How’s this for an idea in educating the greater community about Judaism: Put it in a storefront. That’s the thinking behind artist Joan Rudd’s J-Kick crowdfunding campaign, called the Pop-Up Cultural Heritage Exhibit.
As one of two projects currently featured on the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle’s crowdfunding site at j-kick.org, Rudd is about halfway to her $5,000 tipping point to put a six-week, “out-of-the-box, experiential exhibit that will engage Jewish community through art and educate both Jews and non-Jews, including those who have Jewish partners,” according to the site.
Rudd, a sculptor and artist whose works have incorporated Yiddish and Jewish themes (she created the Yiddish panels that used to be on Northend bus stops), makes clear that the installation is not about her, but about Jewish culture in the Northwest.
“I come from New York City. I went to a high school where Jewish students were the majority,” she explained. But after coming out to Portland in the 1960s to study art and then moving up to Seattle, she began to feel her minority status.
While many Seattle transplants see themselves as fleeing a stifling culture further east, “actually,” said Rudd, “there’s a fair amount of intolerance [here]. I think some of that is simple ignorance of what a Jew is.”
Recent experiences of anti-Semitism have reinforced this, she says.
“There’s no sort of easy explanation for why there are Jews in the Northwest,” she said.
Other immigrant experiences are easier to track because they’re a greater part of the American narrative, and ethnic-cultural museums back those stories up. But there’s no Jewish museum in Seattle. Which got Rudd, with a little help from her friends, thinking.
“If you just wanted to do show and tell, what do you do?”
The result is a plan to create a pop-up exhibit as part of Storefronts Seattle, a sort of basic Jewish culture show and tell.
It’s a confluence of ideas, weaving together physical pieces depicting Jewish life, artwork, the “immigration stories” of some of her friends, maps, a historical timeline of significant world events, and depictions of the cycle of life and the liturgical year.
A little context could go a long way. For instance, the timeline includes the fall of the Soviet Union. Explains Rudd, “There are a lot of Russians in Bellevue because of the fall of the Soviet Union.”
“Why do I consider having a connection to Jewish culture or faith important?” Rudd asks. “I wanted to make that [question] visual.”
The audience, says Rudd, is non-Jewish. But that’s posed a challenge for raising the needed funds for transportation, installation, and to pay the communications manager she’s hired — despite feedback from the Federation that the project was exactly the kind of J-Kick they were hoping for. She’s also the only individual who has submitted a project, as opposed to an organization. Most of her donors, so far, are unaffiliated Jews and Jews in interfaith marriages, or parents of children in interfaith marriages. Most are women. Outreach to rabbis and organizations has received little response.
“People who are comfy in their own synagogues don’t see a need for this,” says Rudd.
If the project doesn’t meet the tipping point to receive her contributors’ funds by Tuesday, Rudd has a few backup plans. But the Pop-Up Cultural Heritage Exhibit won’t happen, at least not as planned. If it doesn’t materialize in installation form, Rudd is mulling the possibility of a book or a web version.
Whatever happens, it should represent “engaged Jewish identity through art,” Rudd says, something that says, “that’s who we are in Seattle.”