This Thursday night, a group of women in Crown Heights will sit around a large table and participate in a farbrengen led by Sara Blau. What makes this gathering different than most is that a few of the participating women will be virtually present, skyping in from such distinct places as Canada, Morristown, Kingston, Pennsylvania, and Los Angeles. Their connection? All the women are artist mothers.
This is their first meeting since the group of twelve mostly Chabad women banded together about two months ago under a new Creative Soul initiative called “AMALIA”, which is dedicated to building a healthier Jewish society by cultivating artist mothers.
AMALIA, literally “Work of G-d”, sponsors qualified and dedicated mother artists who want to commit to advancing their artistic careers, by offering them $200/month ($50/week, $10/hr for five hours) for them to work on their craft. Currently AMALIA has launched a crowdfunding campaign to raise these funds before going for private funders if the amount needed isn’t met. The campaign can be found at http://jewcer.com/amalia.
Rivka Nehorai, the program founder and director, explains that “the point of this program is to remind these mothers of the great responsibility they have to the world to use their Gd- given talents, and to give them a structured and supported way to go about doing that. An artist has many needs, including a burning passion to produce and share their work. When an artist doesn’t listen to her own needs and neglects her artistic desires, she suffers and her family suffers. I’m here to remind these women that feeding their artistic needs is the healthiest they can do for themselves and the world, and give them a way to make their dreams a reality.”
Rivka, trained in painting at Rutgers University, found herself in a difficult situation as she raised her own two children. While her husband was very supportive about getting help in order for her to paint, Rivka says she is quite aware of how difficult it is for other mothers to justify using their household’s limited budget to take care of their artistic needs. “Artist mothers have great difficulty in taking their own needs seriously,” Rivka explains. “In addition, an artist also needs quiet, concentrated time in order to create great, quality work. Many artistic mothers try to get work done while their children are running around but it’s so frustrating to get some real concentration in.”
The program mandates a specific structure for its participants: Each mother must commit to working five hours a week, to which they get compensated $10 an hour for a babysitter or cleaning lady to take care of their home. In addition to the five hours, every mother must write three pages of stream of consciousness writing a day with time for concentrated Jewish learning afterwards, a weekly “artist date” , weekly check ins with the program director and a monthly group meeting/farbrengen for support and guidance. Every month, each artist must upload one image of artwork/ mp3, that will be available for sale to the general public. At the end of the year, AMALIA will have a group show at the Creative Soul Gallery in Mayan Center.
“Everyone always says that when the mother is happy, the home is happy, ” Rivka continues. “Well, this program is dedicated to making the artistic mother happy. Then their homes will be happier, healthier, and our society will be healthier. Plus we will have so much more amazing Jewish artwork in the world!”
The mother artists involved in AMALIA this year include Esther Rosen, Dalia Shusterman, Sara Chaya Elisha, Ahuvah Coates, Shaina Kamman, Devorah Weinberg, Rachel Baldioceda, Batya Bromberg, Gavi Slutzkin, Sara Blau, Rivka Nehorai, and Chana Levine.