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New York Graffiti Artists 'Bombing' Shelters with Solidarity

Artists 4 Israel has organized some of New York's most talented graffiti artists to show solidarity with Israel by painting Sderot bomb shelters.
By Avi Yellin
First Publish: 4/26/2010, 10:17 PM / Last Update: 4/27/2010, 6:57 AM

Seth Wolfson (of Artists 4 Israel)

A group of New York’s most talented urban artists arrived in Sderot this week with the Artists 4 Israel movement in hopes of bringing some much needed color to the beleaguered Negev town lying just outside of the Hamas-controlled Gaza region.

The artists aim to show support and bring beauty to a town, that since the 2005 withdrawal of Israeli soldiers and expulsion of Jews from Gaza, has had the daily lives if its residents defined by crude rockets and concrete bomb shelters.

“Our tour is called ‘Project Murality,’ joining the words ‘mural’ and ‘morality’ to evoke justice through art,” explains Meital Dohan, an Israeli actress known for her role in the popular American Showtime TV Series Weeds. Dohan, currently premiering in Monogamy at the Tribeca Film Festival, has taken time off from her busy acting career to volunteer with Artists 4 Israel and help coordinate the project.

Artists 4 Israel (A4I), a relatively new organization on the American Jewish scene, defines itself as a New York-based community of creative people working together on collaborate projects that illustrate Israel’s right to exist in peace and security. It sponsors and fosters exchanges between communities of artists in Israel and around the world who wish to express through artistic mediums their support, feelings and interpretations of the Jewish state.

Project Murality has partnered Israeli graffiti artists with their counterparts from New York on a mission that aims to equip Sderot’s traumatized youth with inspiration and artistic tools. According to A4I, the project hopes to turn local bomb shelters into beautiful canvases by bringing some of the finest urban artists of America and Israel together to create images that inspire hope with local children, showing them that their town is not alone in its time of need.

“The artists are hoping that teaching Israeli youth graffiti will help them to not just leave their mark on local walls, but write a better future for the region,” says A4I president Craig Dershowitz. “Together they will transform the grim reminders of war – bomb shelters, fortified playgrounds, the reminders of homes burned out beyond repair and the remains of rockets – into soaring masterpieces of freedom and expression.”

In addition to the artists currently in Sderot, fathers of the graffiti movement, including Tracy168 and MED, have committed to helping from the sidelines by submitting sketches for each of the sites. After witnessing the impact of the artists’ work in Sderot, Dershowitz told Israel National News, “The power of creation is equal to the hope of redemption. Our artists have hope that by leaving their mark on the walls, the residents of Sderot not only awaken to a more beautiful city but a more secure future.”

The artists are meeting with social workers, municipality officials, community leaders and lots of children. But Dershowitz says that this is only the beginning. The participating artists, who include big names in the New York graffiti scene will eventually return to America armed with first-hand experiences and information about the realities of life in Israel. A full list and bios is available upon request from the organization at www.artists4israel.org
 
“After spending more than a week working side-by-side with Israeli artists – living with them, eating with them and traveling the length and breadth of the country with their Israeli peers, the New Yorkers are going to have a lot of positive experiences to share when they get home,” said Dershowitz. “They will be able to translate, through their art, a country not defined by past conflicts but filled with a vibrant youth culture looking towards a bright future for everyone in the region.”