Reciprocity: LA Artist Retreat 2019

April 7-10, 2019 · Los Angeles, CA

Sunshine, greenery, plant spells, and campfire singalongs – Our 3rd Reciprocity retreat was nothing short of a dream, with its immaculate weather, mountain ranges of plush green grass and its vast arrays of wildflowers as far as the eye could see. Our group of artists began their hike through the beautiful scenery at the AJU Brandeis Bardin Campus in Simi Valley, and even the guides who have hiked this route hundreds of times before were blown away by the beautiful bloom of green, yellow, and purple that appeared before them.

During the hike, one of our artists, Jenny Yurshansky, led a tour of the plants that have been categorized as invasive to the local environment, or in Jenny’s words, blacklisted. She brought with her the new edition of her artist book, Blacklisted: A Planted Allegory (Recollections), which contains short poetic narratives written in the perspective of the plant. Together, alongside the plants themselves, artists read these poems, prose and even spells aloud. As the sun shined and the wind blew, many of the artists were moved to tears by the beauty of it all.

Our group of multidisciplinary artists demonstrated openness with their peers, making room for creative development and deep emotional connections. There were a number of powerful moments throughout the retreat created through shared artistic experiences led by the artists, including movement sessions, painting, singing, poetry, knitting, oral history recording, sound design, and more.

To give a sense of the local LA art scene, we used the experiences and expertise of our local staff and artist alumni to teach master classes and artist sessions. We started off with a session taught by Rabbi Rose Prevezer, who offered a feminist take on the stories of women in the Talmud, examining its text as an act of creative resistance. Next, our Reciprocity co-facilitators Rebecca Guber and Rotem Rozental led a session on proposal writing, providing artists with the tools to present their best self and work in written proposals.

On Monday evening, the artists hiked up to the legendary House of the Book, where Christy Roberts Berkowitz guided us through a movement workshop and performance lab aimed to locate systemic oppression in the archive of the body. Later that evening, Barnett Cohen led a meditation workshop that circled around the relationship between the felt sense of thought and the emptiness of language. The next day contained a lecture with Joe Smoke and Steven Reigns, who discussed government grants and the support for artists from the City of LA. Needless to say, it was a jam packed and fulfilling 4 days.

We are so grateful for this incredible group of artists and for getting to work with our longtime friends and colleagues from American Jewish University. Already we are beginning to see meet-ups being arranged and collaborations beginning to take place. We are excited to see what the future will bring for our third generation of LA artists and look forward to nurturing these partnerships and collaborations moving forward.


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