The idea of a sabbatical year emerged through my participation in a national Jewish day school teacher institute for the arts conference in 2017-2019 generously funded by an anonymous foundation. With more than 25 years of teaching and Judaic art making under my belt, I approached Heilicher administration with the idea of taking some time off from my classroom to pursue Judaic Studies and art in new ways. The sabbatical, which I took in 2019-2020, gave me the time to study Hebrew and prayer, travel to Israel, work with a variety of mentors, and create new art collaborations.
Visual Prayer Exhibit
During this time, I studied prayer with local scholars and led workshops and created an art exhibit on the theme of Visual Prayer with my Interfaith Artist Circle. The exhibit has toured online and in person and is displayed at the University of Minnesota Wilson Library (through October 1, 2021) and then will be shown at St. Thomas More Catholic Church and School in St. Paul. You can see the exhibit online through the University of Minnesota and the Jay Phillips Centers for Interreligious Studies and Interfaith Learning at the University of St. Thomas and Saint John’s University, respectively, at bit.ly/3tgoIys.
Artist Residency in Israel
I received a Schochet Family Jewish Educator Grant to travel to Israel during my sabbatical and had an artist residency at the Kol HaOt art gallery in the Hutzot HaYotzer (Artists’ Colony) located outside the gates of Jerusalem’s Old City. I continued to work with mentors David Moss and Rabbi Matt Berkowitz and also studied with a Hebrew calligrapher and a rabbinic student teacher.
Before I left for Jerusalem, I led a collaborative art project resulting in an “Interfaith Prayer Wall,” a 6-by-9-foot canvas featuring original artwork by 18 women artists of Jewish, Christian, and Muslim faiths. The backdrop features architectural forms reminiscent of important prayer walls from three major world religions. Especially in this time of religious and political strife, I wanted to create art that reminds us of our human connections and common hopes for the future.
The “Interfaith Prayer Wall” was first exhibited at the Kol HaOt gallery and is part of the Visual Prayer exhibit currently at the Wilson Library. This wall has been reserved already for three more installations with interactive projects to build interfaith bonds through the arts. I hope to bring those interfaith connections back to Heilicher in the coming years.
Refreshed and Energized
The sabbatical broadened my artistic and pedagogic circles and allowed me to take a deep dive into my own spirituality and artistic development. I returned fresh and energized to take my craft to a new level and to bring my learnings back to Heilicher. Despite the emergence of the pandemic, I was able to develop new facets of the Heilicher art curriculum incorporating Hebrew calligraphy, Judaic art, and visual prayer.
I’m ever grateful to the Heilicher community for their investment in my development, and I look foward to continuing to share my experiences and nurture my students’ creativity into the future.
Another project that came to fruition during Aimee’s sabbatical was a website for her Interfaith Artist Circle (www.interfaithartistcircle.com) designed by Heilicher alumna Shoshana (Rosie) Mann. You can view Aimee’s Judaic art, and that of women artists from multiple faiths, on the website.
Check out my slideshow from my time in Israel.
- Judaic Studies