First Annual Jerusalem Season of Culture to Launch Summer 2011

This summer, Jerusalem will be home to one of the most ambitious cultural projects in the history of the Israeli arts scene. Unveiled Monday in Jerusalem by Artistic Director Itay Mautner, the Jerusalem Season of Culture (JSOC) will produce an annual artistic summer season [beginning this May] in full partnership with the city’s cultural institutions and in cooperation with the Jerusalem Municipality.

With the goal of celebrating the cultural narrative of Jerusalem, a city overshadowed by conflict and holiness, JSOC aims to honor Jerusalem’s arts and artists in a way that reflects the city’s complexity and diversity and at the same time, make cultural programming more accessible to a wide range of audiences.

The artistic direction is to aspire to things that could only happen here, in Jerusalem. Put another way, what happens when world class creativity meets this city?

JSOC was formed as an initiative of the Schusterman Foundation-Israel and its founder, Lynn Schusterman, who is closely connected to the city and is an enthusiastic supporter of the arts. Modeled on other prominent international cultural festivals and seasons, JSOC will highlight Jerusalem’s flourishing arts scene, and unleash local and international cultural events rooted in the city’s unique cultural DNA.

The season’s thumbprint was made apparent last summer through a series of successful pilot events. These included: Contact Point, which brought over 8,000 people to celebrate the 2010 inauguration of the Israel Museum’s renewed campus, featuring artists who interacted with the Museum’s collections, architecture, landscape and audience throughout the night; a series of special encounters between authors and a diverse range of artists at the International Writer’s Festival at Mishkenot Sha’ananim; and Under the Mountain – an alternative cultural festival held in cooperation with the Israel Festival that brought together three of Jerusalem’s leading art institutions – the Musrara School of Photography, the Ma’abada (Lab Theater) and the School of Visual Theater.

Among the scheduled events scheduled for the 2011 season are:

  • A trailblazing festival on philosophical thought;
  • Performances by the Merce Cunningham Dance Company at the Israel Museum as part of the troupe’s final world tour;
  • A series of evening cultural performances and celebrations at the Machane Yehuda Market;
  • A three-week run of the Jewish Theater of Sweden’s production of Steve Reich’s “Different Trains” in a previously unused ancient site at the Tower of David Museum;
  • A performance by soprano, Renee Fleming, with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra and conductor Zubin Mehta at Sultan’s Pool.

A video, My trip to Jerusalem, by world-renowned video artist Kutiman and inspired by Jerusalem, has been specifically commissioned to launch the season. You can catch a preview above.

The season is being curated by Jerusalem native Mautner and Naomi Bloch Fortis. Previously, Mr. Mautner co-founded two of Israel’s most successful new arts events: ARTTLV, the international art biennial in Tel Aviv, and Pecha Kucha Nights. Bloch Fortis, JSOC senior strategic advisor, is the former executive director and co-artistic director of the Batsheva Dance Company.

“These events reflect our general artistic direction,” says Mautner. “There is a wealth of cultural activity here and our goal is to place it center-stage. The primary objective of the season is to create a one-of-a-kind cultural dialogue that is generated by the city itself, its unique status and all that comes between.”

The season is being sponsored by a new independent nonprofit and is supported by the Schusterman Foundation-Israel, the Jerusalem Foundation, the Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, the Russell Berrie Foundation, Robert and Arlene Kogod, Uzi Zucker and Rivka Saker and the Jerusalem Municipality. In addition to her previous support, Schusterman has offered a challenge grant to JSOC with the goal of raising an additional $1m. for this inaugural season.