Little did I know when I began working in the education department at the Columbus Museum of Art (CMA) in 1985 that my life as a Jew would be so greatly enriched by my burgeoning career path. This was the same year that I was a participant in the first-ever Wexner Heritage program. My identity as a Jew blossomed and grew exponentially through the Wexner experience. Simultaneously, I had opportunities to do research on and programs and exhibitions about Jewish subject matter at the Museum.
Already on the schedule when I began working was “Treasures from the Jewish Museum,” (New York) (September 24-November 26, 1989), a survey of the Jewish Museum’s finest examples of art and design that have grown out of Jewish culture. As the “resident Jew,” I wrote the exhibition label copy, a treasure hunt for families and a resource packet for schools. Many other exhibitions of Jewish interest followed and as I moved into a curatorial position at the museum, I began organizing a number of exhibitions that encompassed Jewish themes.
With the new wing of CMA that opens this month, I organized a long-term loan of ancient glass from Israel, “Glass Magic: Then and Now.” This exhibition is the latest of a number of exhibitions that have resulted from the Museum’s ongoing relationship with the Israel Antiquities Authority.
Three years ago, based on the community’s response to the Museum’s strong history of exhibitions and programs with Jewish content, I spearheaded an effort to form an interest group, Friends of Jewish Art (FJA). The focus of the group’s activity is to provide access to in-depth experiences with Jewish art. We define “Jewish art” in the broadest sense — be it antiquities, ritual art or fine art by Jewish artists or about Jewish themes. The group numbers about 80 people who participate in a variety of special tours and discussions with artists and scholars. Diverse in age and representing people from many areas of the city, FJA has become a cohesive group eager to learn more about Jewish art and artists. The group has also supported the first Museum purchase of Judaica, a 19th-century Torah binder.
I feel extremely fortunate for the path that Wexner learning set me on so long ago.
Carole Genshaft, a Wexner Heritage Alum (Columbus 85), has worked as an educator and curator at the Columbus Museum of Art since 1985, and recently founded the Friends of Jewish Art interest group there. She is an active member of the Columbus Jewish community, and has previously served as President of the Columbus JCC and Co-Chair of the Columbus Jewish Film Festival. She received a Bachelor’s degree in Art History from Syracuse University, a Master’s in Library Science from Case Western Reserve University, and a PhD in Art Education from The Ohio State University. Carole can be reached at email@example.com.