Located in what was once an abandoned 19th Century building, the cultural center known as HaMiffal now hosts an extraordinary range of cultural activities, while providing studio space to artists working in different media. And towards the end of 2017, its production department became engaged in building an entire hospitality infrastructure, the ART BNB INN, that hosts international and Israeli artists from a range of disciplines.

While visiting the space, I had the opportunity to speak to Jerusalem-based artist Meydad Eliyahu, who has been involved with HaMiffal since its inception.

What a remarkable space for artists and for art lovers! When did HaMiffal host its first event?

At the end of 2015, we opened it to the public, inviting artists to create site-specific work in a range of media.

Can you tell us a bit about your engagement with HaMiffal?

I was the first artist-in-residence. That was almost a year ago. For three months, I worked on a series of paper drawings that reflect this building and one in India that I had been researching. I’ve also participated in most of HaMiffal‘s exhibitions, and I was among the first artists to curate here.

How does the process of working here differ from working in your studio?

Working in front of other people, and — at times —  in collaboration with them, is far different than working alone in one’s studio. It is almost performance art! And there is always dialog. It is challenging in a positive sense.

Who are some of the other core artists involved with HaMiffal’s development?

Among them are: Noa Arad Yairi, Neta Meisels, Michal Harada, Shavit Yaron, Tal Harada, Tal Ben Hamo, Yuval Yairi, Itamar Hammerman, Shaul Zofef, Ann Deych, Deborah Fischer, Gilli Levi, Kobi Vogman, Michal Chevion, Michael Cohen, Jonathan Ofrat and Elad Yaron.

Several months ago, HaMiffal began hosting artists from around the world who conduct workshops that are open to the public. Can you tell us something about that?

Yes. In late December, eight artists — of diverse backgrounds from throughout the globe — conducted workshops, engaged in public dialogs and created site-specific art related to the 100 meter radius around HaMiffal. Among them were the Brazilian street artist Manoel Quiterio, who works extensively with drug addicts and homeless people in his native country and the German musician, DJ and music researcher Nicolas Sheikholeslami.

What’s ahead for HaMiffal?

We envision it as a cultural center that continues to provide workspace and opportunities for artists working – both individually and collaboratively — in an all kinds of art forms. A few months ago, we published an open call for artists to create new works in HaMiffal‘s varied spaces. We received over 60 proposals and we chose ten artists.

And we are interested, of course, in engaging more people from the local community. In addition to running a gallery and workshops and hosting a range of cultural events, HaMiffal offers a café bar. It is quite unusual to have such a space in Jerusalem, and we are doing our best to maintain it.

And you are about to travel!

Several months ago, we were invited to participate in the 28th Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow, Poland to create a site-specific project in a historic building owned by the Bosak family. This is the first time HaMiffal artists’ collective will create a project abroad. It is a huge challenge and an amazing opportunity. The project, Sambation, will continue for ten days and will involve more than 16 artists from the HaMiffal collective.

That is so exciting, And what a wonderful model HaMiffal is for other cities!

Note: Jewish Culture Festival in Krakow began last week and continues through this Sunday.


1 & 3 Artwork by Meydad Eliyahu

2 Artwork by Kobi Vogman

4 Artwork by Brazilian artist Manoel Quiterio

Photo credit:  1, 2, & 4 Lois Stavsky; 3 Yelena Kvetny

Interview conducted and edited by Lois Stavsky

Support for HaMiffal is provided by the Jerusalem Municipality, the Jerusalem Foundation and the Leichtag Foundation.

{ 1 comment }

"Natalia Rak"

We discovered the wonderfully talented Natalia Rak a number of months back at NYC Art Battles at 5 Bryant Park, where she was painting alongside Chor Boogie, Max Bode and Don Rimx. We instantly fell in love with her vibrant, realistic aesthetic.

When and where did you first get up in a public space?

The first time was four years ago in the small city of Turek, Poland. I only had a few cans of paint, and the walls were small. Some artists start with letters, and some begin with characters. I started with female faces. I just painted one-sided faces. I struggled with the lines!

What inspired you to start painting on walls?

My boyfriend, Bezt, inspired me. I was watching him while he was working with his Etam group in an abandoned place, and he persuaded me to try. It was a frustrating lesson in humility!

"Natalia Rak"

How does your family feel about what you are doing?

My parents do worry when I paint way up high, but they are supportive. They display all my canvases on their walls, even when they don’t understand them. They are proud of my successes, but they are also concerned about my living “the life of an artist.” Their image of the artist is of this struggling person who spends all his money on art supplies, and then when he’s not painting, drinks or uses drugs. And they have a point! There is little money for art in Poland.

Have you any thoughts about the street art / graffiti divide?

Coming from a small town in Poland, I didn’t grow up with graffiti. And I didn’t think much of it. But now that I’m painting on walls, I’ve come to appreciate it. It’s quite different, though, from street art.  Street artists get invited to paint legal murals, while graffiti artists generally work independently. And with graffiti, quantity is as important – if not more so – than quality. Street art is more acceptable.

"Natalia Rak"

How do you feel about the movement of graffiti and street art into galleries?

It’s great. Street art is on the streets, of course, but the artists can also bring their styles and energy to canvases and other media to make their artwork available to people who would love to own it. Galleries are also a way for artists to gain recognition. In Poland there’s hardly any art market. It’s difficult to sell anything here. I’ve had more success selling art outside of my country.

Do you prefer working alone or with others?

I prefer working alone with music. Painting collaboratively seems difficult to me, but I want to have that experience.

"Natalia Rak"

How do you feel about the role of the Internet in all of this?

The Internet invites me to see other cultures. I particularly like Asian cultures. I also enjoy seeing the impact my art has on others – people I don’t even know. I recently saw a photo of a man in Mexico with one of my images tattooed onto his arm. That made me feel so good! Fans push me to create. It’s good to hear opinions about my art too. I have, or try to have, conversations with other artists online.

Are there any particular cultures that influence your aesthetics?

Not a culture but period of art. When I paint, I think of the Secesja, or the Secession period, in Barcelona. The buildings look like plants or nature. When I first started studying the history of art, I was inspired by Jacek Malczewski. Later when I became familiar with Fauvism, I became interested in the combination of colors. Recently, I’ve become interested in Norman Rockwell’s paintings, the way he showed emotion in different situational scenes.

"Natalia Rak"

Do you have a formal arts education?

Yes, I have a degree in Fine Arts from the University of Lodz. I also studied illustration, comic art, package design and silk screening.

Have you any other any other passions or interests?

Playing computer games. I like playing Battlefield 3. I plan to get Battlefield 4 and League of Legends. My black guitar is still waiting for me in my room. I also like cooking in my free time for friends and trying new dishes.

Do you work with a sketch in your hand?

I work with photos using Photoshop. I enjoy realistic works. I have many ideas in my head. And computers make it easier for me to change colors and composition. Normally, I don’t have a sketch.

"Natalia Rak"

Are you generally satisfied with your work?

Hard to say.  When I look at a finished piece, I often find some detail that — I feel — can be changed. But I might be out of energy or already thinking about my next wall. And I always think about how I can do better! I can say, though, that I’m more satisfied now than I was a few years ago. I can see my progress.

How do you feel about the role of the photographer in all this?

I really like it when a photographer focuses on the work. I don’t like having my face shown in photographs. And I think it’s great that the images are out there and that so many young people are getting into this modern art movement.

What’s ahead?

I’ve been very busy these past few months working on my first solo exhibit, Through the Looking Glass. I’m excited and nervous at the same time. It opens Friday, April 11, at Pretty Portal in Dusseldorf, Germany. I finished six new canvases and I’ve prepared three prints. I hope everyone can find something that they like. I am also planning to paint three walls in the months ahead – but we shall see!

"Natalia Rak"

Good luck! It sounds great and we hope you make it back to New York City soon.

Interview conducted by Lenny Collado and edited by Lois Stavsky; all images courtesy of the artist.