AIDA recently brought Jim Baker, Director of Pilchuck Glass School, to Israel for a week to work and travel the country meeting the arts community.

Below is a letter Jim wrote when he returned from the trip, addressed to our Director, Aviva Ben-Sira.

Dear AIDA Trustees,

Thank you for the incredible personal and professional experience resulting from my trip to Israel. The weeklong visit brought me and my colleague Jean Mclaughlin, Executive Director of Penland School of Craft, into contact with key individuals, institutions and communities in the arts while educating us on important aspects of Israeli culture, geography and history.

Before going further, I have to express my admiration of and gratitude to Aviva Bensira. She developed a thoughtful itinerary and was an enthusiastic guide. As a gracious host, Aviva introduced us to remarkable artists, curators, organizational leaders and experts on various aspects of Israeli culture.

I realize the trip represents a significant investment for AIDA. Providing me with a direct experience of Israel will help to build a long-term relationship between AIDA and Pilchuck Glass School. Through subsequent meetings with my staff and board I have helped them to appreciate the scope, quality and richness of the contemporary art scene in Israel. This, in turn, has helped our organization to reaffirm its own purpose and mission to serve artists internationally.

Incidentally, the trip allowed Aviva, Jean and I to compare notes about our roles, challenges and goals as arts organization leaders. Our conversations were relaxed and fluid. Through sharing the same experiences, this adventure together has fostered a stronger working relationship between the three of us.

Another interesting and worthwhile aspect was the blend of intensive meetings with artistic leaders interspersed with guided tours of geographic and historic sites. Whatever I thought I knew about Israel was changed, shaped and deeply enriched by the trip.

Moments stand out that characterize my experience. Listening to Ayala Serfaty described her artistic vision within the remarkable production studio she and her husband have created in Tel Aviv. Walking alongside Professor Haim Gorem at the edge of the Sea of Galilee as he delved into the religious and historical significance of the region. Interacting with students at the Bezalel School of Arts and Design as they shared their aspirations for study in the US. Touring the ancient site of Masada and realizing how profoundly events 2000 years ago affect modern day Israel. Seeing the incredible creativity of students and teachers at the Arts Institute at Tel Hai College tucked up against the remote Syrian/Lebanese border. Meeting past students of Penland and Pilchuck in their own studios.

These and many other moments brought into focus the vibrancy, intelligence, innovation and dedication of Israeli artists. A week felt like a month and the trip a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. My thanks to all of you for opening my eyes, mind and heart to these artists. Seeing their work, hearing their visions and understanding the desire they have to expand their skills, technically and aesthetically, reaffirmed the purpose of our work together.