February 3, 2012
by Rachel Rosin
Fiber Artist Heather G. Stoltz tells the stories of homeless men, women and children through her installation piece Temporary Shelter. The art piece, which takes the shape of a sukkah (free-standing hut), will travel to Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester starting today, February 3.
Stoltz’s piece will remain on display at Temple Beth El through February 17, and Stoltz will be speaking at 9:45 AM on Sunday, February 5 to share the stories she heard and the process leading to the piece. She will also be available after the 7:15 PM Shabbat service on Friday, February 3 to answer any questions people may have.
For the last two years, Stoltz has been interviewing men and women in New York’s faith-based homeless shelters and translating their stories into visual fiber art panels that make up the interior walls of the structure. The outside walls are made up of over 100 small fiber art pieces made by children in the city’s family shelters. Stoltz visited nine family shelters and helped the students create art which expresses their feelings about living in a shelter. Represented in the piece are the stories of homeless New Yorkers ages 4 to 75.
Stoltz, who worked as the Community Service Coordinator for Stephen Wise Free Synagogue, spent time speaking with the ten men who stayed in the synagogue’s faith-based shelter five nights a week. After listening to the wide variety of backgrounds and life situations which led them to the shelter, Stoltz decided to tell their stories through her art. Also inspired by Jewish sources, Stoltz decided to use the traditional Jewish symbol of a sukkah as the vehicle for the art. The sukkah, a temporary hut that reminds Jews of the years they spent wandering the desert, seemed like a fitting symbol for a piece about New York’s homeless. In addition, by displaying the struggles and triumphs of these homeless individuals on the walls, the ushpizin (exalted guests) invited into the space will be the homeless men, women, and children of our city instead of the traditional Biblical ancestors.
Since the large population of men, women and children who are homeless is a difficult number to grasp, Stoltz hopes that those who view her piece will see that statistics are made up of individuals each with his or her own personal journey. Temporary Shelter is made possible in part with public funds from the Manhattan Community Arts Fund, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and administered by Lower Manhattan Cultural Council.
Heather G. Stoltz
Temporary Shelter: An Art Installation about Homeless New Yorkers
February 3 – February 17, 2012
Temple Beth El of Northern Westchester
220 S. Bedford Road,
Chappaqua, New York
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