White foam core. Eight-inch high panels. At ninety-degree angles to one another. You will completely cover each panel with a photograph. Your combined photographs will create a cohesive environment. I look forward to seeing your final project.
Drafting project two from our favorite professor,” I sigh, scanning the directions again. I begin brainstorming topics for the mini-exhibition’s environment. There’s no time to do a photo shoot with the first semester’s workload peaking. I need a unique topic and recent photos. Come on, there must be something. Got it—I’ll use Israel!
My post-graduation escapades in Jerusalem’s suburbs were still fresh in my memory. It was October now. I was in my eighth week of attending the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT), not for fashion design, but for window dressing and museum exhibition design. My first two months in Manhattan had proved to be both artistically demanding and rewarding in school and as a student intern with Jews for Jesus.
Israel had hundreds of signs, the letters all formed by lines at 90- degree angles. That alphabet was my inspiration. Instead of randomly piecing panels together as a walk-through exhibit, I would spell out something in Hebrew, forming a message from an aerial perspective. But what would I say?
Pre-Israel life had been only “slightly” hectic. I had finals to take, a recital to sing at, a diploma to get, a suitcase to pack, a graduation party to plan, a serious relationship to end . . . my mind was racing. Three days after high school graduation, I boarded a plane, sank down into my window seat, and watched the runway, the airport, Newark, New Jersey—my whole life in America—disappear beneath the clouds.
But I had God’s peace, his shalom. Over the four weeks I spent in Israel, God dispelled my worries about college life in the fall. That calmness and serenity became the message that I spelled out in the eight-inch-high model: Y’shua Shalom. Jesus is Peace.
Several weeks later I presented Y’shua Shalom. Silently praying that I would have courage to explain it, I walked to the front of the room with a jumble of panels covered in landscapes of olive trees, desert, wild animals, the Mediterranean, and open skies. With my words nervously wavering like Moses’, I began. My voice grew stronger as I spoke, and when I concluded, everyone (even our persnickety professor) thought Y’shua Shalom was insightful. I breathed a sigh of relief.
I don’t know if my friends at school will remember the message “Jesus is peace,” but that first project laid the foundation for my other work. This past April, my major, FIT’s Visual Presentation and Exhibition Design Department, installed a mannequin entourage of famous historical figures. Alongside Frieda Kahlo, Mr. Rogers, Amelia Earhart, Twiggy, and Houdini stood my life-size replica of Eve, complete with fruit, fig leaf, and snake. I was encouraged that I could portray Eve as a historical figure. “She” heightened biblical awareness from classmates and faculty who stopped to check out the show. A quiet Korean girl in my class, the first believer I have met at FIT, came out of the woodwork to ask me if I was a Christian. She was excited to learn that I was a Jewish believer, and asked me how she could speak effectively to her Jewish friends about Jesus.
After Eve, I created a tabloid-size design brief for a specialty bookstore about imagination and the creative mind, called the deep. It takes its name from Genesis 1:2: “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” The design was simple and geometric, centering around a tranquil, rectangular fountain, with a gray slate retaining wall serving as seating. If this bookstore ever comes to fruition, it will be a place for reuniting people with the Creator in whose image they were created in order to create! Until then, the deep is a significant piece of my portfolio and a witnessing opportunity.
I’m now in my third of four semesters in this Visual Presentation program. There are 40 students total. Each semester, our new professors ask if we have jobs or internships. When I mention Jews for Jesus nine times in the first week, I get the distinct feeling that they will remember these Messiah-centered projects.
Although I attend an art school heavily influenced by materialism, I want each of my pieces to reflect my Messiah. I’m in visuals; how can I not witness visually? If anyone asks me about the inspiration for my schoolwork, I’ll explain to them why Jesus is my peace.
Arielle Rothbard is a college student in her second year at New York City’s Fashion Institute of Technology. For photos of her work, click on this link.