Everything you need to know about Be the Change - the Jewishly inspired Artivism Movement
Updated: Dec 27, 2022
Dear Friends and Art Lovers,
This special edition of my Art Newsletter is dedicated to a project that has truly been a dream come true: Be the Change. Read on to learn all about the inspiration for this project, how it has come together, and how you can experience it.
Thanks as always for being on this journey with me,
How it Started
The idea for Be the Change was spurred by a conversation I had with Ruth Messinger, former head of the American Jewish World Service. As part of my last solo exhibition, I dedicated an art piece to Ruth which I called a Justice Vessel. It was modeled after a Tzedakah Box, which are used in Jewish tradition to collect donations for those in need. Ruth shared that she had long imagined how powerful it would be to install a giant Tzedakah Box in front of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City that read “Change” — a play on words for both giving and activating the giver.
With my Justice Vessels as a model and Ruth’s vision as a sign of just how powerful this project could be, I recruited the help of Laura Mandel and the astounding team at JArts Boston to help lead this project into the future. The results have been greater than my wildest dreams.
In collaboration with JArts, we were able to recruit additional public art partners in two more cities: Cincinnati and Los Angeles. Each city agreed to commission temporary public art installations by 6 artists, each focused on a social justice issue significant to them. In addition to these 18 artists (Chai, or Life in Hebrew) from 3 cities, the project has grown to include more than 30 community partners and will unfold in one big year of change. The goal is to help viewers connect to issues of injustice and empower them to become agents of change. It is about making space to talk about injustice – and to give us all real action steps to be agents of change in our local and global communities.
The Future of Be the Change
The Boston-based projects are officially on view in the Fenway and will be accompanied by a full program of events. Installations and activations in Cincinnati and LA will follow. I am thrilled to see this project unfold and while it has already exceeded my wildest dreams, I know that we are only just getting started.
Curating Be the Change
As part of this project, I had the great honor of working closely with Laura Mandel, Executive Director of JArts, to curate the five other artists who would be commissioned to created a work of artivism. It was very important to both of us that the project leverage the Jewish tradition of tzedakah while reaching outside of the community to advance social justice issues that affect us all. I am thrilled with the all-star cohort of talented and passionate artists we assembled from all walks of life to bring attention to an array of important issues. Each artists selected a form on injustice close to their heart:
Caron Tabb [Hate Crimes & Antisemitism]
Carolyn Lewenberg [Environmental Justice]
Jason Talbot [Racial Bias in the Criminal Justice System]
Nayana Lafond [Domestic Violence]
Ngoc-Tran Vu [Mental Health, Trauma, and Healing]
Sam Mendoza Fraiman [Transgender Rights]
Part of what has made this an immensely impactful experience is that each of the artists in our cohort committed to coming together to learn as a community. Over the past several months, we have gotten together several times, often in the presence of thought leaders like Rabbi Sharon Anisfeld and Ruth Messinger, to help each other develop our projects and connect with community partners.
Join me for a Curator’s Tour
It would be my pleasure to guide you on a tour of the installations while they are installed in Fenway. Use the link below to reach out and set up a time to meet.
Prisoner a-7713: Antisemitism = Racism = Hate
Sliding Back in Time Or, Did We Actually Ever Move Forward?
Location: 434 Van Ness Street, Boston, MA 02215
My contribution to Be the Change is titled Prisoner a-7713: Antisemitism = Racism = Hate. Sliding Back in Time Or, Did We Actually Ever Move Forward?. The title references the number assigned to and tattooed on Eli Wiesel’s arm when he arrived at Auschwitz. Constructed of fencing, the work takes the form of a large-scale human heart perched atop a concrete plinth and explores the devastating rise in rates of hate crimes and antisemitism. The form of the sculpture, the materials I am using, and the finishes I am adding to the platform and within the heart itself are all of deep significance, which I look forward to discussing in the two events that will correspond to the unveiling of the final sculpture.
Be the Change Events
The City Talks: Be the Change Thursday, September 8th | 7pm EST | at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston Learn More & Register Here
Inspired by the exhibition, “Philip Guston Now," join this discussion at the MFA on hate crimes, antisemitism, and racial bias focusing on how we can make change. Co-presented with the Jewish Arts Collaborative and featuring myself along with Jason Talbot (Be the Change artist), Peggy Shukur (associate regional director at the Anti-Defamation League), and Mariangely Solis Cervera(chief of equity and inclusion for the City of Boston). Moderated by Adam Strom, director of Re-Imagining Migration.
Online Discussion: Hate Crimes, Antisemitism, & Racial Bias Friday, September 9th | 12pm EST | Virtual Learn More & Register Here
In this online discussion, I’ll join fellow Be the Change artist, Jason Talbot, along with leading experts Rabbi Menachem Creditor, and Ruth Messinger, to discuss the devastating rise in incidents of hate crimes, antisemitism, and racial bias while uncovering actionable ways to combat these human made plagues.
More Events & Activations
Each Be the Change artist has planned a series of events to activate and deepen the understanding of their project - more than I can list here! Head to the JArts website for more details on all the exciting happenings that will bring this work to life.