Midrasha at Beit Berl College |


Not only is Beit Berl College's Faculty of Arts–Midrasha celebrating its 70th anniversary this year, the influential art school has recently garnered a bumper crop of awards and exhibitions received by faculty members and graduates

Ilana Kraus
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A greenhouse for art students, Beit Berl Colleges Midrasha has an intimate, supportive atmosphere and a broad-based faculty that includes more than 150 of Israels leading artists. Students have the opportunity to work in a variety of media: painting and drawing, sculpture, video art, photography, digital media and film, as well as new media – sound, performance, digital media and more. They also enjoy direct, person-to-person contact with instructors.

What sets Midrasha apart from other art schools in Israel is its openness, explains Art Department head Alona Friedberg. Students can focus on one area or move between the various departments and develop their own synergy among the various media available. They can create their own independent tracks and are able to interact with the instructors, who are all active artists, many of them, like her, graduates of Midrasha. It is also an academic institution that grants teaching certificates specifically for art teachers, offering Bachelor of Fines Arts degrees in art and film, as well as a Masters degree in art education, and soon, art therapy, not to mention continuing studies, she notes.

The student body also reflects diversity, and encompasses Arabs and Jews from all over the country. While striving for excellence and ensuring a high level of academic and artistic achievement, we are like a family, Friedberg stresses. Students get personal attention, and there is no distance between them and their instructors. We are truly a community that is proud of everyones accomplishments.

A good year for school pride

Tzion Abraham Hazan, a 2012 graduate, is a Midrasha success story, and one of ten recipients of the Israeli Ministry of Culture and Sport Award for a Young Artist for 2015. Not only is he an active artist who has already exhibited at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, he also has three residencies under his belt, one in the US, one in Germany and another in Israel, Artport. I was one of six selected to be a resident there in 2014. I was given a stipend that covered living expenses and a studio, Hazan explained. Midrasha prepared me for these residencies. I was able to become part of the local and international art scene. Fulfilling the institutions dual purpose of training artists to be teachers as well, Tzion Hazan also teaches art in an elementary school, which, he says, is inspiring and fun.

Others honored for their achievements in 2015 include Angela Klein, a Midrasha graduate and instructor, who received the Minister of Culture and Sport Prize for Plastic Arts, for creating personal, minimalist sculptural language that encompasses many complex artistic elements, in the words of the judges. Rami Maymon, an instructor and coordinator of the Facultys photography department, was the first recipient of The Lauren and Mitchell Presser Photography Award for a Young Israeli Artist. The judges remarked that his work, which is currently on exhibit at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art, deals with essential questions of the photography medium and its changing status over time.

Ohad Fishof, another innovative instructor who works in a broad range of fields, including sound, dance, video, performance and installation, was also awarded the Minister of Culture and Sport Prize for art. Alma Itzhaky, a graduate, garnered the Rappaport Prize for Young Israeli Artist, while Ido Bar-El won the same prestigious award for an established artist. Nimrod Matan earned the Minister of Culture and Sport prize for novice poets, 2015, and Ron Amir, one of Israels outstanding contemporary photographers, won Mifal Hapayiss Landau award for visual arts.

Awards promote young artists and help them make a name for themselves, but their monetary aspect is negligible, as Tzion Hazan noted. I can pursue my own idioms because I have a teaching job, which I love, too. Very few artists who are not commercial can make a living from art alone, he added. He feels lucky to be teaching the children. They get such pleasure from creating art.

This past year has also seen a plethora of exhibits at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art and other venues around the country and abroad by Midrasha graduates and faculty. Shai Horodi, for example, had a solo exhibition at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art immediately after completing his studies. Roee Rosen, a senior instructor, recently opened a show there. Ben Hagari, another recent graduate, garnered the Tel Aviv Museums Chami Fruchter Prize for an Emerging Israeli Video Artist, like Horodi, almost immediately after finishing his studies. According to the exhibition blurb, Hagaris tragi-comic films and video installations manifest absurd environments that raise questions of identity and territory.

At the forefront of the art scene

Although Midrasha has its own gallery in Tel Aviv, 19 Hayarkon, which is both its name and its address, it does not necessarily exhibit works by students and faculty. It is run independently, Alona Friedberg explained. And its not just a gallery where any independent artist can exhibit their work, but also a cultural center, open to the public, that runs films, panel discussions, lectures and seminars.

This spirit of being at the forefront of the art scene in Israel is what draws students to Midrasha in the first place. Alina Yakirevitch, a sculpture and installation artist in her final year, was attracted to the school because of the intimate atmosphere and the openness, as well as the faculty – the leading, most important artists, the best teachers, she enthused. You dont need authorization to move between disciplines, and you can get assistance in any area, she went on. The inspiration and cross-pollination among the various media are also important to her as a student. If I want to add performance and video to my work, I can do it, Yakirevitch stressed.

Tzion Hazan echoed her enthusiasm about the close connections between teachers and students at Midrasha. When I got out and was in the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture for my residency, I found that because of the interaction with leading Israeli artists, because I had a systematic yet flexible, broad perspective, I could speak the same language as others in this prestigious school, he recalled. An outstanding part of this experience, in his view, were the weekly sessions where teachers and students brought works to be critiqued.

Alina pointed out that, in the absence of a teachers room, Students and teachers sit together in the cafeteria, and thats where everything important goes on. The atmosphere is not competitive, and no one is breathing down your neck for you to compete for awards, she stressed. But like any other institution, especially Midrasha where there is a feeling of family and community, everyone is proud of student and faculty achievements.

Prize-winning film department

In the past year, Midrashas Film Department participated in dozens of international events and won prizes in important student competitions. Six new films were screened in worldwide premieres and more than ten other movies from previous years continued to be screened successfully throughout Israel and around the world.

The film Relocation by Yair Fridman won the Best Film award and an honorable mention at the International Festival of Student Films in Tel Aviv; Gazlan directed by Tomer Lahmy received the Best Student Feature Film prize at the Kinoproba Festival in Russia; and Nimrod Itkins Nothing Grows in the Shade won a prize for Best Actress (Hannah Raz-Borer) at the Student Film Festival in Kazakhstan.

The Film Departments new film catalog will be revealed at a festive screening marathon during the Cine Forte events at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque on March 29th.

Midrasha offers B.A. degrees in art, B.Ed. certificates for teaching art and film and Masters degrees in teaching art and art therapy, as well as post-graduate programs. For more information about Beit Berl Colleges Faculty of Arts–Midrasha, please visit www.beitberl.ac.il or call: *9121.