Building & Renewal
THE APTER BARRER ART CENTER IN MAALOT
GOALS OF THE CENTER
AND RATIONAL FOR EXPANSION PROJECT
The city of Maalot–Tarshica, with a population of 20,000, is located in the Galilee, close to the Lebanon border. During the recent Lebanese war, Maalot suffered severe damage from katusha bombardment. Situated some 600 meters above sea level, residents and visitors marvel at the majestic view of green mountaintops. Another unique facet of Maalot-Tarshica is that it is the sole Joint Jewish/Arab Municipality in Israel. Relationships between the two communities are based on mutual understanding and respect, and peaceful coexistence. In the early 90’s the city of Ma’alot absorbed thousands of immigrants from the Former Soviet Union almost doubling the population of the city. The successful absorption helped the city to flourish and develop at many levels. Concomitantly, the city experienced a growing demand for culture and the arts.
NEED and RATIONALE:
The demand for culture posed a great number of challenges for the Municipality. With Ma’alot located on the periphery of the country, and a population made up of a large immigrant element, many of its residents could not afford to pay for cultural events. Additionally, artists were hesitant to visit the North due to security concerns. Therefore, residents and the political leadership were compelled to seek creative solutions to promote the cultural development of Maalot–Tarshica and the surrounding area.
It was this impetus 20 years ago that lead to the establishment of the Barrer Art Center in Maalot. The Center was created in cooperation with the Maalot Municipality, the Jewish Agency, UJA and the leaders of the Bux-mont Pennsylvania Community, within the framework of Project Renewal. Residents identified the Art Center as a way to promote a cultural environment, not only to enrich their own lives and those of their children, but also to serve as an attraction for potential residents. People viewed the center as a significant contribution toward the development of a new and strong generation of children,
youth and young families who could appreciate art, having the same exposure to the art world as residents of the center of the country.
Elaine Levitt, one of the original residents who helped to galvanize support for the establishment of the Art Center, serves as the Chairperson of the Amutah (a non-profit organization). Under Elaine’s leadership, and with the support of a strong volunteer board, the Center has blossomed into a leading center for art in the North.
The exciting and innovative programs at the Center are available to the entire community with participants from a wide and diverse spectrum of Israeli society including religious and secular, Arabs and Jews, new immigrants and veteran Israelis, young children and the elderly.
It’s important to note that while the Center enjoys a close working relationship with the municipality, it operates independently with active resident participation. Throughout the years, Allen and Helene Apter have been dedicated and much appreciated patrons of the Barrer Art Center. This connection along with periodic visits from the communities from Bux-mont and Philadelphia has strengthened the relationship.
GOALS OF THE ART CENTER:
• To nurture and develop the arts in Maalot–Tarshica in particular and in the Galilee in general.
• To preserve and represent the cultural traditions of the various sectors of Ma’alot and the surrounding area.
• To organize exhibitions of the various art forms including painting, ceramics, sculpture, photography, and handicrafts.
• To enable opportunities for children and youth to be exposed to the art world.
• To serve as a resource center for training in order to improve the professional level of art teachers in the various educational and cultural frameworks in the City.
• To organize major educational art projects for the entire community that advance the individual within the context of the community.
RATIONALE FOR EXPANSION:
Since the establishment of the Barrer Art Center 20 years ago, the Center’s range and number of activities have grown significantly. However, there has not been a parallel development of the physical facilities. Due to the decision to preserve the original ambiance of the town, instead of demolishing the original buildings 20 years ago, it was decided to renovate the existing facility, which had housed early immigrants from Morocco. With the wear and tear over the years, the renovations are no longer sustainable and the cost of maintenance and repairs are becoming increasingly problematic and expensive.
In addition to preserving the original format, the Barrer Art Center operated out of small rooms which was convenient then, but is no longer adequate because of the surge of activities, workshops, and exhibitions.
During the first few years of the Center’s operation, it offered a few art classes for 20 to 30 children. The gallery was under utilized and only a handful of children participated in the summer camp. Presently, the Barrer Art Center offers six art classes to 120 children in the areas of ceramics and creative drawing in a variety. of materials. In addition, eight classes are currently available for 160 adults.
Throughout the year, art exhibitions of the highest quality and in a variety of art forms including painting, sculpture and photography are organized at the Allen and Helene Apter Gallery. On a yearly basis, over 2000 people, aged six to eighty visit the artwork on display at the exhibitions. Festive openings and professional catalogs accompany each art exhibition.
Special community-wide events include the international Sculpture Symposium competition, the “Day After” program, a project funded by the Israel Emergency Fund, which provides enrichment art classes to 100 elementary school children. A unique documentary program is being implemented in which two groups of 15 elderly residents produce documentaries about their life stories.
The overall demand for culture and planned activities for the future, led the residents to the conclusion that it’s imperative to expand the Art Center in order to meet the growing requirements of the City.
The specific needs that the proposed expansion project will address are as follows:
• To expand the Allen and Helene Apter gallery. The present gallery is small with a very low ceiling. The current space is limited, both for general exhibits and accommodating large groups of children who come through the educational framework. The expansion of the gallery will enable us to operate additional student workshops in connection with our exhibits. This will be done in a more conducive setting, benefiting from the use of natural light, which will also enhance the exhibits.
• To increase the facilities for additional art classes and activities for children.
• A second level will be added to the two existing structures. This facility will provide two apartment studios for visiting artists from Israel and all over the world. These artists can live in Maalot for short periods of time and work in optimal conditions. They will offer art classes and seminars to the community throughout the duration of their visit and present art exhibitions at the end of their stay.
• To add much needed office space.
Realizing the Barrer Art Center proposal will enable Maalot to better serve the cultural needs of the city’s dynamic growing population.