Being an Artist of Life

In 2010, Rabbi Daniel moved to Philadelphia to start a Chabad House for the various visual and performing arts colleges in the city, founding The Kugel Collaborative, a Jewish student art gallery in February, 2012:

Every artist must have a muse. Every piece of art must have a source of inspiration. An artist is essentially a specialized mystic, their work serving as the gateway into subtler realms of reality. The Lubavitcher Rebbe writes the following to an artist in March of 1951:

“…the primary talent of an artist is his ability to step away from the externalities of the thing and, disregarding its outer form, gaze into its innerness and perceive its essence, and to be able to convey this in his painting. Thus the object is revealed as it has never before been seen, since its inner content was obscured by secondary things. The artist exposes the essence of the thing he portrays, causing the one who looks at the painting to perceive it in another, truer light, and to realize that his prior perception was deficient.”

A Jew is charged with the task of being an artist of life. Our canvas is the thin (sometimes thick) veil that is draped over existence, creating a perceived sense of plurality and separateness from G-d.

Our brushes and instruments are the mitzvos. The muse is our study of Torah. When we employ our latent abilities, we can remove this veil that obscures our own eyes, but more importantly we remove it for others. The world does not declare one an artist if their work is never exUntitled by Jeremy Terner, University of the Artsperienced by another, and one cannot live up to the name of being a Jew, if they do not help others experience G-dliness in their own lives.

This is the atmosphere and sense of connection that we try to create among young, developing Jewish artists in Philadelphia. Our gallery connects pieces originally made with no apparent connection to Judaism at all. However, we always tell our students, that if they made it, it must be a Jewish piece! The Jewish soul longs to be expressed in every facet of life, and art serves as that conduit.

Sometimes it just takes another person to point out to the artist how deeply their subconscious is connected to Torah and how it is manifest in their work. The Kugel Collaborative serves to forge that connection and bring it out of the subconscious realm, so that our students can actively learn about, meditate upon, and question how their Judaism informs their art, and how their artwork expresses their Jewish identity.

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