A Nosh from the Buffet: Selections from CANVAS Media Grantees

Gordon Haber

Last week we filled you in on fall offerings from our Jewish arts and culture network grantees. This week, we’re bringing you up to date on another important focus for CANVAS: media grantees.

The purpose of CANVAS Media Grants is to increase the quantity, sophistication, and range of coverage dedicated to contemporary Jewish creativity. We believe that the field can’t thrive without informed, engaging coverage. We support these particular outlets—The ForwardHey Alma, and Hyperallergic—because their writers understand aesthetics as well as the rituals, traditions, and history that inform Jewish arts and culture.

There is so much good stuff happening in the field; the selections below are just a small taste, a nosh from an overflowing buffet. Nevertheless, we hope they inspire you to engage with some of the most intriguing art, conversation, dance, comedy, film, and exhibitions in the Jewish creative space today. And let us know what you think!

Challah prints by Rob Shostak at Fentster in Toronto.

Since 1897, The Forward has published “news that matters to American Jews”—and been driving conversation about Jewish arts and culture. Its current iteration is an informative, engaging website that honors its vibrant and sometimes controversial heritage while still looking (ahem) forward.

Executive Editor Adam Langer says that The Forward is having a great year in terms of the arts, with, for example, pieces on Toronto artist Rob Shostak’s challah imprints and a deep dive into the complicated history of the Faux Hebrew font.

The Forward also published this fascinating conversation on the Jewish Museum’s New York: 1962-1964, and what it might mean when a Jewish institution puts up a “barely Jewish” exhibit. And there was this touching profile of Zvi Gotheiner, a dancer and beloved teacher recovering from a stroke.

Langer shares a number of upcoming exciting initiatives for The Forward:

“We’re planning two big projects for the end of the year. One will focus on a significant number of Jewish artists and the other is a multi-episode podcast series that I’m writing and co-producing that will exist at the nexus of art, performance, and Jewish history.”

(And let’s not forget Langer’s new novel, Cyclorama, about a high school production of The Diary of Anne Frank that has a surprising effect on the cast’s adult lives.) 

Image from Boychik’s luminous Next to You music video.

“Jewish, feminist, and full of chutzpah,” Hey Alma is a Jewish culture site that elevates the voices of all Jews, with a special focus on those who have been overlooked: Jews of Color, queer Jews, Jews by choice, Mizrahi and Sephardic Jews.
It’s a lively, entertaining site, and the brand distinguishes itself with its vibrant social media presence—on InstagramTwitterFacebook, and with their Facebook group, Hey Alma pals.
“Alma” by the way, is Hebrew for a woman of childbearing age with no children—thus repurposing a dismissive term for a new generation of readers.
Hey Alma’s talented contributors excel in the interview format. Recent highlights include interviews with a diverse selection of ferociously talented performers: Boychik (Ben Levi Ross of Dear Evan Hansen), Mizrahi multi-instrumentalist Yoni Avi Battat, and Julie Benko of Funny Girl.
Hey Alma also introduced readers to Daniella Batsheva, a Yemeni Jewish artist and the first ever female lead illustrator for the famous UK music website Kerrang!. Another great piece: an interview with an interviewer, filmmaker Ethan Fuirst, who directed this fascinating documentary about actors at the Tenement Museum.
Arts and culture editor Chloe Sarbib informs us that Hey Alma has “cool things on the way,” for instance, Atone, Bitch: A High Holidays Comedy Show. It’s September 28th (today!) at New York City’s Caveat; it will also be livestreamed so those from other parts will be able to enjoy this “evening of Jewy stand-up.”
Last but not least, Hey Alma is about to launch the fourth Almas, their annual awards for the best in Jewish pop culture—TV, music, movies, sports, and a reader’s choice award for the best Jewish pop culture moment of 5782. Check out last year’s awards for a taste.

Image from Mika Rottenberg’s video Cheese (2007).

Hyperallergic bills itself as “a forum for serious, playful, and radical thinking about art in the world today,” and we can’t recommend it highly enough to anyone and everyone interested in contemporary perspectives on art and culture.
Its coverage of Jewish arts and culture is consistently engaging and insightful. Recent examples include a two-part piece on The Yiddishland Pavilion at the Venice Biennale, as well as a fantastic piece on Aaron Bendich, host of Borscht Beat, a weekly hour of Jewish music that mixes oddities with Yiddish classics.
Hyperallergic also published informative features on video artist Mika Rottenberg, whose work explores globalization and alienation, and Josefina Auslender, an Argentine-born artists whose harrowing paintings and drawings were informed by Argentina’s Dirty War. Eli Valley, whose controversial political cartoons have been both praised and vilified, was featured in an article and podcast.
Finally, in a story from January that’s worth revisiting, Hyperallergic wrote about Philadelphia’s National Museum of American Jewish History and how it weathered bankruptcy and the pandemic.
Hyperallergic Editor-in-Chief and co-founder Hrag Vartanian suggested a number of “awesome” exhibitions with Jewish connections for Compendium readers: The Jewish Museum’s aforementioned New York: 1962–1964 (until January 8th), and The Stettheimer Dollhouse: Up Close at the Museum of the City of New York (until October 2). Finally, he’s “excited about” the Guggenheim’s Eva Hesse: Expanded Expansion (until October 16th). If you can’t get to New York, all three exhibits have online components that are worth a look.
Everyone at CANVAS is grateful for how The ForwardHey Alma, and Hyperallergic are raising the bar for the coverage of Jewish creativity. We can’t wait to see what they come up with in 5783.

Buffet image: Elif Ayiter via Flickr.

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