Today's Building Hours
  • Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC
    7:30am - 6:00pm
  • Weinberg Park Heights JCC
    7:30pm - 11:00pm
Shabbat Candle Lighting: 4:54pm
Join the J Locations Schedules
Today's Building Hours
  • Rosenbloom Owings Mills JCC
    7:30am - 6:00pm
  • Weinberg Park Heights JCC
    7:30pm - 11:00pm
Shabbat Candle Lighting: 4:54pm

An Artist’s Awakening

A Young Man’s Journey through the J’s Young Artists Division

The following piece was written by Steven Gross, a 2015/16 YAD participant.

Young Artists Division. Three words I personally have never heard in conjunction, but now that I have, I understand how much power they yield. I have gone through many arts (specifically theater) programs in my life, some including leadership training, most not, but YAD has definitely been the most group-oriented, motivating, and eye-opening.

Last year I partook in JCC Maccabi ArtsFest for the first time, in the Acting/Improv specialty, and although I met a lot of really cool people that I still speak with, the most interesting, energetic, and professional one had to be Melissa Seltzer (then Berman). At the JCC Maccabi audition she told me about this new YAD program she was starting. I immediately thought, that sounds cool and amazing for a résumé. A program that combines leadership training and the arts, perfect! At the time I had no idea how awesome it actually would be.

On September 16, 2015, our first meeting was to be at the studio of the esteemed Israeli artist, Smadar Livne. I was slightly nervous going in because it was going to be a new environment and I didn’t know who was going to be there.

So I go in and am comforted by the fact that at least I know Melissa and Julia Narrow, our chaperone from JCC Maccabi and one of the coolest people I know, and a few other familiar faces from Maccabi.

Still completely unsure of how the meeting would work, we all sat in a circle and introduced ourselves and then listened to Smadar’s story as an artist and what she does. She showed us a small piece that she had been working on a series of. At first it appeared to be a piece of construction paper rolled into a cylinder with some sparkles on it, but then she asked us to guess what was inside. We all had no clue and started guessing random assorted fillers. She then took out from under a table an old phonebook and told us how she was reusing them to make art as they were becoming relatively outdated in the technological era.

This immediately opened my mind to the amazing possibilities and meaning art could have. I am not a visual artist in any sense of the word, so I was initially skeptical about how much I could relate and be involved in the program as visual art always seems to be the dominant art form. However, through the rest of the tour of Smadar’s beautiful studio, I began to understand how even if you aren’t the best at something, you can still really appreciate it, and sometimes just learning to appreciate art is more important and interesting than creating it.

At the end of the tour, Smadar told us we were going to create a base for a painting she was doing. She got out a giant canvas and an assortment of acrylics that she mixed with water. She gave all of us a poem she wrote and a quote from the Torah that would inspire the painting. Then we each picked a cup of paint, each a different color, and one after another, somewhat haphazardly, but completely purposefully, splattered the paint onto the canvas. This experience was oddly powerful in the sense that we were creating a piece that looked like a complete mistake, but when Smadar was done with it, it would become a masterpiece, and that was just a beautiful concept.

At every YAD meeting we took about a half hour at the end to discuss our capstone project. We threw so many ideas around including public sculpture, community involved art, a video for the JCC lobby to show what we’ve done, charm bracelets — the list went on and on. Through every conversation we always came back to the fact that we wanted to benefit the community through art. We discussed volunteering at a hospital or putting up something at a public library. The capstone may not be a finished product yet, but that is the best part of it; it is an ongoing process that we started, are working through, and will eventually finish.

Over the past few months, we’ve had different artists come here or we’ve gone to them, once a month, for three hours, and learned about the application of arts in the business world, the power of art in healing, and in depth knowledge of different art forms. Our numbers and participants varied, but at each meeting, whoever or whatever the art was, we learned something new and that is what I believe to be the purpose of YAD.

YAD is currently auditioning teens ages 13-18. Auditions are required. Interested aspiring artists please visit jcc.org/HighSchool and contact Melissa Seltzer | 410.559.3593 | mseltzer@jcc.org.