Exploring visual arts

By Lindajoy Fenley

There is much to report about rich experiences in world of visual arts last week as South Dakotans responded to the Israeli Ethnic Ensemble’s musical gifts with plastic arts, ranging from opportunities to work with crafts to an invitation into the studio of a nationally acclaimed sculptor.

Art at the coffee house

After the ensemble performed at the Red Rooster, artist Andrea Sgarlatti gave everyone a miniature painting. Sgarlatti, an employee at the coffee house, also supports the Fallout Creative Community, a non-profit organization her boss Dan Cleberg founded a few years ago. In the photo below, she chats with Yonnie Dror and Evgeny Krolik.

Yonnie, Evgeny and Andrea Sgarlatti at the Red Rooster

Fallout makes painting, collage, and other art materials available at the Red Rooster on Thursdays. While the organization’s mission is to make creative experiences available to people “isolated from creative opportunities due to physical, social, mental, financial or other circumstances,” everyone is welcome to use the materials. In addition to such art nights, the organization also sponsors film projects, life talk shows, theme parties and dances and open mike opportunities.

Aviad’s new talent

Percussionist Aviad Ben Yehuda had already begun exploring the plastic arts before the evening at the Red Rooster. Stacy Braun, who is a pottery student as well as the executive director of the Aberdeen Area Arts Council, helped him make an udu, an African percussion instrument. Stacy will ship it to Israel after it is fired later this month.

Stacy Braun helps Aviad finish a clay udu.

Aviad said that while making instruments has been a longtime dream, making the clay udu was his first experience. Perhaps, he said, he’ll become an instrument maker instead of a musician. But, he added, he’s not in a hurry to make such a change. He repeats his grandfather’s advice: “if it is meant to be, it will happen in all due time.”

Nationally known sculptor

Benjamin Victor, who in 2005 became the youngest artist ever to have a sculpture in the National Statuary Hall in the United States Capitol, invited the ensemble to visit his studio. He had met them at a small Friday evening gathering at the Jewish Synagogue scheduled especially for the ensemble.

Talya Solan, who along with Aviad and myself visited his artist-in-residence studio on the Northern State University campus, asked Ben why statues with happy faces are rare. She told him she prefers happy music and enjoys singing upbeat songs and would like to see joy in sculpture. Ben showed her a few of his works with smiling children, but noted it is difficult to keep a smile from being trite or misunderstood. Such works rarely stand the test of time, he said.

Benjamin Victor tells Aviad and Talya how he creates true-to-life scale.

Ben, who completed 13 life-size or larger commissioned pieces last year, is best known for his bronze statue of Sarah Winnemucca commissioned by the Nevada Women’s History Project and the Nevada Department of Cultural Affairs. He studied the life and writings of the 19th century Paiute Indian human rights activist in order to bring her spirit and personality out in bronze.

Impromptu encore

After the public concert in Aberdeen Saturday, Talya Solan attracted the attention of a high school reunion also enjoying a late-night meal at the Ward Hotel. Steve Herther, of Aberdeen Central High’s Class of 74, begged her to serenade his friends who hadn’t been able to go to the concert. Aviad accompanied Talya singing Ergen Dedo, a Bulgarian song.

Talya and Aviad perform for the Aberdeen Central Class of '74.

When it came time to pay our bill, we discovered that another person sitting with Herther had paid for our supper. Our benefactor, Stacy reported, also sits on the Aberdeen Area Arts Council board of directors.

Other Aberdeen stories will go untold as we are now in Valley City where local hosts won our hearts with a harvest dinner at the Sunday night reception, complete with turkey, cranberries, stuffing, potatoes, and several kinds of pie.

Theater marquee announces Israeli Ethnic Ensemble concert on Nov. 6th.
Aberdeen's Capitol Theatre


It was such a wonderful week last week with the ensemble. I am in withdrawals this week! I actually have to be in the office instead of being out and about visiting schools with my new friends. People will sometimes ask me what the best part of my job is and I usually answer that one of the best parts of my job is working with the schools and seeing the students reactions to performances. They are like big sponges just waiting to soak up what is being shared. The Israeli Ethnic Ensemble did an outstanding job at their school and community outreach events. Working with Avaid to make his udu was fun. Hopefully it makes it through the firing process and shipping without any accidents. Thanks to each of you for a fun and memorable week in Aberdeen, SD. Safe travels as you go back home.


Thanks for your comment as well as for all you did for the ensemble during a very rich week.

Aviad has decided to donate his udu to the children of Aberdeen. Please fire it and then make it available to music teachers at the schools the ensemble visited. I’m sure students will enjoy discovering how to get sound out of it as much as they enjoy remembering how they watched Aviad’s lightening fast fingers caressing his frame drums.

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