AIDA Fosters Emerging Israeli Artists Working in Glass

Although the first glass furnace in modern Israel was built at Jerusalem’s Bezalel Academy of Art by Marvin Lipofsky in the mid-70s, the first formal academic glass training program was not started until 1997, spurred in part by Dale Chihuly’s exhibition, Chihuly in The Light of Jerusalem.

If interest in glass as art was late to take hold in modern Israel, it is surging now, thanks in large measure to the work of The Association of Israel’s Decorative Arts (AIDA), which was founded in 2003 by the late Andy Bronfman, her husband Charles, and Dale and Doug Anderson. AIDA’s mission is to foster the development of contemporary decorative artists from Israel—including artists working in glass—by connecting them to galleries, collectors, institutions, and other artists internationally.

During a trip together to Israel in 2001, the four friends became impressed by the high quality and variety of craftsmanship in the small country and committed to garner international attention for the artists and their work. Although makers of jewelry and ceramics were fairly well established, emerging artists working in glass faced special challenges. Bezalel had the only large glassmaking furnace in Israel, and it was reserved for current students.

One of AIDA’s early initiatives was funding scholarships for blowing and casting in the first private glass hot shop in Tel Aviv, started by Maayan Feigen and Boris Speisman in 2007. AIDA also arranged for scholarships and internships for Maayan and Boris at the Pilchuck Glass School and the Museum of Glass in Tacoma.

AIDA began supporting scholarships at the Corning Museum’s glassmaking school, The Studio, in 2007, and a year later sponsored a workshop given at Bezalel by The Studio’s Resident Adviser, Bill Gudenrath. Last year Amy Schwartz, director of The Studio, traveled to Israel as AIDA’s guest, spending a week visiting glass artists with Aviva Ben-Sira, AIDA’s director.

AIDA Scholarship Recipient at The Studio

AIDA Scholarship recipient, Lisbeth Biger creating work at The Studio with Kimiake Higuchi.

Also in 2011, Andy Bronfman’s children—Jeremy, Pippa, and Tony Cohen—decided to formalize the relationship with The Corning Museum of Glass with an annual gift to AIDA in their mother’s memory. The gift funds five scholarships to The Studio and travel stipends. In Tony’s words, “Our mother would be proud of what AIDA has done to bring world attention to Israeli artists and to provide them with training and international opportunities to exhibit their work. She’d have loved this.”

Today AIDA has partnerships with The Studio, Pilchuck Glass School, Haystack Mountain School, Penland School of Crafts, and the Watershed Clay Center.

Ben-Sira adds that at The Corning Museum of Glass, the artists not only take classes but also have access to the Museum’s collections and curators, as well as the resources of the Rakow Library. “The importance of this generally comes as a surprise and is tremendous.”

Learn more about The Studio’s scholarship program and classes.