Getting to know the Art Gallery Girls: how friendship formed Art and Scroll Studio

If you’ve ever moved to a new city there’s one thing you always hope to do: make some friends. After Shelley Werner moved from Winnipeg to Calgary this past March, not only did she find friendship, she also found collaborators. 

When Werner joined Temple B’nai Tikvah, headed by Rabbi Glickman, she became friends with his wife Caron, and soon after, fellow congregant and native Winnipegger Michele Doctoroff. 

Not so long ago, friendship blossomed with conversations over cups of coffee, or trips to shopping malls, now, forging new connections happens online. Glickman and Werner invited Doctoroff to join their Zoom outings viewing Judaica, and Doctoroff enthusiastically accepted. Their friendship grew while they collectively spent time researching and admiring Judaica art, artists, and artisans. As Werner told me, “it was something we were able to do while becoming friends.”

As more time went on, the ladies told me they wanted to know more about the artists and their work than what they could find online. They wanted to dig into the lives of the artists they admired and find out how their lives “inspired” their work. And that could only come from conversing with them. By partnering with Temple B’nai Tikvah’s adult education programming, these friends became collaborators, and fashioned themselves as the Art Gallery Girls, founders of Art and Scroll Studio: a free monthly Zoominar featuring a Judaic artist or artisan.  

Rather than focus on artists, the Art Gallery Girls strive to highlight more artisans by giving them a platform to showcase “their craftsmanship and their capacity for insight.” By realizing this plan, Werner reflects that they as a group have already “learned so much” from their featured guests.

Glickman explains that the pandemic has given “us a special accessibility to these artists that we might not have otherwise, you know their lives are a little different right now too, a little slower probably in some ways, maybe not. . .  but it’s just, it’s almost like the stars all sort of aligned so that we could do this.” The stars may have aligned, but it is these ladies’ friendship that made the stars move in the right direction.

Talking to the Art Gallery Girls over Zoom I was surprised when Werner told me they’ve never really met in person, because they are incredibly in sync. I felt the support they have for each other, and the space they give each other to voice their own opinions and reflections.

Outside of their work at Art and Scroll Studio, Werner is a designer and dabbles in making  Judaica, Glickman is a dentist, and Doctoroff is a social worker and curator of Judaica, though each of these women have experience leading their businesses, a new project always means entering new territory. Energizing themselves and one another with a can-do spirit was refreshing to witness as it reminded me that we should never limit ourselves to what we already know. They celebrate one another in the same way they celebrate the artisans they admire, with respect, support, and buckets of enthusiasm. 

If you are thinking about tuning into an Art and Scroll Studio Zoominar you will be entering an inclusive space aspiring to touch lives and give those who might feel far from a Jewish community access to one. In fact, Doctoroff even noted that they’re all receiving messages that show their episodes hold “meaning” and “people are feeling connected.” The Art Gallery Girls want to build a “worldwide community”, they highlight pieces “imbued with spirituality, so you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy the show.”

So far, they delivered on their desire to have a “boundary-less palette” by featuring three very distinct artisans and artists who live in different areas of North America. Their first guest, Pamela Feldman-Hill, lives in Columbus, Ohio, and makes custom art pieces for Jewish ceremonial events, and paints biblical imagery. Their second guest, Nina Bonos, is from Sonoma County, California. She is a watercolour painter and mixed-media collage artist who is inspired by nature. On November 10, Calgary  based, filigree artisan Milt Fischbein was featured, and North Carolinian Galia Goodman, who makes paper-cut Judaica art, will appear on December 2 . They want to interview artists from countries like Europe, Israel, or Australia, but the time differences are a challenge they have yet to solve.

No one knows what Art and Scroll Studio will look like when in-person gatherings can resume, but at the moment, “we’re just kind of like on a river trying to kind of see where it’s going to take us.” And because of their friendship, and the community they are continuing to expand, wherever the river takes the Art Gallery Girls, they will always find support.

Header image design by Orly Zebak. Artwork featured is by Pamela Feldman-Hill, Nina Bonos, Milt Fishbein, and Galia Goodman. Photos courtesy of Art and Scroll Studio. 

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