Anna VanDelman reports
Our April 2014 meeting was brought to you by Judith Leitner – Director of Visual Arts and a founder of The Toronto Heschel School – and by the letter Shin “ ש” (with apologies to Sesame Street).
Judith teaches in an arts-based integrated curriculum with a strong environmental ethos impelled by ethical behaviour. She develops the visual arts programme and wrote a Judaic Arts Compendium (see http://www.torontoheschel.org).
Judith led us through a series of activities that helped us see how letters can be expressive. What does the word Sh’ma “שמע” mean? The letter form has three branches. The dot makes it a ‘shin’ or a sin, depending on its placement. Are the three arms of the letter equal or not? What happens when we change their size? We looked at the essential elements of design: Line, shape, direction, size, and texture. We used big arm gesture drawing to create a “shameless Shin”. Is it straight? Lying down? Upside down? And then we made a “shy shin.” Is it small? Is it hiding? We continued with more variations on the theme of “Shin” (for example, “Shin” in shock).
And then we were invited to think about our personal connection to the “Shin.” We shared feelings about the letter, most of us relating to the Sh’ma and other words that begin with the same sound, “Sh”. As texture plays an important role in art, we concluded the evening by selecting or designing a “Shin” and interpreting it in textiles. President Karen Chisvin thanked our guest for leading us in an interesting workshop that opened a new window of discovery on a Jewish theme.