In December 2018, the Association for Israeli Decorative Arts (AIDA) sent four representatives from three US crafts schools to explore the contemporary craft scene in Israel. Below is a letter from Paul Sacaridiz, Director of Haystack Mountain School of Crafts, describing his experience in Israel.

Letter from Paul Sacaridiz
Director, Haystack Mountain School of Crafts

Dear Doug,

I have been thinking about writing this letter to you for the past two months, since returning from our trip to Israel. On each occasion there has been an attempt to summarize what was truly an exceptional experience, yet each draft seemed to fall short of capturing not just what took place, but how profoundly it impacted my thinking.

The trip was an incredible gift of generosity and from the moment we landed until the time we departed, we were taken care of in the most wonderful ways. Thinking back on that time, I am filled with memories of delicious meals, engaging conversations and close time spent with my new colleagues. In hindsight, I am so aware of the role that Aviva Ben-Sira played in our time there, and the incredible care and thoughtfulness she brought to the itinerary. Yet perhaps even more important was the way she translated what we were seeing and doing, placing each day in a broader historical and cultural perspective, all the while infusing laughter and joy into every encounter we had.

The opportunity to spend time with Mia Hall (Penland School of Craft) and Christopher Taylor (Pilchuck Glass School) was very special, and allowed us to make connections with one another in deep and meaningful ways. We forged relationships that will last for years, both personally and professionally. As executive directors, we are leading organizations that are going through historic transitions and we found common ground in our desire to create dynamic artistic communities and expand the ways we think about craft. What a gift you provided to us in making this possible.

Leaving for this trip, I was filled with the desire to gain a better sense of what is clearly a complicated part of the world and one that I had a fairly limited first hand knowledge of. I wanted to understand the difference between politics and the actual lived experience of people, and the ability that creative practices have in bridging difference and forging new modes of understanding. This felt particularly relevant in relation to my own perspective as an American in a country that seems to be constantly grappling with the complexities of race and inequality. I had hoped to find a way of reconciling some of this through the trip, and bringing some of those lessons back to the work I care so deeply about at Haystack. In Israel I was reminded of the importance of spending time
with artists, of listening to their perspectives, and of the vital role their work plays in helping to better understand the world. While this is inherently a central part of my life, there was something very moving about seeing this, with such clarity, in a new place.

I returned home with a broader perspective, and with a renewed conviction for the work we do in supporting the field of craft – both here and abroad. Partnerships were established that will yield exchanges as soon as this coming summer and collaborations are being discussed that will extend further into the future. As colleagues, we are discussing ways of working together on projects that will create opportunities for some of the artists we met to attend our programs and to travel throughout the United States. Collectively, we believe this trip will have great impact in the years to come.

I am truly grateful to AIDA for their belief in us as leaders and moved by the support they provided in making this trip possible. Simply stated, we need more opportunities like this one to help us create the world we want to see. Hopefully this letter will be read alongside the ones that Mia and Chris have shared and that together they will provide a full sense of the impact this experience has provided to us all.

With sincere thanks,

Paul Sacaridiz