Our “PLACE” photography show was the first of three art shows the New York branch planned for 2015. Last year we saw the beginnings of ArtShare Collective, a growing community of Jewish believing artists we are gathering in the New York area, a city that buzzes with art! Our vision is to present culturally relevant, really good art as a way of reaching Jewish people for the Messiah. Culture-savvy New Yorkers love art, music, theater and film, perhaps because the city is such a challenging place to be and the arts “humanize” their experience. Thus, ArtShare was birthed in 2014 as a means for Jews for Jesus to gather together artists who desire to glorify God through their art, sense of community and love for the Messiah.
“PLACE” was advertised as a collection of the work of six emerging Jewish artists (five are Jewish believers; the sixth was a 22-year-old Jewish photojournalist who doesn’t yet know the Messiah). We were able to use the attractive, compact gallery at the Neighborhood Church in Greenwich Village through the generous relationship Jews for Jesus enjoys with the church.
We could not have foreseen that the dates of the first show would be some of the coldest of our weather winter. Foot traffic was limited, but not totally. We put a sandwich board outside the gallery that advertised the show and the special events we had planned each night: an opening night artists’ reception; Shabbat candle lighting with challah and wine; and the final night’s standing-room-only concert which featured the release of Giselle Le’Aupepe’s Painting Deserts CD. More than 30 Jewish people came in to talk and sign our guest book.
I had an engaging conversation with Gabriel, a Jewish Buddhist artist who stayed to talk for a long time. Two Jewish couples who stopped by on Thursday night returned on Saturday to see the show again. One of the ArtShare artists brought her unsaved Jewish sister and friends on Friday night.
Perhaps the most unusual, Book of Acts-like situations took place on Thursday night as we were closing up. A Hasidic man wandered purposefully into the gallery. He looked a bit out of place in this West Greenwich Village neighborhood, but he had come “on a mission.” Moshe wanted to see what kind of art would be done by Jewish artists who believe in Jesus. He told us his story and as it unfolded, we realized he had been searching for real faith in the Messiah of the New Testament. By the end of our 45 minute conversation it was evident that Moshe did believe in Jesus but had not yet confessed Him. Visiting the gallery brought him one step closer to realizing his own relationship with Yeshua.
“PLACE” proved to be a very cool, effective avenue for reaching into the community through quality art and significant conversations. The “buzz” lasted well past closing time each evening. We believe God has entrusted us with a huge responsibility: to present faith in the Jewish Messiah, Yeshua, through creativity in ways that are truthful, alive and engaging. May we be faithful to this task.