By Maayan Hoffman
“If there is anything that I’m so very proud of, it’s the Inspire Educational Program,” said Rami Ozeri, the founder of the Jerusalem Biennale.
The Biennale is meant to be an encounter, it’s website explains: A collision between contemporary art and the world of Jewish content, a meeting ground for Israeli and international artists, and a fusion of tradition and innovation. It’s a celebration of art.
The Inspire program brings underserved and often underprivileged high school students from Israel’s periphery to the biennial event, opening the opportunity for budding artists to see, touch and explore the world of art.
“Becoming an artist requires exposure to a large variety of high-quality art,” Ozeri said. “Some of these students have initial interest and talent, but they don’t really believe they could become professional artists.”
For some, their exposure to the Biennale changes that mindset.
The Inspire program started two years ago, in 2017, with initial funding from the Leir Charitable Foundations. Ozeri recalled how he had met the foundation’s program manager, Margot Gibis, to discuss support for the Biennale. She told him honestly that the Lier Foundation does not invest in art, but education and youth.
“I suggested to bring high school students to visit the Jerusalem Biennale,” Ozeri said. “She got convinced.”
In 2017, the team brought 500 students from Safed and Arad. This year, in 2019, the number of students was doubled to 1,000 and they came from around the Israel’s periphery – even as far as Eilat.
On November 10, 11 and 12 the students explored the art festival, seeing performing artists and well as visual artists, and learning about the history of Jerusalem’s art scene. The Biennale has 30 exhibitions spread across 14 venues and the students each see several.
The program is free for the schools and the students, including transportation and food. The cost per student is between $40 and $50. Both years, the team has had to turn hundreds of students away.
By 2021, Ozeri home to host 2,000 students.
He said that many of the students who attend the program come from “simple families,” like he did. They would otherwise not have this kind of experience. Giving them access to the world of art and the creative changes their perspective.
The mission of the Biennale is to “facilitate the manifestation of various creative forces in Jerusalem, within the framework of contemporary Jewish Art. The Biennale strives to exhibit the most updated, challenging, creative and varied selection of exhibitions and events under this framework.”
“Creativity is something that should be nurtured,” Ozeri said. “Inspired is a story of inspiration. The students who come, talk about their visit for many weeks after.
“They now feel a part of something greater,” he continued. “The Biennale leaves its mark on each of them.”