the most prestigious in the country and that it’s an honor to participate. This year she’ll feature several children’s items inspired by the birth of her child in July.
The presence of international guest artists, Levitties said, allows for the show to be a bit different each year and gives visitors a chance to experience art from around the world bought from the creator themselves.
“Any opportunity to see handmade work like this, anybody can go to store like HomeGoods,” Levitties said. “You can buy a bowl. You can buy a plate. You can buy a cheese board. But to see and to be able to speak with the artisan who made that work just makes it more special. No matter what it is that you’re purchasing, whether it’s something for your home, to wear or as a gift for somebody, the idea of art by hand and this connection to the makers is important.”