Jerusalem is about many things, from hallowed sites and sacred streets to complicated politics and angst-ridden religion. But it’s also a place that wants to redefine itself at this point in time, becoming a city that is current, significant and of interest to its residents, preferably young ones who will choose to live in this complicated place.
What brings many young Israelis to this city is Hebrew University and for the artist crowd, the respected Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design. When young artist types have completed their studies, many leave, heading to Tel Aviv and other points north, but some fall in love with the city, and try to stay.
“We’ve got a lot of one-man shows, many designers in Jerusalem,” says Boaz Bar-Hillel, the man behind Meatzvim BaIr, or Designers in the City, a new collective of 20 artists. “They all need to create and sell, and it’s hard to do in this city, where there’s little manufacturing and industry.”
To that end, Bar-Hillel, who is the project manager the Jerusalem Center for Design — founded in 2009 to place Jerusalem on the international design map – has worked to create a home for designers of different media, helping get them started, learn from others and develop new techniques. The design center’s partner is the Jerusalem Development Authority, which subsidizes the artists’ rent, allowing them to pay about NIS 1100 each month for their small but usable studio spaces. The two-story space is on Bezalel Street in Jerusalem, an apt location for them, situated next to the school’s downtown annex, also site for a weekly crafts fair, and with its own café, always a draw for city dwellers.
With a combination of designers working in metals, textiles, ceramics and silver, the gallery is a great place to shop for gifts, particularly during this Chanukah season.
More importantly, says Bar-Hillel, “we’re trying to expose these talents, and the city has to help that happen. We’re part of that outlook.”