Texas Jewish Arts Association marks 10 years
Photo: Courtesy Veronique Jonas
Veronique Jonas, TJAA founding member and first president, stands alongside her submission to the 10th Annual Juried Exhibition. To her right is the submission by Event Chair Nan Phillips.

By Deb Silverthorn

If a picture is worth 1,000 words, then the paintings, sculptures and works on paper, along with the music and dance of members of Texas Jewish Arts Association members, have provided millions of words over the last 10 years.

Celebrating a decade of Jewish artists and artwork, TJAA invites the community to their 10th Annual Juried Exhibition, which runs through June 8. There will be a reception from 3 to 6 p.m. on Sunday, May 26, at the Coppell Arts Center. The reception will feature performances composed and presented in honor of the exhibition by TJAA members Angie Friedman and Sarah Price and her European Trio.

TJAA President Kim Kort said, “We’ve built a strong foundation in these 10 years and we look forward to the future, hoping to open chapters in other cities.

In 2013, Dallas-based art historian, educator, writer, curator and owner of Art à la Carte, Nancy Cohen Israel, hosted by the Dallas Jewish Historical Society at the Aaron Family JCC, spoke about the nature of Jewish art.

Glass artist and sculptor Nan Phillips was there. As she looked around the room at the other artist exhibitors, she recognized some from other artists’ groups although she didn’t know they were Jewish.

“It hit me there were many of us,” Phillips said, mentioning that some setups, shutdowns or opening nights conflicted with Shabbat or Jewish holidays. She came to the conclusion, “We needed our own group.”

Photo: Courtesy Jan Ayers Friedman 
Roseline Bodiford, left, and Veronique Jonas deliver artwork to the Texas Jewish Arts Association’s 10th Annual Juried Exhibition.

Phillips displayed a 3D glass and sculptural solder this year which was shipped from her home in Denver, Colorado (to where she relocated in 2022) to fellow artist Jordan Taub, who took over her classes and studio and took receipt of her work, cared for it and prepared it for the presentation.

“A Jewish-oriented group meant we decided when and where,” said Phillips. “We brought our art community and our Jewish community together. Ten years later we’re proud to have 125 members from within and beyond Texas’ borders.”

In 2013, Phillips and Israel, with Julie Meetal Berman, Jan Ayers Friedman and Veronique Jonas — painters and sculptors whose work was exhibited at the DJHS event — founded the TJAA. Sculptor and attorney George Tobolowsky wrote the organization’s bylaws and former member Kim Goldberg created the group’s website. In the fall of 2014, the group presented its first exhibition, “Bereshit — The Beginning,” juried by Israel. For the current exhibition, Israel reviewed and culled it to the 33 objects on view.

“It’s a wonderful way for me to do what I do,” said Israel. “The exhibition includes ceramics, metals, fiber and glass.”

The most important factor she considered was the connection to the theme, no matter how broadly defined. She did not know the identity of any of the artists while selecting the work, several of whom were from out-of-state. She looks forward to seeing the exhibition in person.

“It’s meaningful to have been the juror for this anniversary exhibition,” said Israel. “This group grew so organically and the enthusiasm with which it has been welcomed is beautiful. I’m proud of how far we’ve come.”

Photo: Courtesy Nan Phillips 
Nan Phillips, chair of the Texas Jewish Arts Association’s 10th Annual Juried Exhibition.

TJAA’s art forms include both the visual and performing arts: 2D, 3D, music and dance, literature, art therapy, art education and more. It hosts lectures and artist presentations, workshops and exhibits and is a resource for Jewish art teachers and students.

In September 2018, TJAA hosted The Sukkah Project and Exhibition at the Museum of Biblical Art and National Center for Jewish Art with submissions from around the world. In late 2022, collaborating with the Thanks-Giving Foundation’s Interfaith Council, TJAA featured the first-ever Artistry of Faith and Culture Exhibit, highlighting Hanukkah and Shabbat, at the Dallas Arboretum. Musical programs include last month’s songwriting workshop and concert featuring Joe Buchanan and, from the dance division, the award winning “Sh’ma Project.”

During the pandemic, the organization held social and educational programs online, including a virtual concert by violinist and TJAA music director, Sarah Price. More recently it created a support group for older artists to share issues and concerns.

Jonas was the founding president whose painting in the 2024 exhibit expressed the blessing of the Kohanim, their shoes on the bimah’s stairs and a little girl hiding under her father’s tallis reminiscent of Jonas doing the same. She knows this is something many children can identify with.

“We started with nothing but a vision and now, we’ve introduced ourselves to collectors, to amateur artists and professionals in all areas of the industry,” said Jonas. “The group is now open to those who are not Jewish, but who respect our heritage and tradition.”

The 2024 celebration of TJAA is made possible in part through the donation of the space by the Coppell Arts Council, the sponsoring of reception musicians by the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas and a gift by TJAA member and fused glass artist, Sandra Simmons.

Yud,” the theme of the exhibit as it is the tenth letter of the aleph-bet, signifies the numeric equivalent of the decade that TJAA has been a resource for its artists and the community-at-large.

“For such a small letter, the yud carries great importance in its role, both in its identity as a letter and in its use in the Hebrew language,” said Congregation Shearith Israel’s Rabbi Shira Wallach. “The yud’s ordinary nature shouldn’t fool anyone. Without it, the Hebrew language, with all of its grammatical forms and conjugations, would fall apart. There is no greater reminder than the fact that yud signals the name of God.

“The Chassidic Master R. Israel of Ruzhin taught that one of these small marks represents one Jew. When one Jew sits beside another at the same level, sharing mutual respect, pursuing deep connection, God is invited to dwell in their presence,” she said, providing a blessing to the TJAA. Further indicating the importance of the number 10 in Jewish tradition, Wallach refers to the Ten Commandments and 10 adult Jews needed for a minyan, without which the Torah can’t be chanted nor can the Mourner’s Kaddish or Sheva Brachot prayers be offered.

“Without loved ones surrounding us, buoying us through transformative moments in our lives, we simply cannot invoke God’s name. It’s the support of our community that allows us to understand and access God’s compassion and companionship,” added Wallach. “Through its participants’ explorations of Jewish art, the TJAA has sought to deepen connection with our tradition and with one another.”

For more information, visit texasjewisharts.org/10th-anniversary-exhibition.html.

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