MISSION AND HISTORY
Introduction to JAI
The JAI is an artist-run organization committed to fostering visual art by Jewish artists and promoting dialogue about Jewish identity and related issues among members of the arts community. JAI was conceived in 2004 by a group of artists acting as social entrepreneurs with a generous grant from the Jewish Community Foundation of Los Angeles in partnership with the University of Southern California Casden Institute for the Study of the Jewish Role in American Life and the USC Gayle Garner Roski School of Fine Arts. The Casden Institute at USC partnered with JAI, helping with staffing, underwriting for the Webmaster, and developing collaborative programs.
The goal of the Jewish Artists Initiative has been to establish a forum for artists whose work is informed by their identity and to create avenues of support for their work in relation to the Jewish cultural sphere. The JAI is the only national community-based organization involving Jewish artists at all stages of their careers with a mission to serve both the artists’ needs and the larger community. Our group believes in the transformational power of art and its ability to transcend barriers of language and culture. We have benefited from the emergence of Los Angeles as a world-class center for the arts and from the unique confluence of cultures that enriches the fabric of life in our region. Currently, the JAI operates under the 501(c) 3 umbrella of the USC Roski School of Fine Arts.
In the past, JAI has successfully developed programs at locations throughout the city including Hebrew Union College-JIR/LA, the American Jewish University, Skirball Cultural Center, USC and UCLA Hillels, various synagogues, and community centers.
In the first four years of this initiative, JAI has generated exhibitions, programs and lectures that reached thousands of Los Angeles community members. The panels and lectures organized by JAI have featured prestigious national figures including Max Kozloff, Matthew Baigell, James E. Young, Nancy Berman, and Connie Wolf. The JAI was invited to mount four ambitious theme-based exhibitions in six venues from Los Angeles to New York City all of which included additional programmatic elements such as panels and roundtables.
The JAI program was recently awarded ‘A Cutting Edge Grant’ from the Jewish Community Foundation. These funds were awarded in support of an ambitious JAI project entitled, The Quest for Transformational Jewish Art. The goal of this project is to increase artistic connections to Israel by nurturing exchanges between regional and international artists, encouraging connections between Los Angeles artists and scholars and their counterparts in Israel for research and study of mutually beneficial topics that will enrich the creation of new work by artists from both communities. We believe that these dialogues will also lead to the commissioning of art in Los Angeles which, in turn, will create new networks among artists, institutions, and patrons of art. These benefits will help increase the prominence of the visual arts in Southern California and beyond.
JAI is committed to creating cultural exchanges between our members and Israeli artists, as well as being eager to increase programmatic opportunities for the Los Angeles art community. We are currently exploring the creation of an artist ‘Beit Midrash’. This would be a sub-group whose primary goal is to meet and study the connection between observance and the arts. The JAI is also planning to participate in several conferences during 2009 and we are currently creating a community wide Artist Passover Seder co-sponsored with Yiddishkayt Los Angeles. Two exhibitions are scheduled for our membership during fall 2009 at Hebrew Union College-JIR/LA and the American Jewish University.