Program brings together artists from Richmond and Israel

Program brings together artists from Richmond and Israel
Richmond Ballet's 'Minds In Motion' program and the Israeli artists group 'Matter of Color' are traveling together. (Source: NBC12)

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - A collaboration between a group of young Richmond dancers and painters from Israel is bringing color, excitement and culture to Virginia for the first, "Art of Understanding" program.

The Richmond Ballet's outreach program, "Minds In Motion" and the Israeli artists group "Matter of Color" are traveling the state together, teaching dance while displaying paintings.

The trip was organized and sponsored by Tom Smith, vice president of Binns of Williamsburg and the Virginia Israel Advisory Board.

The 70 Israeli artists are in the area all week and participating in numerous activities. They've been painting together for decades and use their artwork to help raise money for various causes in Israel and now, around the world.

The Minds in Motion program, the outreach dance program for fourth graders here in Virginia, also has a residency program in Israel where they teach dance to both Jewish and Arab students as a way of bringing them together.

This week's theme is "empathy and understanding."

This new effort has also brought together longtime pen pals, Barbara Lustig, a Richmonder, and Zehava Shacham, who lives in Israel. The two women became pen pals in 1964, but have only seen each other periodically over the years, always when Lustig visited Israel.

That's until she got a call from her longtime friend who was headed to the River City.

"I let her know two months ago the ceremony will be in Richmond," Shacham said.

The ceremony Shacham is talking about is part of Art of Understanding. Zehava's sister, Sara Levin is one of the Israeli painters.

"It appears like a very important mission to come and contribute to the community," Levin said.

Levin's paintings and more than 100 others are part of an auction too.

They are displayed around the state. The paintings can be found at the Richmond Ballet and Weinstein JCC and all the proceeds benefit Minds In Motion.

"They've donated to us for an online auction that will hopefully receive some revenue to help support the program," said Brett Bonda, managing director for the Richmond Ballet.

All paintings are available for bid online at

According to a press release for the new cultural exchange:

The public is invited to attend two special events with the artists. The first being An Evening of Empathy & Understanding on March 14th, a ticketed event at Kingsmill Resort which includes dinner and a unique opportunity for open dialogue with the Matter of Color artists. On March 15th, the cultural exchange will culminate at the Art For Understanding Exhibit, a celebration of Israeli art and culture at Binns of Williamsburg.

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