Ben Tellie – Art

Day 6

Concluding thoughts

On our last day we had some free time in the morning and early afternoon. We had the option of going to Shul and eating with Rabbi Frolich and the community at Talmud Torah Building of the Dohany Synagogue or spending some time on our own. Ildi invited me and Natalie to her house for lunch along with Cili, Natalie’s partner teacher. I ended up having lunch with Ildi and it was a wonderful experience. Ildi lives in an old apartment complex on the Pest side. She was so nice and accommodating as she had made us a wonderful meal. It almost felt like a Thanksgiving dinner with the amount of food and care put into the set up, organization, and food preparations. There were various cheese dips, breads, dried plums, fruits, and a vegetable lasagna along with wine. We had shared great conversations reflecting on our week and explored the differences and similarities between Hungarian and American educational systems and our time in Budapest.

After lunch Ildi showed us artwork that she had made consisting of pen and ink drawings, lithographic prints, and oil paintings, all of which were very impressive and moving. Ildi works with different figurative dreamlike narratives. I could see influences from the art movements of surrealism and regionalism and cultural and perhaps spiritual undertones from Buddhist thought and Indian culture. Ildi works very hard at what she does and concentrates on creating artwork during the week and weekends. When Natalie asked her how does she manage to do all of this Ildi said to us that “time is an illusion, it can be done!” “You make time to do things.” I thought this was a very true statement and one worth reflecting on more deeply.

After lunch at Ildi’s house we had a tour of Budapest’s sites including different landmarks around town and a holocaust shoe memorial by the chain bridge. We also celebrated the Havdala ceremony by the river.

We fished the evening with an amazing cruise on the Danube river and took some photos of the city. The city just glows at night and is illuminated with golden yellow tones. Landmarks such as bridges, parliament, the castle, freedom statue, and many other sites really become an extraordinary site to look at. We had a farewell dinner at Tel Aviv Café which included very special and moving words of thanks by Alan, Gylnis, and the rest of the teaching crew. It was an unforgettable last day in Budapest.

In my spare time in Budapest during the week, I was able to visit some sites with my colleagues including the open market, Szechenyi baths, walking around the city with Paul, and spending time with my new found colleagues at the school. This trip helped me develop a bond between my JDS colleagues that I don’t often get to see at school because we work on opposite sides of the building. I feel like we got to know each other on a more personal level and were able to establish a deeper friendship. I really value this part of my experience.

I understand that this is the beginning of our journey and we hope to move the Morim project forward in new ways in the upcoming years. I am very thankful that I had the opportunity to participate in the program and experience Budapest and the many amazing things the city has to offer including its rich presence of Jewish identity and culture. Without Alan and Gylnis this trip would not have been possible. So thank you for all the work you continue to do to help and support the Jewish communities of Hungary and Budapest and all over Europe. Your work means a lot to me and I will share this with the community in many ways.

Moving forward, I plan to stay in touch with Ildi and Cili and hope to reach out to the other Lauder school teachers and administration. I would like to skype with the art classes I have taught and maybe do a joint lesson between us, which would be amazing.

I also feel like we can get involved with different types of projects that we can send to each other. Even if its just some artist trading cards, letters of correspondence, or small works of art sent back and forth. I am really looking forward to seeing if the Lauder teachers will come to the US and teach at CESJDS and the possibility of bringing students with them and vice versa. I feel there are many possibilities moving forward.

Day 5

Thank you to the Lauder School Community!

I would like to thank Ildiko Szarvas for opening up her art classroom to me and providing me with her expertise and knowledge in the fine arts and art education. It has been an absolute honor to work with her in the classroom and with her students. I would like to thank the students at The Lauder School for all their hard work in participating in the Morim Project. Your enthusiasm, energy, and commitment is first rate and I cannot thank you enough. Thank you to all the staff, faculty, and administration for opening up your doors and welcoming all of us to your lovely school community.

I am going back to Maryland, taking with me an experience that will last a life time and I cannot wait to share your student artwork with my own students and the school community. Thank you!

Today, Ildi and her students help set up our art exhibit of student work in the school community. They did a fabulous job and it was nice to see the projects come together. It completely came to life within the school and got the kids, parents, and teachers talking about the art classes this week. It was really wonderful to be apart of the exhibit.

We met with the head of school, Gabor, and spoke with him about the school community and our impressions and reflections, sharing back and forth about Charles E. Smith Jewish Day School and what the school culture is like compared to the Lauder School.

We also met with the new Israeli Ambassador to Hungary today. The Ambassador shared his thoughts on several topics including the relationship between the Jewish communities of both Israel and Hungary and spoke on various topics including education, politics, and his background and why he choose to become an ambassador.

We had Shabbat dinner with about twelve young millennials at Moishe house. Moishe house is a commune for young Jewish adults in their 20’s:

Moishe House – Budapest

Welcome to Moishe House Budapest! For constantly update information, visit our Facebook page: Every month, we organise seven programmes for …

We had a chance to speak with the residents, professionals, and students who are just starting their Jewish journey and learning more about their Jewish identity. The dinner was lead by Paul who did an amazing job and the evening was filled with great food, celebration, and enthusiasm.

We have some free time on Saturday in the morning. I am going to be having lunch with Ildi and Natalie and her partner teacher and then we are off to do more sight-seeing this afternoon around 2PM!

Day 4

The Lauder and Scheiber Schools and the Jewish Hospital

I am writing my blog post both in the middle and at the end of my day. Today we teach at the Lauder School and the Scheiber school. I am looking forward to working with Ildiko putting together an art exhibition of student work for the community today and tomorrow. I am also going to work with Yaffa and a few other teachers to try and showcase any work that was produced as a result of the program. I’m very excited to participate in this endeavor.

This was my last session working with my 9th grade sections on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. I am most impressed with how interested and dedicated they were trying to tackle a larger project about their own self-identity. I learned many new things from the students and about their cultural identity. I also often take for granted how simple materials like glue sticks, scissors, and pencils can be so meaningful and how these students take these materials and really create some magnificent things from them.

Students were very productive in today’s work session. I wish I had more time to work with them. Students did not finish their collages because the paper they were working on was very large. At the beginning of the lesson, Ildiko and I decided that working large would be nice for students so they have room to spread out and really get into their design work. Students showed a story about themselves and really tried to be honest in their artwork. Two students in both classes made collages about their passion for photography showcasing images of cameras, lenses, and other materials related to photography. Other students were able to showcase their interests in graphic novels, poetry, going to the movies, or ice skating. I spoke with each student about the ways in which they might think about their compositions, taking the viewers eye around the page in an interesting way and trying to fill the white space as much as possible. One student today told me about his camp experiences in the summer time and drew his own logo for the camp on his collage, a symbol that represents who he is inside of the camp atmosphere. He described his camp as a camp for students interested in graphic novels, magic, gaming, and comic books.

As I went to lunch and then came back to Ildiko’s room, I noticed that students from my classes this morning had come back to work on their projects. Students commented to me that “this project was fun and they wanted to work on it more to finish.” I’m very impressed with the students’ eagerness to work further and I’m happy to hear that the projects were successful. I feel like they are gaining a whole new understanding of themselves just through coming into to work on their projects further and work with one another.

Ildiko has her art classroom organized so every student knows where the art materials are. Some materials appear to be in boxes, others in bins on shelves, and everything is labeled clearly. I’m looking forward to bringing some of these organizational techniques home with me after the trip.

The Scheiber High School

I thought my experience at the Scheiber school was interesting. When we arrived we were welcomed by the principal of the school and sat in on a meeting about the school’s mission. I was most impressed with the school’s commitment to community service and it’s dedication to the student body. The school is a public high school and Jewish and Non-Jewish students are in attendance. I soon met with the art teacher of the school, Levente Radvanszki.

Levente was a very nice person and expressed that he was a painter. We had no time to chat because we were off to start my class. My goal was to teach a 45 minute lesson with a class of 12 seniors. I conducted my art lesson about having students create a small work of art about a place in their community or outside their community in which they feel connected to and went through my presentation of work.

I started out by asking each student to tell me their names and anything they might want to share about their experiences in art classes in the school or what their favorite medium was. Students were hesitant to answer because they seemed to be a bit reserved about their English language skills and using them with me, or at least that was my initial impression. A student from the back of the room spoke for the class and told me a short story of what the class was and their grade level and what he enjoyed about the class.

Students were very polite and participated with enjoyment in my lesson. The students even let me take their artwork, that they made, home with me and the instructor and I traded artworks. Levente gave me his piece that he made in my class and I gave him a black pen and ink drawing I made on the airplane ride to Frankfurt.

I was very pleased with how the lesson went and so were the students.

I asked the students about the room we were in and they said it was a general classroom. It clearly was not an art studio. I was under the impression that the school does not have an art studio. I am going to keep in touch with Levente to get more feedback on that. It made me want to ask questions as we just did not have enough time to sit and debrief as Levente had to go teach another class. Does the school have an art space and a materials budget for art supplies? Students just pulled out what they had on them to make their artwork like pens, pencils, and highlighters. I also wondered if the students had an opportunity to explore Judaism and art making and begin to examine more questions about their own self-identity. I am going to follow up with Levente to ask him more questions about his students and the art curriculum.

I wish I had the opportunity to teach here during the week and spend more time with this class in order to make a more impactful mark in the classroom. From speaking to the students briefly, I understand that they learn about art history, different contemporary artists, and learn how to make art in the curriculum. I just want to know more specifics. The students seemed wonderful and they did end up sharing more at the end of the lesson in a share discussion about their work!

After the Scheiber school we went to a Jewish Hospital for the elderly where we comforted and visited patients, providing them with gloves, scarves, hats, and hand cream. Smiles came upon their faces when they saw us and they were glowing with joy and excitement that we were here to see them. Many of the patients had Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease and do not have visitors come see them on a regular basis. I thought this was such meaningful work in so many ways and it touched me very deeply tonight.

In my adolescent years, I was a volunteer assistant art therapist in high school at a VAMC in Wilkes-Barre, PA. It made me think of my community service work within the rehab and geriatrics department, working with watercolor painting projects with patients and trying to have them work through memories and trauma from the Vietnam war.

Dedicating some time to visit the elderly is a very meaningful service and wonderful way to give back to the community in which you live. The hospital staff wages are minimal and it’s a small team who works at the Jewish hospital almost round the clock giving care to their patients. SOS International is having a discussion with us on what we might be able to do for the hospital and what that would look like:

Here are some potential options and thinking out loud tonight:

  • Have students in art and design classes at CESJDS make artwork for the patients at the Jewish hospital to brighten their room spaces. Just seeing artwork on the wall can make a tremendous difference in terms of their emotional wellbeing. This could be done twice a year or in the semester as a major project for my courses.
  • Have student volunteers from the Lauder and Scheiber schools or even CEU students complete community service work by visiting patients and providing them with some type of service: artwork, music, writing letters, poems, donating puzzle books, reading materials, or other meaningful activities for them to engage.  Young people in the Jewish and non-Jewish community from Budapest and the 7th district need to become involved in this process.
  • Find hospital volunteer organizations and reach out to them to help out or form an abroad program to help out inside the Jewish Hospital in Budapest:

    Volunteer in Hospitals Abroad |

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    We ended the evening by having a great tour of heroes square, City park, Andrassy Ave, Wallenberg Memorial in the 13th district, Tom Lantos memorial and finished with a great meal at Carmel with Linda and Benji from Frankel Shul Community.

Day 3

Exploring dialogue in the art classroom and European Central University

In teaching today, the students worked marvelously on their self-portrait projects. I spoke with the 9th and 10th grade students about creating an artwork that would represent themselves or tell a story about themselves in some way. First students took a selfie and printed their portraits and collaged them onto their papers to start. In yesterday’s presentation, we discussed many different artists work and the concept of macro and micro. I wanted students to incorporate these concepts into their work for today’s session. We discussed how to communicate a message about a space in or outside their community in which they felt connected to in some way and linking it to the theme of place to add to their art project. There were many different directions students could go in and I wanted them to work in a mixed media format to tell the story of who they are.

At the end of the studio work session today, I conducted a think, pair, share activity in which the students turned to their partners and discussed their work. They had to share some things they liked about the work and offer some constructive feedback and suggestions for their partner in order to continue and move forward with their pieces. When it came time to share out to the larger group, and communicate ideas about their partner’s work, some groups felt comfortable and others did not.

Although students seemed adequate in discussing the artist work I presented yesterday, I realized that students were not used to talking about their own artwork in English. Some students were sharing, but others seemed shy and more reserved. After the class had ended I had a discussion with their English language teacher to talk about ways in which the students could communicate their ideas effectively in tomorrow’s group discussion. The English language teacher shared different ways in which I might structure the discussion including speaking points projected on screen. We had a productive discussion and I thought I would give them the following assignment for tomorrow at the end of the work session:

Speaking points / Artist statement guidelines                                        

Self-Identity Network Project / Ben Tellie

Today in class, I would like you to share your work with the group near the end of our class session.  Here are some guidelines for both speaking about your work and writing about your work in your artist statement. Your artist statement is due Friday morning at the beginning of the school day. Please drop off your statement when you come into school in the artroom. Don’t forget to have your name and a title for your work:

  • Tell us one thing you like about your work.
  • What materials did you use and why are they important for your project? (Speaking about your artistic process)
  • What was the best thing about your experience making your artwork?
  • What’s one thing you might do to improve your work? Or, if you had to change one thing about your work what might it be?

I also wanted to put up an art exhibition of student work in the Lauder School Community Friday morning. I am currently working with students to have them finish up their work so we can showcase it and have them write a small artist statements to go along with their pieces. I hope that this exhibit will inspire the community and add to the already wonderful art programming they have lead by Ildiko and her students. I am very proud to be working with them and Ildiko on these projects.

After the Lauder school today we left at 11:45AM to go to Central European University. I am most impressed with the university’s facilities and the technology they offer in each classroom. Everything is very professional and has smart classroom technology. It was a pleasure to visit this university.

We are were their not only to visit but to listen and support Yaffa’s talk on the Hebrew Language starting at 12:45PM.  Yaffa discussed the Hebrew language, how it evolved, and important Jewish figures in history and literature. One thing that stood out to me was Yaffa’s approach to of communicating more information about Jewish diaspora and the revival of the Hebrew language and how important it is in Jewish culture.

Day 2

Thoughts on teaching and observations

First I wanted to thank Alan and Glynis for such a wonderful time in Budapest thus far! They are wonderful hosts and organizers of the SOS program and I could not ask for anything more! Thank you so much for all you do and for all the meaningful work and impact you are making in the global Jewish community. It really speaks high volumes. Thank you to all my CESJDS colleagues for being here to support me each step of the way, from being with me at the Lauder school in the morning to listening to my reflections at the dinner table. You are an amazing group of teachers! It has been a challenging experience and a very rewarding one at that. We accomplished so much today and it was all worth it!

Today we arrived at 8:00AM to the Lauder school. Paul Blank and I visited the school’s library to check out some of the books related to our teaching areas of expertise. Paul ended up discovering some very old Hebrew books in the back of the library on a shelf. One book, he found out, dated back 300 years. We had a discussion on whether the books could be preserved in some way for the students at the school or even put on exhibit in the library. It was a fun discussion and it was also nice to see a good collection of art books available to the students as well. The library is an interesting space for conversation, studying, and I know that the students here feel very welcomed in the space.

As the day progressed, I taught Ildiko’s 9th and 10th grade art classes, discussing various artists work that explore self-identity and personal spaces. We analyzed the work of David Moss, Harry Allen, Jaune Quick–to–See Smith, Ben Langlands and Nikki Bell. We also discussed concepts of Micro and Macro, examining how artists can show the viewer different perspectives of one idea whether its up close or far away. We looked at the Vietnam war memorial in Washington DC by Maya Lin and the Western Wall in Jerusalem to examine these concepts a bit deeper. Students also explored thinking routines, that were new to them, while discussing the artists work including What makes you say that? and See, Think, Wonder. Check out more ways to get students involved and talking about art, objects, and concepts in general:

Observing Ildiko’s art class

I had the pleasure of observing Ildiko’s high school class after I was finished teaching. Everyone was working and engaged in the process of making sculptures. The music of Philip Glass filled the room as students collaborated and worked together on building eco-friendly model homes made from recycled objects. The culture of the art classroom is relaxed and casual as students refer to Ildiko by her first name. I think this is great because everyone is working together on the same level and the barrier between student and teacher feels more relaxed. This is apart of the school’s culture.

Students worked with different materials such as twine, newspapers, wood sticks, bottle caps, and other common recycled materials to create their eco houses. While I was observing around the artroom, I noticed  I can see the city of Budapest, with trees and a gorgeous sky line view from the window. Students must feel lucky to have such an experience while creating their artwork and working in this wonderful atmosphere.

When it was time for us to leave school at 1PM we ended up touring the Parliament, Opera House, and the JCC in Budapest to meet with the Executive Director, Zsuzsa Fritz. We also had a wonderful dinner at Carmel restaurant! It was really an enriching and inspiring experience. Each stop today was very meaningful and made me reflect on Hungary’s deep history including it’s medieval history and some of the major symbols that represent this great nation. One symbol that stood out was the Holy Crown, which is one of Hungary’s most important symbols because it was a coronation crown used by Hungary’s many Kings since the twelfth century. We had a chance to see the Holy Crown at the Parliament along with the gorgeous interior spaces within.

Political thoughts

I also wanted to mention Colleen Bell’s visit yesterday which I did not comment on in yesterday’s blog post. Colleen is the current United States Ambassador to Hungary and she was very gracious to visit the Lauder school and speak to our group including teachers of the school and some students. Colleen was energetic and spoke very well as she addressed core issues in Hungary including education, the arts, roadways, and politics in the US and Hungary. It made me think about the state of education in Hungary, what we need to be doing more of, and how the United States and Hungary are working on issues in education together. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to hear from the Ambassador and to hear her thoughts. I hope to explore more of these thoughts further as the week goes on.

Day 1

I worked with one of Ildiko’s 10 grade art classes today and spoke about my background as an artist and art educator in the United States and what it’s like teaching at an American Jewish Day School. I shared the wonderful work of my own students and pictures of my art classroom, talking about what it’s like being inside an art class at CESJDS and the diversity of the art curriculum.

I had a double block of class time with Ildiko’s students which was very refreshing, nearly 1 hour and 45 minutes. I taught students how to create an artwork responding to a theme and invited them to participate in an interactive critique discussion and collaborative activity at the end of the lesson.

Students worked on the theme of “network and place.” I had a dialogue discussion about David Moss’s work, The Bike Path and how Moss recorded and mapped out his path to work each day through a thoughtful visual representation composed of shapes, patterns, and colors. We also discussed a artwork by Harry Alan entitled, “Map” which is a detail of a map of Slazburg, Austria inspired by oriental themes inherent within his grandmother’s carpets from his childhood.

Students were asked to reflect on and create a piece of art about a place, inside or outside their community, that had a great deal of importance to them and how they might see it as a network. This could be anything from a space inside of a train or a quiet place within a park. I wanted them to tell me one visual story about a specific space they love to be in that provides them with a sense of unity and enjoyment, reflecting deeper on the inner workings of that experience and how they might visually interpret that.

Students came up with some interesting artworks as we looked at the project as making small 5” x 7” postcards with their visual representation on the front of it.

During the critique, we examined the artworks as a collective group and discussed students’ various artistic processes. I encouraged them to continue working on their project. Not individually, but collectively, thinking about how they can exhibit the piece in their school community by rearranging the artworks on a larger piece of foam board.

I was most impressed with the enthusiasm each student shared and their willingness to express their thoughts about their artworks and also take suggestions and feedback in a positive manner.

Overall, I felt like I made a lot of progress with the students today and made an impact only being in the classroom for a short while. I’m looking forward to working with Ildiko’s 9th and 10th grade art classes tomorrow and learning more about the school and its teachers.


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