Mishkan Museum of Art director’s tour heads to Park City
Orit Lev-Segev will visit the United States next week
Orit Lev-Segev, the director of the Mishkan Museum of Art, Ein Harod, in Israel, is coming to the United States next week.
During the visit that includes Provo, Chicago and New York, Lev-Segev will spend Tuesday in Park City, where she will meet with Kimball Art Center Executive Director Aldy Milliken and attend a private afternoon event in Park Meadows hosted by the Women of Temple Har Shalom.
“I’m so grateful for this opportunity, because I have heard so much about your amazing community,” she said during a Zoom interview with The Park Record. “Park City is an example of a small community where the power of people has become so central in it becoming a positive and influential place. It’s incredible, and inspirational.”
Lev-Segev’s visit to the United States is faciliated by Park City resident Wendy Kantor, the U.S. represenative for the Mishkan Museum of Art.
Kantor not only arranges artist visits to the United States, but also organizes excursions to the museum in Israel. (See accompanying box for her contact information)
“I lead very behind-the-scenes art and culture trips to Israel on behalf of the museum,” she said. “Fifteen Parkites have participated in these one of a kind experiences. Each participant has stepped up with a relationship in the Circle of Friends of the Mishkan Museum. That’s how Orit’s trip was born and is now being so graciously hosted.”
Representing the Mishkan Museum of Art is the “ultimate honor,” Kantor said
“I spent a significant part of my life in Israel ( I grew up in Manhattan) and identify so much with the Israeli culture,” she said. “It’s my turn to give back to the country.”
While attending the Tuesday afternoon event, Lev-Segev will talk about the importance of art and culture in society, which is showcased by the work and exhibits offered by the Mishkan Museum, which was founded in 1937 as an “art corner” in a small wooden shack by painter Haim Atar.
Throughout the years, the museum has moved to larger buildings and underwent renovations to what it is today — one of the pillars establishing cultural life in Israel and leading the arts scene in Ein Haron, according to Lev-Segev.
“Although we’re a modest museum, which operates with minimal resources, it’s considered one of three top museums in Israel,” she said. “It is mentioned in one breath alongside the Israel Museum and the Tel Aviv Museum (of Art). The first two budgets are approximately 100 million shekels, which is approximately $26,150,500. Our budget is 3 million shekels, about $785,000.”
Lev-Segev’s role as director, which she was named as two and a half years ago, is a dream come true.
“It is a dream come true because of the collection, because of the building and because of the inspirational story behind this museum,” she said. “The word ‘Mishkan’ has a dual meaning. It is a home and a tabernacle. So, the museum is a home for the visitors and a tabernacle for the arts. That’s why Haim Atar chose this name in 1937.”
The Mishkan Museum of Art celebrated its most successful season this year, due to an exhibit titled “Spirit of Man, Spirit of Place.”
The exhibit, which closed on Aug. 5, featured works from five Palestinian artists of the Abu Shakar family, whose art has had an historic impact on the evolution of Israeli-Palestinian art and “the establishment of trust,” Lev-Segev said.
“Over the years, the art (exhibit) founded by two family members has become a place of open and diverse exchange, which never closed its doors, even in fraught times of tension and war,” she said.
The showing of the “Spirit of Man, Spirit of Place,” which provided a platform of tolerance and inclusion, at the Mishkan Museum of Art received huge local and international recognition, including a write up in the New York Times. The idea seemed so logical, according to Lev-Segev.
“When I (first) came to Ein Harod, I was told our population is unique, because it is spread almost equally with Arabs and Jews,” she said. “So, we live together. This is an example of living together.”
Still, Lev-Segev understands that these two communities are historically seen as at odds with each other.
“I quickly understood the ground we stand on is very delicate and thin, and every violent act brings tension,” she said.
To help strengthen the bridge between these two populations, Lev-Segev knew an exhibit such as “Spirit of Man, Spirit of Place,” which shows the struggles of the Arab people, would be a positive action in societal life in Israel.
“I have a responsibility to display art and open the heart with beautiful and important exhibitions such as this,” she said. “Because if (the museum) wasn’t here to offer residents cultural activities or cultural capital, there is nothing.”
Lev-Segev feels the weight of that responsibility, but also sees it as a privilege. And that was emphasized in a series of recent museum activities that brought Arab and Jewish middle school students together.
Despite a terrorist attacks that went back and forth between Arabs and Jews in the last week of March 2022, the students arrived at the Mishkan for a third joint activity, Lev-Segev said.
“They rejected our suggestion to postpone, and chose to make a difference to trust each other and search for creative solutions together,” she said.
The day included interactive puzzle solving and trust exercises through the exhibits, where one student would wear a blindfold and their partner would describe the art to them, Lev-Segev said.
“The Jewish group arrived at the activity first ,and we told them that the Arab group may feel frightened,” she said. “So we asked the Jewish group to do one thing — accept them with a smile. And I can’t tell you the magic that happened in our museum during that afternoon. You can see that they are creating a reality which is much different than what is shown on TV.”
Lev-Segev’s road to the Mishkan Museum of Art started when she realized a career in finance wasn’t her passion.
“After I served in the Israeli Defense Forces, which is mandatory for all Jews, I started my loan studies and spent some beautiful years as a legal advisor for the Minister of Finance,” she said. “Then I spent some beautiful years in a senior position in capital market as a senior manager in insurance companies and investment companies.”
Lev-Segev found those jobs, as wonderful as they were, boring.
“That brought me to understand that this wasn’t where my heart was,” she said. “Slowly, I tried to find a way to contribute to the education and cultural field.”
Since Lev-Segev lived near Jerusalem, she found it accessible to get involved in educational projects, and eventually was named deputy director of the Bible Lands Museum, where she served for eight years.
“It is a beautiful museum located just in front of the Jerusalem Museum,” she said.
“At that time, I earned a Ph. D. from Tel Aviv University that focused on the resurgence of the museum fields from the legal perspective,” she said.
In March 2021, Lev-Segev, who also is a member of the International Council of Museums, was named the director of the Mishkan Museum of Art, Ein Harod.
“As I said, this is a dream come true,” she said.
“Everybody signs in the show,” said co-director Anne Post Fife, who is deaf. “The whole show is signed from beginning to the end for the whole audience to enjoy and be a part of.”
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