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” How Awesome is this Place….”

 Remarks from the

Dedication of the New Beth El Building

 Bonnie Cohen August 7, 2013

In 1950, a group of men marched our Beth El Torahs from the Balch Street JCC to the new Beth El building on Hawkins Avenue. The people who gathered that day included holocaust survivors, veterans of World Wars, and many who were the first members of their families to become American citizens. The people in the room that day in 1950 could not have imagined our lives today connected by the internet and attached to our cell phones. Nor could they have imagined a woman leading services and being counted in a minyan.

And yet, as different as our lives are today, there is a common thread that binds us together. In times of joy, and in times of sorrow, we are drawn together, to be surrounded by people who share that common thread. It’s not the building on Balch Street, or the building on Hawkins or even this new building that draws us together. It’s the connections we’ve made, the personal stories of caring for one another- that is the most important lesson of our Torah.

The Rabbis teach that there are three pillars of our faith: studying the Torah, praying together and doing good deeds. And to accomplish those things in a beautiful place makes them even more meaningful. That is the concept of Hiddur Mitzvah – to beautify the commandment.

God gave Moses detailed instructions to build a portable sanctuary so that He could dwell among the people. It was not just the work of the talented craftsmen that made that portable sanctuary beautiful. It was the workers generous spirit and team-work.

That same spirit is present in this room today. Your generous and willing spirit to answer every call for help, to get your hands dirty,  to open your check books,  and to support an idea, that few of us thought possible a few years ago.

The choices we made for this sacred space were respectful of one another and inspired by a reverence for God’s creations. We tried to make environmentally conscious choices wherever possible and we honored all who came before us by re-furbishing our treasured artifacts. From the Merkaz room that includes our congregant’s handmade tiles, Paula Newman’s stunning Ner Tamid, the mosaic artwork created almost entirely from recycled glass- this was a project of thoughtful and communal efforts.

I tried to make the artwork luminous and uplifting. The donor wall illustrates the seven days of creation and sheltering wings still emerging from the background just as we are still emerging from the transformation of our move. And the ark wall, is a pillar of light, a tree of life reaching to the heavens.

Thanks are due to so many people whose names are listed in the program. But I want to especially thank SteveBotnick, our own Beth El Bezalel, who had the vision and  expertise to make this happen in our community. To my husband Randy for all of his help and support  and to Jason and Roger Boltz, who contributed their extraordinary talents to make this place a beautiful jewel box. And to Andrea, the most dedicated and devoted President.

I also want to express my most sincere gratitude to my Uncle Jay Nusbaum (of blessed memory). Before he passed away, he asked me to promise I would create something beautiful for Beth El.

For his blessing, and for all of you whose names are etched on the wall of blessings, it is my hope and prayer that you continue to cherish and strengthen the common thread that brought us all here today. You are the true blessings of our congregation.

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WOW, How long did it take you to make that?

Here are  a few of the questions I ask myself when I begin a project: What is the theme and message? How will it enhance the site? Who will see this artwork? What is the color palette? What textures, glazes and glass tiles will work best?  etc. etc. The question I rarely ask myself, but probably should, is “how long will it take?”

To celebrate completing my newest project, I invited a group of friends to a studio open house for a look at the artwork before it travels to its final destination in Clearwater Florida. Everyone  always asks me “How long did it take you to make that?”

After 15 years of doing  large mosaic installations, I know the true answer to this question is not measured in months or days.

The answer is ” it takes a lifetime .”

It takes a lifetime to figure out the right questions to ask yourself, and it’s an ongoing learning process.

Making a large mosaic installation for a public space is a long and tedious process but it’s not unlike any other profession. It takes an idea and a vision and a  lot of work. There are endless details to consider and most importantly, a successful project  always includes really, talented, competent people.

The client requested  a video of my creative process and that was a first for me. It gives a “behind the scenes “ look at what goes on in my studio and explains my working process.

I’d like to thank all the talented and  incredibly competent people who helped me with this project. I couldn’t have done it without their help!

Kathy Davis- Welch Architectural Signage Company –she and her staff put it all together and make it  happen.www.welchusa.com

The Menorah Manor Foundation Staff- they had a vision for a piece of fine art to enhance their beautiful project

Randy Cohen, Richard Rossen- invaluable technical assistance

Blue Green– Videographer and storyteller extraordinaire-www.sceamingreens.com

Taylor and Jeff–  muscles !!

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Summa Hospital Palliative Care Unit

I recently received these wonderful photos by Linda Domokur of Domokur Architects. They were the architects for the Summa Palliative Care Unit  where I had the opportunity to create a donor recognition project called ” The Ripple Effect”.    I still receive  comments from people who have visited loved ones on the floor or doctors, nurses or volunteers who work with patients there.  Nothing is more  gratifying than knowing your artwork might brighten someones day.

“The Ripple Effect”

Artist Statement

When a single element touches a pool of water, a ripple occurs and its effect spreads across the water in all directions. Like the effect of each and every donation and like the effect of each kind gesture or word, a whole world can change from the actions of a single person.

The reflection of a graceful tree in a pool of water compliments the natural theme of the Palliative Care Unit. The donor plaques, the handmade ceramic tiles, and glass mosaic come together to form the image of a graceful tree spreading softly across the entire wall. It draws the observer closer to touch and discover hidden treasures: pressed leaves, organic textures, luminous colors, and words of inspiration embedded in the clay tiles.

The donor recognition wall allows each individual to be honored for their actions and at the same time, to be an inspiration to others, by becoming part of a peaceful, serene wall of visual and spiritual gifts.

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“Age is a Work of Art”

 

 

The New York Times has been publishing a series of  articles about Centenarians and their secrets to  longevity. http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/19/health/19brody.html?src=me&ref=health.

One article  about  Mrs. Tuttle (99) states that “only about 20 to 30 percent of longevity is genetically determined. Lifestyle seems to be the more dominant factor. As Mrs. Tuttle said in clarion tones that belie her advanced age: “I am blessed and I’ve worked on it. You’ve got to work, be cheerful and look for something fun to do. It’s a whole attitude.”

Each profile is remarkably inspiring and their stories force  us to consider  the choices we make in our lives. Staying active and connecting with other people   seemed to be the common thread in each of the stories.  They all volunteered, had interesting hobbies like dancing , art and yoga, and seemed outgoing and friendly. All had overcome hardships in their lives. Most of all, it seemed clear that they felt totally  responsible for their own happiness.

I have the pleasure of working on a new project for a non- profit  organization that helps seniors thrive in the Greater Washington D.C. area. The project is a donor regognition wall that will be generously funded by a gentleman who wants to pay tribute  to his late wife of 6o years.

What wonderful lessons we can learn from the older generation ! It takes hard work to be happy and that hard work is a real art in itself !!

Wishing my Mom, an inspiring artist , and most wonderful Mom a very happy 80th birthday!!!!