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Friday, October 9, 2015

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Hillel offers new arts fellowship

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Hillel of Greater Toronto, in conjunction with the Julie M. Gallery, is offering an art fellowship this year for the first time.

The Julie M. Gallery Emerging Jewish Artist Fellowship will support some five to eight students working in the arts, including photography, sculpture, creative writing and other fields.

“There’s so many arts students that we know, but there’s no real outlet for them,” said Alona Geysman, Hillel’s student coordinator for the fellowship. She added that Hillel is modelling the program after a similar one in New York that proved to be successful.

Applicants who are selected will receive a $400 stipend as well as funds toward their materials, and they will be paired with a mentor who will help them work on a project related to Israel or Judaism. In May, the visual artists will have the opportunity to display their work in an exhibition.

“It’s very hard to get your first break when you don’t have any background and you don’t have experience,” said Erica Segal, a Hillel board member and the owner of the Toronto gallery. 

“A lot of kids graduate art school and never work with art because they don’t know how to get started.”

Segal added that having the chance to work with a mentor who is a professional artist and to display their work gives students the “first little line in [their] resumé,” which will give them a launching pad to a successful career in the art world.

The Julie M. Gallery was opened in 2009 as the Canadian branch of the originally Israeli gallery. The Tel Aviv branch was established in 1975. The gallery mostly shows the work of contemporary Israeli artists, both Jewish and Arab.

For Segal, the link with Israel is extremely important, aside from religion. “My connection to Israel is very strong, and I wanted to do something that has a connection to Israel – that wasn’t just Jewish,” she said.

Segal hopes the fellowship will strengthen student bonds to Israel, and that it will introduce them to Hillel as a supportive and welcoming campus group. “[Hillel] offers so much more than a lot of kids at university are aware of,” she said.

Though registration only opened up on Nov. 1, Geysman said she has already had a lot of interest and is looking forward to the projects that will be produced by the students who are selected. “The students are going to be drawing and sculpting their Judaism and their love for Israel,” she said, adding that it will give them a chance to integrate their Jewish identity into their creative side.

Segal is also anticipating great results, and she hopes that after a successful pilot this year, the program will grow. “This year, we’re aiming to do five [fellowships],” she said. “In the future, we could do even more.”

Registration is open from Nov. 1 to 30. Contact Geysman at for more information and for application forms.

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