Looking for that special gift for a friend or the perfect pillow for your sofa? Help has arrived in the form of downtown Jerusalem's Bezalel Arts Fair, set to be a major fraw over the week of Passover, and into the months ahead.
Yigal Ben-David, whose company Ben-David Productions is running the fair, explains that "The idea began with the Lev Ha'ir community center's desire to rejuvenate the downtown area," which has, in recent years, been less of a draw for foot traffic, because of the city's seemingly never-ending light rail project. Also involved in the planning were the municipality's Arts Department, the Bezalel Academy, the Cinematheque, Beit Avi Chai, the Hitorerut party, the Student Association and other groups.
Although the fair is meant to draw crowds to the city center, it was also conceived with the goal of offering a boost to local artists, billed in publicity materials as "Jerusalem's answer to Tel Aviv's Nachalat Binyamin" scene. "Here, the crowd gets to see and touch their works, talk to them," says Ben-David.
That's certainly true for artist and animator Or Bat-El, 23, and his partner Micha Cohen, 28, both Bezalel students, who got involved with the fair when it opened in the fall, quickly becoming a part of it themselves. "We're exhibiting original drawings, like one in which a pencil is using a human being to draw," Bat-El says. "I see people come to our stand and smile a little, and that's enough satisfaction for me." However, exhibiting at the fair "can also open doors," Bat-El says, evidenced by a recent slew of inquiries the couple has received, leading to media exposure for them.
The fair's popularity comes at a time when the stident body of the Bezalel Academy has been becoming more visible on the mainstream Jerusalem cultural scene, with many plans in the works for other grassroots arts projects. This past winter, moreover, a new incubation space for Jerusalem artists opened in the area of the Machane Yehuda market, and many of the city's various organizations and collectives teamed up for a two-day showcase called De:Frost.
Besides the artists' stalls, the municipal government's Arts Department is featuring "live contemporary art" at the Bezalel Arts Fair (pictured), a mixture of "performing and creating" on stage, according to Eyal Ezri, acting head of the department, with the next show set for March 31, during the week of Passover.
Spread between the Schatz pedestrian mall, Bezalel St. and the Schieber Park opposite the Hamashbir department store, the fair is open on Fridays and during Chol Hamoed Passover (March 31 to April 2), from 10:00 to 16:00. It also offers free stands for groups supporting social action, says Ben-David.
Hoping to become a regular city attraction, summer outdoor movie screenings in conjunction with the Cinematheque are planned, along with concerts and events coordinated with Beit Avi Chai, Ben-David adds. Overall, he's happy the fair "brings the city to life," while offering the artisans "something in return for all their hard work."