A few years ago, a group of Jewish visual artists got together in Portland to form an artists’ support group. “Art is a solitary activity, for the most part,” explains Sabina Wohlfeiler, “and we needed a group where Jewish artists could connect and support each other and get our work out to the community.”
The result was ORA. According to ORA’s website, ORA means “light, luminosity, warmth, perspective, liveliness, brightness. ORA is a group of artists in the Portland area who have come together to support, share, inspire, enjoy and showcase our art.” ORA began slowly as a small group of women artists – “we took our time, deliberately,” says Wohlfeiler – and today, as the oldest Jewish artists’ group in the Pacific Northwest, boasts 20 members, including several men.
Each year, the members of ORA come together for their annual Celebration of Art, a group exhibition. ORA artists work in a variety of media, including paintings (acrylics, watercolors), stone carving, photography, fused glass, ceramics, beadwork, fiber arts, jewelry, sandblasted glass and paper cutting. This year’s celebration will take place on Sunday, Oct. 21, in the ballroom of the Mittleman Jewish Community Center, from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm. “Celebration of Art is our traditional ‘put ourselves out there in the community’ event,” says Wohlfeiler, a member of the ORA steering committee. Twenty-three artists will be showing their work, including ORA members and guest artists chosen after an extensive jury process.
“We’re committed to showing quality fine art work, but we also want to be inclusive and embrace both fledgling artists and experienced artists,” says Wohlfeiler.
Last year, more than 500 people came to ORA’s Celebration of Art, and Wohlfeiler expects to exceed that number this year.
To accommodate the larger crowds, ORA also is interested in finding a space where the artists can exhibit their works for a longer period of time. “We’ve been looking for a popup store to exhibit our work, which would allow us to show for a month or longer,” says Wohlfeiler. “Anyone who’s got access to some storefront real estate with decent foot traffic should get in touch with us.” Several ORA artists show their work in other venues, including an ongoing exhibit in the lobby of Congregation Neveh Shalom, and ORA also has exhibited at non-Jewish venues, including Geezer Gallery in Multnomah Village.
ORA artists featured in this year’s Celebration of Art include Barbara Berger, photography; Shemaya Blauer, touch painting; Roberta Cohen, jewelry; Lenn Decherd, ceramics; Leslie Elder, watercolors; Laurie Fendel, fiber/fabric; Karrie Perl Fox, silk painting; Diane Fredgant, painted silk; Judith Hankin, sandblasted glass and paper cutting; Julie Hockley, fine metals and stone jewelry; Janice Katz, acrylic painting/collage; Anna Kodesch, oil paints; Susan Kuznitsky, pastels; Esther Lieberman, beadwork; Sharon Segal, acrylic painting and collage; Ellen Shefi, photography; Eddy Shuldman, fused glass; Sharon Stern, quilts; and Sabina Wohlfeiler, watercolor and acrylics. Guest artists also showing at the Celebration are Bob Sorkin, photography; Jonathan Lietz, acrylic and watercolor paints; Hank Keeton, photographer; and Jonas Blaut, stone, wood and glass work.
ORA’s 2012 Celebration of Art is on Sunday, Oct. 21, in the ballroom of the Mittleman Jewish Community Center, from 10:30 am to 4:30 pm. For more information, go to www.northwestjewishartists.org.
Elizabeth Schwartz is co-host of the Yiddish hour on 90.7 FM KBOO Community Radio and a freelance writer living in Portland.