Not every Hillel offers students a teacher whose work won a Golden Globe Award or was nominated for an Academy Award.
Thanks to a grant from the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation, students at Brown University and the Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) will have a chance to work one-on-one with David Polonsky, art director for the Israeli film Waltz With Bashir, as an artist-in-residence during the spring semester at Brown/RISD Hillel.
The artist-in-residence program will foster two-way cultural interaction, according to Shirah Rubin, director of arts and culture at Brown/RISD Hillel.
"One goal is for American audiences to gain a better understanding of Israeli culture through ongoing interactions, and [the other goal is] for Israeli artists to gain the experiences of being outside of Israel and sharing their works in diverse audiences in the United States," Rubin says.
Students from Brown/RISD communities will have that chance to interact with Polonsky from February until May through a number of classes, presentations, student art critiques, and film screenings. One such class is a weekly screening of an Israeli movie, followed by a discussion and then an assignment to create visual representation of the movie as a poster.
Polonsky's presence also fosters contact between Brown and RISD students, bringing together students from an elite art school and an Ivy League campus.
"We wanted the artist who would come to be able to engage diverse audiences of students," Rubin says. "His background and his work with the movie would attract the widest range of students from different disciplines."
RISD senior Madeline Jacobs, one of the student organizers behind the residency and an art student, said Polonsky's diversity is what draws her to him.
"He's not so one dimensional," she says. "He's not just a painter or just an animator. He knows a lot about all of these different disciplines because he brings them all together."
When Brown/RISD Hillel sponsored a screening of the film in a local movie theatre, 400 people attended and an estimated 200 were turned away. Nevertheless, students find the artist approachable. Polonsky is a "really cool" and "down-to-earth guy," comments Brown senior Talia Rozensher, who is co-chair of the Hillel gallery project with Jacobs.
Mordechai Rackover, rabbi of Brown/RISD Hillel, explains that having Polonsky on campus falls in line with the organization's mission.
"Brown/RISD Hillel believes that part of our core mission is expanding the lens of through which people view our community, building and mission," he says. "By having David here we are bringing the best of Israeli culture and arts into a community that sees that this is not a parochial relationship, but rather this film, this artist in particular, are objectively at the top of their field."
About David Polonsky and 'Waltz With Bashir'
David Polonsky speaks at the Q&A session and film screening of Waltz With Bashir.
David Polonsky, who was born in Kiev in 1973 and came to Israel when he was 8-years-old, graduated from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Israel's leading art school. Since 1999, he has been teaching illustration and animation at Bezalel in Jerusalem as well as at the Shenkar School of Engineering and Design in Tel Aviv.
"Waltz With Bashir," a full-length animated documentary, follows Ari Folman, the film's writer, director and producer, as he reunites with former army colleagues, trying to regain the lost memories of his time as a soldier during the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon.
Polonsky was responsible for developing the aesthetic approach of this animated film. He created the artwork for the animation, and he supervised the artistic aspects of the production with his team of animators. Polonsky spent four years working on the film, creating more than 1,700 drawings.
The film uses a combination of Flash animation, classic animation and 3D and was not made by rotoscope animation, a technique where an animator traces a live-action image to create the animation. All of the images were hand-drawn from scratch.
Polonsky is the first artist-in-residence of the newly launched national Schusterman Visiting Artist Program, which brings Israeli artists from different disciplines to the United States for Americans to experience a vibrant and creative face of Israel.