5 Questions with Hannah Israel: Helping art define our community

chwilliams@ledger-enquirer.comApril 6, 2014 

Special to the Ledger-EnquirerHannah Israel is an assistant professor and gallery director for the department of art at Columbus State University.

You are the gallery director at Columbus State University. Can you tell us about the gallery?

Yes, I have been the gallery director of the Norman Shannon and Emmy Lou P. Illges Gallery at the Corn Center for the Visual Arts at Columbus State University since 2006.

The program in the Department of Art is shaped to support its curriculum and educate the public about contemporary visual arts and history. The Illges Gallery presents international, national, student and local arts exhibitions during the academic year. We present art films, workshops and lectures.

Other Columbus State University satellite galleries in the RiverPark campus such as Bay Gallery, Fulcrum and the new media arts gallery, Art Lab, also support the vibrant energy of the Department of Art.

Bay Gallery is an exhibition space for student exhibitions, community outreach programs and for teaching support. The Fulcrum Gallery is a storefront exhibition space in Columbus' thriving Uptown district. Art Lab is an experimental space for students and professionals to present art works related to technology, located in the new Studio Arts building adjacent to the Corn Center. If you want to see fresh and new art, come and check out Columbus State University's art galleries.

Has Artbeat raised the awareness of the arts in Columbus?

Artbeat has not only raised awareness, but also has strengthened and enhanced our community identity. I can definitely see the change.

People are more aware and the attendance to the events has grown compared to previous years. Art is one of those things that is largely subjective, however everyone can likely find a type of art that they can relate to and appreciate during Artbeat.

The team of volunteers for Artbeat works hard to design and make sure that the programs for two weeks create public awareness and education.

I believe that Artbeat has initiated conversations about arts and culture and has established a structure of happenings. We plan to ensure that these activities will continue to flourish. This deliberate continuity will help strengthen creative ideas and inspire the community.

Public art is more on display throughout downtown Columbus. Are there any big public art projects on the horizon?

This year SculptureWalk added 4 new sculptures by our amazing students at CSU, and three site-specific public art works. Rachel Hayes' fabric installation at the Dillingham Street bridge reflected the beauty of the Chattahoochee River for two weeks as it swung and swayed with the currents and wind under the arches of the Dillingham bridge.

Hense's mural on 1211 Broadway created a visual abstract palate of shapes and colors. Orion Wertz's Art Container mural at the Dillingham bridge parking lot invited the idea of street art in context. I think that public art can express community values, enhance our environment, transform a landscape and heighten our awareness. Placed in public sites, this art is there for everyone, a form of collective community expression. I hope we can continue bringing in artists who provide and challenge our surrounding by introducing new and creative ideas.

Public art is a reflection of how we see the world -- the artist's response to our time and place combined with our own sense of who we are. I say yes to more and bigger public art projects in the future.

You live in the Historic District; what attracted you to that part of town?

Apart from being able to walk to work, Saturday markets, miles of amazing bike and walking paths, public art, visual arts, music, performances and a culture-rich neighborhood to raise a family, Orion and I chose to live in the Historic District because of its character, charm, history and closeness to the river. We also love the amazing people in our neighborhood.

What is the best kept secret in the Chattahoochee Valley?

A day of best kept little secrets: Start your day and see the mural by Orion Wertz at the Art Container located at the Dillingham bridge parking lot and make sure to see what's in the Illges Gallery. Walk around downtown to check the 36 public art works from Woodruff Park and up and down Broadway. Get in your car and head north on Second Avenue. Something good is happening in the area of town and make sure you taste the delicious scones at Intense Fork. Next head to Midtown and check out the Bill Viola video art, Kara Walker silhouette sculptures and the beautiful Robert Motherwell paintings in the Columbus Museum. End your day with a drive to check out the new Bibb City Gallery and studios, and Bombay Bay for some delicious Indian food.

Vital stats

Name: Hannah Israel

Age: 40

Job: Gallery Director and Associate Professor of Art at Columbus State University Department of Art

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa.

Current home: Columbus

Family: Orion Wertz, husband, Oskar Israel-Wertz, son, and Tootsie, our bearded dragon.

Education: MFA in Sculpture, University of Illinois Champaign-Urbana and bachelor's of art in Art History, Indiana University of Pennsylvania

Favorite book: "Hard Boiled Wonderland" and "The End of the World" by Haruki Murakami

Favorite movie: "Branded to Kill" directed by Seijun Suzuki and "Brazil" by Terry Gilliam (Hard to pick -- I love so many movies)

Favorite restaurant: Golden Chopsticks and Uptown Vietnam

Favorite quote: "I'll let you be in my dreams if I can be in yours." -- Bob Dylan

Best concerts attended: Erasure Wild Tour in 1990 at the AJ Polumbo Center in Pittsburgh

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