YAKIR AND JESSICA.
They say it takes a village; and in Neradim, it does. SOS Israel Neradim in the town of Arad, our home for the month of May, is a living, breathing organism in its own right. The village consists of 14 houses (three outside of the village) in which four to eight children live with one of the ‘house mothers’ – a colorful bunch of women with kind hearts, strong will and even stronger voices. As we quickly discovered, everything is louder in Israel; if you are going to have a conversation or play/make music you do it loudly if you want to be taken seriously…or heard at all. I think we are beginning to catch on..
While working on this mural, we have become a part of the village, sharing all of our meals with different houses each day and spending much of our free time on the grounds of Neradim where the children play freely. There is a large age range here; the smallest being around six years old and the oldest 18 (all Israeli citizens are required to join the army at the age of 18). Additionally, there are always a handful of volunteers, either Israeli citizens who commit to one year of service or Americans in a sort of extended Birth-Rite program who volunteer here for three months. Needless to say, there are always people around, activities in flux and music can be heard at almost any hour of the day.
MARTA PAINTS THE RUG.
As to the project itself, the biggest challenge of this mural is not only the total square footage but also the height to which the wall reaches. The space is 4.5 meters high and 12 meters long. We are using two-tier wheeled scaffolding so that we can reach every part of the mural with the kids. There are also a few ladders which we let some of the oldest kids climb up to work on particular sections of the mural. This means we not only have to be organized about which specific areas of the image can be worked on by whom but also that our colors and their qualities are properly mixed beforehand, in order that we can be giving our attention to the children as much as possible during their 1.5-hour sessions with us. Since the mural is visually multifaceted, we have chosen to mix all of our own colors. We bought the three primary colors (red, yellow and blue) as well as white. Being that we live on site and also have the benefit of a storage area, we are able to do a lot of mixing, bringing a new dynamic to our final mural of the project.
FIRST PAINT ON THE EXTERIOR SCENE.
OFFICIAL MURAL PROJECT STAFF.
The mural is separated into two parts by an entryway. The left side (approximately seven meters long) is slightly wider than the right (five meters). The design is thus split into two parts, an outdoor nature scene and an indoor home life scene. Our idea was to keep the outdoor scene more lyrical and simple, while the indoor has a warmer, more intricate feel. There have been suggestions made by some of the kids and the staff as to various elements of the image, most of which we have been able to incorporate into the design (for example: turning the winding river into a road since Arad is most definitely a desert area).
GOLDEN HOUR ON THE HILLS.
UNDER THE TARP.
Thus far, most of the 110 children with whom we are working throughout the duration of our time here have been enthused by the project, many of them returning day after day wanting to help. Most of the children are at school during the day and get to paint with us in the late afternoons up until dinner time. As always there are certain kids who are very artistically talented or just simply interested in the project as a novelty who we have naturally formed friendships with. Yesterday was Shabat (Saturday, the day of rest) so the village was quiet, but one eight year old boy -who had no intention of resting- spent the day next to us while we did some detail work, rapping on and on in Hebrew until he realized that I didn’t speak a lick, at which point he ran back to his house and returned with and English/Hebrew translation book, complete with audio cassettes, and proceeded to give me a half hour lesson, correcting my accent and methodically going through the book, page by page. They say he is ADHD, but I’m pretty sure I’ve never had a teacher as attentive as he.
The children here have come from some difficult situations and have endured all sorts of hardships. Despite all of this, we have met so many special, talented and intelligent children here and they are for us beacons of light and strength. We are grateful to have the opportunity to share the joy of art with the children of Neradim and hope that this venue of expression will continue to grow far beyond the village walls.
LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE.