Fond Reflections and New Beginnings After Ten Years of Israeli Arts

A masterclass given by choreographerDana Ruttenberg (2012-13 Visiting Artist); photo by John Hogg; courtesy Israeli Embassy South Africa; eJP Archives.

By Dr. Ariel Roth

It is with the utmost gratitude and admiration that the Israel Institute shares the news that its Director of Arts & Cultural Programs and director of the Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artists Program, Marge Goldwater, is stepping down after a decade at the helm. The ten years of Marge’s labor of love have fostered a deeper understanding of Israel in the United States through the arts, thanks to her work facilitating immersive interactions between Israeli artists and American student and community audiences.

The Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artists Program, one of the largest organized residency programs of Israeli artists ever to launch in the United States, brings Israeli artists to North America’s most esteemed universities to teach full-semester courses in their artistic discipline and engage with the broader community through public performances and exhibitions. Founded as a stand-alone initiative in 2008, the Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artists program merged with the Israel Institute in 2013 with the shared goal of improving Israel education on campus. Throughout its ten years, the program has proven to be overwhelmingly successful at establishing meaningful connections between Israeli artists and American audiences and showcasing an important aspect of modern Israel that few people in the United States get to see firsthand.

The program has brought over 100 artists to almost as many campuses across America. Artists-in-residence include renowned names such as Ayelet Gundar-Goshen, author of a New York Times notable book; award-winning actress Dana Ivgy, star of the Israeli film, Zero Motivation; and Eran Riklis, one of Israel’s most successful film directors. In addition to teaching thousands of students, the program’s visiting Israeli artists have made book tours, performances, and visual arts exhibitions that have reached tens of thousands of attendees, not only within their host campus or community, but frequently at multiple additional campuses and cities in the United States.

Often times, the residencies through the Schusterman Visiting Israeli Arts Program have served as a catalyst for an ongoing connection between Israeli artists and American academia. Several artists have motivated their students to visit Israel for intensive dance classes, while others have been invited back to U.S. campuses – at the university’s expense – for renewed residencies or had colleagues travel to Israel for follow-up collaborations on the ground there.

The program for visiting artists was the brainchild of Lynn Schusterman, Chair Emerita of the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, who summed up its trajectory and impact thus: “Ten years ago, I envisioned a program that would bring together two of my deepest passions – art and Israel. Marge’s artistic vision and entrepreneurial spirit made her the obvious choice to bring the Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artists Program to life. Under her leadership, scores of Israeli artists in many disciplines – from dance to film to the fine arts – have engaged young people on campuses and communities across North America, sharing the best of Israel’s creativity, complexity, beauty and depth.”

We are thrilled to announce Marge’s successor, Flo Low, who will take over the Visiting Israeli Artists Program as Associate Director of Arts Programs. An American Israeli creative producer and arts professional, Flo is a graduate of Barnard College, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and the Yale School of Drama. She also serves as an officer in the Israel Defense Forces (reserves). Most recently, Flo was the Associate General Manager of the Tony Award-winning La Jolla Playhouse in California, where she worked on several shows that transferred to Broadway. Flo is passionate about the role of the arts and culture in promoting cultural understanding and exchange. As Associate Managing Director of the Yale School of Drama, Flo brought the Inbal Pinto and Avshalom Pollak Dance Company, an esteemed Israeli dance group, to Yale Repertory Theatre for a weekend residency of performances and student workshops. This past winter, she produced a multi-city reading tour of Come My Beloved, a new play by Emma Weinstein about the shared history and future of black and Jewish communities in the United States. She is currently working with rising U.S. playwright Tori Sampson and dramaturg Taylor Barfield on a devised piece, together with Israeli artists, on the stories of African asylum seekers in Israel.

In reflecting on the transition in the Schusterman Visiting Israeli Artist Program, Lynn Schusterman said, “I am so grateful to Marge for what she has built and to the Israel Institute for their commitment to sustaining it. I look forward to seeing this program continue to flourish under Flo Low’s leadership.” As the executive director of the Israel Institute, I cannot add anything to Lynn’s comment. Marge is an inspiring leader in education and the arts in Israel and it has been a gift of my tenure to work with her. Marge will be staying on at the Institute as a consultant and will work together with Flo to ensure a seamless transition.

Dr. Ariel Roth is executive director of the Israel Institute.