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Mosaic Artist Bonnie Cohen Creates Collaborative Art at the Adler Aphasia Center

The donor wall is installed at the Adler Aphasia on July 12, 2016.

Mosaic artist Bonnie Cohen designed this mosaic mural with help from members of The Adler Aphasia Center

The Adler Aphasia Center provides help for those living with aphasia and their caregivers. To celebrate their 15th anniversary,  mosaic artist Bonnie Cohen was commissioned to design a collaborative mosaic mural to honor their generous donors.

Mrs. Adler’s words said it all…. “It is exactly what I wished for…A HAPPY WALL!”

“This project at the Adler Aphasia Center in N.J was one of the most rewarding projects I’ve worked on”, said artist Bonnie Cohen. “Everyone who participated saw how art can bring people together to heal, to energize and bring happiness into our lives.”

The project was directed by Kathy Davis of the Welch Sign Company of Portland, Maine. Bonnie designed the mural and artistic concept with input from the Adler staff, including art and speech therapists. The design featured a winding pathway through a garden of mosaic flowers with the quote, “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”

During a two-day artist in residency, participants created mosaic flower motifs. Since most of the participants were only able to work with one hand, the project was designed to accommodate their physical limitations. Many of the tiles were pre-cut and the flower motifs were created using an adhesive mesh material.  Bonnie  created an instructional video with simple directions  about the project with helpful input from the staff.

After 2 days of intensive and invigorating mosaic workshops, 70 flower motifs were packed and shipped to the artist’s studio in Akron,Ohio. Mosaic leaves, stems and the background colors were added to complete the picture. The incredible staff even arranged a time to skype so everyone could see Bonnie’s progress in her studio.

Executive Director Karen Tucker said,” We love how the wall has inspired our donors, the pride the members have taken in pointing out the flowers they crafted, and the warm and welcoming feeling it exudes when any person walks in the Center. It was such a pleasure from beginning to end to work with Bonnie and the team at Welch Design. The process and that Bonnie and the members and volunteers created says so much about who we are  and how we want all those that enter our program to feel as they navigate life with aphasia”.

The upbeat attitude, the dedicated volunteers and the joy and camaraderie of the group made this project a success. The staff  had a vision, and Bonnie said,”I was truly honored to be able to help bring it to life!”

A Tree of Life with Akron Roots


As our 40th anniversary approached, Randy and I took out our wedding album to reminisce. I still marvel at how beautiful that day was in my backyard, as we walked down the aisle of beautiful lyndon trees my mom had planted when I was seven. Rabbi Feffer, of blessed memory, officiated that day, and I still remember his kind and thoughtful words.

So what a surprise it was to receive an email from Rabbi Feffer’s daughter Miriam, who is now Development Director of Washington Hebrew Congregation, the second-largest Reform congregation in the country and the oldest and largest synagogue in our nation’s capital.

Miriam wrote “a colleague coincidentally just emailed me a link to Beth El…and to your work!  I’m reminded almost every day of how many roads lead to Akron.” When Miriam saw the photo of the Beth El “Wall of Blessings” she recognized most of the family names, and immediately offered to contact me about working on a project to honor the donors of the congregation’s Tikkun Olam Values (TOV) Fund and the Charles S. Bresler TOV Center, a hub for the community’s social justice projects.

After WHC conducted a thorough review of artists for the project, I was delighted to be chosen to create the design. I worked with Miriam, Naomi Abelson( Tov Fund Director), and Rabbi M. Bruce Lustig, (the Senior Rabbi . For over 25 years, social action has been a driving passion of Rabbi Lustig’s and the congregation has a distinguished history from the Civil War period, during which congregants wrapped bandages for soldiers, to today’s efforts to address poverty, hunger, homelessness, bigotry, and injustice.

Working with Miriam, I came to know her as the super-competent professional (as well as wife and mom to a daughter just starting kindergarten at Jewish Primary Day School) that she is today. But I still remember her as an adorable seven-year old skipping down the aisle at Beth El!

Miriam noted that there are members of Washington Hebrew from each of Akron’s synagogues, which attests to the outsize impact of our small community, even in a 2600-family “megashul” and in the greater Jewish community more generally.  The boundaries of Jewish Akron are indeed elastic and far-reaching!

To everyone’s excitement, the artwork went up during the Days of Awe between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  A celebration took place at the end of Sukkot, where the new luminous mosaic tree of life was revealed. The artwork features handmade hamsas impressed with words highlighting the TOV Fund’s activities.

So now the 40-year old trees still standing in my old back yard, and the new mosaic tree with its Akron roots, are sharing a place in my heart!

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“Elegant, Happy and Inspiring”

Temple Beth Rishon SchoolBeth Rishon in Wyckoff, New Jersey was the location for my most recent project. Their wonderful committee requested a design that was “elegant, happy and inspiring” for the entryway of their new education wing. The design challenge was to create a design that would be interesting and fun for the students and still honor the incredible generosity of the donors in an elegant way.

Beginning with  the Jewish quote ” As my parents planted for me , so do I plant for for my children” I created a sculptural, dimensional tree design and the Welch Architectural Signage company figured out how to  beautifully detail the framing and tree trunk that frames  my mosaic art. The artwork is made from a combination of handmade tiles and recycled glass tiles. Each dimensional leaf on the tree represents one of the seven days of creation. There are small  handmade tiles that depict  nature images like flowers , fish,animals, stars and other Judaic symbols that children will be able to enjoy discovering.

This was a great collaborative partnership between the committee, the signage company and me. Kathy Davis, the project manager at Welch made sure we all communicated right from the beginning and, as usual, every detail was meticulously well thought out.  As you can see from the comments below, the dedication  ceremony inspired more donations!!

I hope the artwork will continue to be enjoyed and inspire generosity for the Temple Beth Rishon family!


“I really don’t know what to say except – wow and thank you!  Our expectations on the recognition wall you designed, executed and installed have been far exceeded.  It is just beautiful. Everyone that sees it is just blown away by its elegance.  The dedication plaque and letters are perfect.  I remember saying to you that we wanted something elegant, happy, and inspiring and that is exactly what we got.”

from Temple Beth Rishon, Wyckoff, NJ


Finalist in the 2014 Eco Arts Awards Competition


Eco Arts Awards announces the Top Ten winners of its third annual competition. Among the 2014 winners in four categories are familiar names along with many up-and-coming international artists whose careers are on the rise.

Mosaic artist Bonnie Cohen of Akron, Ohio was one of the ten finalists in the “Repurposed Materials in Art and Design” Category. Cohen’s mosaic artwork “Pillar of Light” was designed to be the focal point of a new chapel for Beth El Synagogue. The twenty five foot high, shimmering mosaic enhances the serenity of the sacred space and encourages spiritual reflection and personal prayer.

Cohen created the design using thousands of pieces of iridescent, recycled glass. Bathed in natural light from a skylight above and framed by a view of the sky and trees, the reflective glass takes on a different aura each season of the year and each hour of the day inspiring the congregational community to reflect upon the beauty of nature.

Scattered throughout the “Pillar of Light” are shards of vintage stained glass from the congregation’s original location creating an inspiring spiritual connection from one generation to the next–emphasizing the importance of preserving our environment for generations to come.

Eco Arts Awards encourage and recognize ecological thematic excellence in the arts. Another aspect of its mission is to expand the meaning of ecology to include social justice.

Eco Arts Awards founder, Kathryn Edwards, learned that being green includes the notion of how people treat each other in the grand context of the welfare of the world. Edwards, firmly believes that the ecological/environmental movement needs an ongoing boost from the arts to increase and stabilize its awareness in culture.

Eco Arts Awards now curates a comprehensive collection of ecologically themed art in influential mediums such as film, photography, literature, music, fine art and repurposed materials in art & design. The work is showcased on the website TheArtofEcology.org.
Four categories of art were judged: Repurposed Materials in Art & Design; Fine Art; Literature; and Songwriting.

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“Meet Me in San Diego!”

I will be speaking at a workshop titled “Art in the Synagogue”

and exhibiting photos of my newest work

at the Union of Reform Judaism Biennial Convention

December 11-15 at the San Diego Convention Center

If you or anyone you know is  planning to attend

Please stop by my booth #728


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Defining “Fine Art”

By definition, fine art is visual art considered to have been created primarily for aesthetic purposes and judged for beauty and meaningfulness.

When I applied to college I had to make a choice between becoming a fine artist or a designer .

I chose the design route and focused on a curriculum that taught me how to work with specific limitations to create the most beautiful and functional designs.

Early in my career as an art director, my job was to generate creative ideas to convey a client’s message. There were always limitations such as budgets, materials, size and space. The challenge for me, and every designer, is to work with limitations and create a beautiful, meaningful solution.

My newest project for the Greentree School illustrates this concept of merging fine art with good design.  The project included the typical limitations of budget, space, time and materials that come with creating a piece of art for a public space. Many options were presented and multiple revisions had to be made to coordinate with the architect, the school leadership, the interior designer and the signage designer. The school’s thoughtful and clear goal of honoring their donors and inspiring their students was the number one priority and my job was to create an inspring piece of fine art that (hopefully) will inspire students, teachers and donors for years to come.

The mosaic panels are en route to Welch Signage who will install the entire wall in Philadelphia in the coming weeks and I will post photos of the finished wall. See the schools link below.

Is it fine art or design? If the students, teachers , donors and administation enjoy the artwork and are inpspired by the message…. then I think it will be both!


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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.

Fatherly Advice- How to be A FINE Artist

A smart CPA, who happens to be my father, told me that I couldn’t make a living as a fine artist! So I pursued a career in the more employable field of graphic design. As an art director, I designed logos, packaging, signage and corporate identity programs for a variety of companies. I learned about all kinds of industries and corporations and how a simple graphic image can be a powerful way to convey a company’s product or mission. Whatever images I created, I tried to capture the essence of an organization with my designs.

With organizational and creative skills honed from years in the corporate design world, I set out to transition into the world of fine art by creating large scale art installations, with a focus on collaboration. Whether it’s a group of doctors and nurses in a palliative care unit, schoolchildren in Israel, elderly residents in a nursing home, or a staff of volunteers at a community center, I found people’s passions and stories to be the inspiration for my creativity. Each group I’ve worked with had a story to tell and an appreciation for art as a way to communicate ideas and touch people’s hearts. Art is a pathway to open a dialogue, tell a story, inspire conversation, and solicit support.
I try to understand the ideas of my clients and infuse their vision into a piece of artwork to capture the heart and soul of their community. I enjoy the challenge of helping people enhance their surroundings with beautiful and meaningful artwork.
In an effort to preserve and enhance the environment with my work, I have made every effort to incorporate approximately 80 percent recycled glass tiles into my artwork and use only low VOC adhesives and paints.
So, many years later, my father’s wise advice inspired my journey to discover that you CAN make a living as an artist, but the lesson I’ve learned on my own is that what kind of artist you are, is what makes a life worth living.

Happy Father’s Day Dad!!!

“Acts of Lovingkindness”


The Society of American Mosaic Art (SAMA) has selected work by Bonnie Cohen, to be included in this year’s Mosaic Arts International, an annual juried exhibition of the best in contemporary mosaic art.  The exhibition takes place at the Lexington Center Museum and Gallery in Lexington, Kentucky, March 1 through April 30, 2012.Mosaic art, one of the world’s oldest art forms, is experiencing a major revival both in the United States and internationally.

Fine artists are discovering the unrivaled and compelling magnificence of the art form and material in achieving their artistic vision. “This exhibition provides a unique opportunity to view outstanding examples of mosaic art from around the world in one venue, to allow the audience to experience the exciting ways that artists are utilizing this ancient art form with a modern and contemporary approach,” said Shug Jones, President of the SAMA Board of Trustees.  “These artists are using both traditional and non-traditional materials to really propel the art form to a degree unseen in recent history.”   Ms. Jones adds, “We invite the public to attend.  This show is impressive in every respect.  We are very excited to introduce Lexington’s enthusiastic arts community to such well-known mosaicists from around the world.  It’s a wonderful opportunity to offer an intimate look at a very textural art form that really must be seen in person to experience the full resonance of its’ beauty and depth of meaning.”

Bonnie Cohen’s artwork, entitled “Acts of Loving Kindness” is a dimensional wall sculpture that is 6ft high by 12ft long and made of recycled glass tiles, stone and handmade tiles. Bonnie re-interpreted Judaic symbols into a contemporary design for Temple Beth Shalom in Cherry Hill, NJ, which commissioned the artwork to pay tribute to congregants who have performed “acts of loving kindness” for their congregation. The artwork will be represented photographically in the exhibition.

MAI features the work of 56 mosaic artists from 24 different states in the US, as well as from Turkey, Italy, the United Kingdom, Canada, South Africa and Israel.  A vast array of material such as smalti, glass, ceramic, and metal are featured within the works of these artists.  The exhibit includes 2 dimensional, 3 dimensional, and architectural works.  Prizes totaling $5,000 will be awarded for the best in each of these categories as well as for ‘Best in Show’. Art collectors are beginning to gain a true appreciation of the richness of the art form and the texture that plays such an important factor in the work.  SAMA artists create 2D, 3D, sculptural and architectural works, from micro-mosaics using tessarae (literally pieces) the size of the head of a pin to colossal architectural installations, creating art that is both compelling and enduring.  MAI is a highly competitive annual exhibition that unites innovative design and masterful technique as explored by some of the best international artists working in the medium.

The panel of jurors for this year’s exhibition included Josh Blanc, President, Handmade Tile Association of Minneapolis, MN; Amy Gundrum Green, Curator, Headley-Whitney Museum, Lexington, KY; and Arturo Alonzo Sandoval, Professor of Art, University of Kentucky, Lexington, KY.MAI coincides with the annual American Mosaic Summit, a conference which will be held February 28 through March 3 at the Hyatt Regency Lexington.  The Summit includes workshops, presentations, and an Art Supply Marketplace that will be open to the public on March 2 and 3.The Society of American Mosaic Artists, a dynamic group of more than 1,200 members, is a non-profit organization dedicated to educating, inspiring, and promoting excellence in mosaic arts.  Find out more about SAMA at americanmosaics.org.Bonnie Cohen’s studio is located in Bath, Ohio. Her award winning artwork has been featured in juried shows and museums and has  been commissioned for public spaces throughout the United States and in Israel.  Bonnie’s  work can be seen at www.bonniecohen.com.