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Phyllis Serota

Oral Interview with Phyllis Serota for the JMABC Artists Scribe. Interviewed by Daniella Givon via remote Zoom call. Phyllis talks about her upbringing in inner city Chicago, Illinois and her relationship with both her immediate and extended family who lived in the same neighborhood. She speaks about her religious and secular education leading to being an artist, including her discovery of art when going to art classes at the Chicago Art Institute, and at the University of Victoria. Phyllis and her family relocated to Victoria due to the political climate of later 1960s America. Phyllis discusses her career as a painter including her painting style, her way of selling art, and painters who inspired her. She talks about her life in Victoria, and how her wife, place of residence, and institutions inspired her work. She closes with the importance of her place in the queer community, and the acceptance of her queer identity in the Jewish community.

Barbara Heller

Oral Interview with Barbara Heller for the JMABC Artists Scribe. Interviewed by Daniella Givon. Barbara, born in Vancouver Canada, talks about her family’s origins in Poland and immigration to Canada. She speaks about her upbringing in Vancouver and how she was surrounded by art in her childhood, leading her to become a visual person and a creative. Barbara discusses her interest in religious mysticism which inspired her education and later, became a specific influence in her art pieces. She speaks about how at first she wanted to be a printmaker but pregnancy led her to work with tapestry and she never looked back. She speaks about recurring symbols, like dead birds, in her art which provide a greater message to her audience about themes like life and war. Barbara discusses the highlights of her career, like showing art in Poland and working with various art collectives within North America, all with the support of her family.

Suzy Birstein

Oral Interview with Suzy Birstein for the JMABC Artists Scribe. Interviewed by Carol Herbert. Suzy was born in Toronto, ON and she describes her family history within Toronto and origins in Eastern Europe. She describes growing up with artistic influences from her parents who liked classical painters and attending art galleries and her aunts who would knit and embroider. It wasn’t until college that Suzy saw herself as an artist; through working as an artist model, she was exposed to various studio spaces and art classes. Suzy speaks about her experience at Emily Carr, in learning hand building pottery, and being a full-time artist while balancing motherhood both in Toronto and in Vancouver. She also talks about her artistic style, including the influences of Kahlo and Picasso and prominent themes including feminism, resilience and expression; These can be seen in her Frida Kahlo inspired exhibition and in her Ladies Not Waiting series. Suzy discusses the highlights of her career including her work for the 2008 Academy Awards and her teaching of workshops at an artist residency in Greece. She also talks about her teaching at Arts Umbrella and within the wider community

Cynthia Ramsay

Oral Interview with Cynthia Ramsay for the JMABC Artists Scribe. Interviewed by Daniella Givon. Cynthia was born in Moncton, NB but spent most of her time growing up in Winnipeg. She talks about her family history, including her father’s second marriage to a Jewish woman allowing her the choice of converting to Judaism. She speaks about her Jewish education and embracing Jewish family and traditions, as well secular education including degrees in economics. Cynthia talks about her early career at an economic think tank and career at the Jewish Western Bulletin. Cynthia describes coming to own the JWB with her colleagues and changes the publication went through moving it beyond a solely right wing paper. She speaks about her marriage and how she met her wife. Cynthia talks about how she first joined the Scribe as editor and how she began producing the Scribe editions thematically. Cynthia discusses how working on the Scribes fostered a deeper connection to the Jewish community in Vancouver, but also provided insight into prominent Jewish families and businesses in BC, and how their impacts persisted into the present day.

Marcia Pitch

Oral Interview with Marcia Pitch for the JMABC Artists Scribe. Interviewed by Carol Herbert. Marcia discusses her upbringing in Winnipeg, Manitoba, and her parents and grandparents’ origins in Eastern Europe and immigration to Canada. Marcia mentions influences that led her to the arts, including education at the University of Manitoba and doing graduate work in California. In 1969, Marcia experienced the police suppression in response to the People’s Park Revolution in Berkeley. Soon after she returned to Vancouver where she studied education at UBC and volunteered with Amnesty International. She pursued an art style that reflected her strong feelings about politics, war, and the influences of her grandparents’ stories of Eastern European pogroms. Marcia's art includes mixed media collages and sculptures, and producing large scale installations for her gallery exhibitions. Marcia speaks about her upcoming project focusing on sexuality, women’s repression and feminism. She further explains her perspective as an older woman in the art world and the differing responses she has received regarding her art online vs. in person. Marcia relates experiences such as having children, volunteering, and being a part of the recycling community to how they’ve inspired her pieces or participation in the arts community.

Linda Frimer

Oral Interview with Linda Frimer for the JMABC Artists Scribe. Interviewed by Pam Wolfman via remote Zoom call. Linda was born and raised in Wells, BC. She describes her family history within Wells and BC, but also their origins in Eastern Europe. She talks about her family’s livelihoods within Canada, and her marriages and children. She explains early influences for creativity including her and her parents’ love of nature and culture, but also their stories of the Holocaust and loss that were very poignant to her at a young age. Linda discusses her early and mature education, how she has always had the gift of painting which inspired her attending of art school as an adult, and her honorary doctorate from the University of Fraser Valley. Linda talks about her “childlike” fascination with art and nature and how its recognition affirmed her talent for art. She speaks about her early career as a professional painter, how her artistic style is creative rather than belonging to any one genre, and how colour and symbolism are big factors in her pieces. Linda discusses her meaningful collaborations with First Nations artists, her mentorship with Holocaust survivors, and her connection between people and her art. Linda discusses her work in galleries, the Jewish art community in BC, and the relationship between her art and Judaism.

Sima Elizabeth Shefrin

Oral History Interview with Sima Elizabeth Shefrin for the JMABC Artists Scribe. Interviewed by Brynn Gillies. Shefrin was born in Ottawa in 1949. . She is married to Bob Bossin, a Canadian folk musician, and they live together on Gabriola Island. She spent her youth part-time in Italy, surrounded by family fabric-workers and tailors. She describes how this informed her enthusiasm for fabric as a medium, and how she aims to convey stories through sewn projects. The name of Shefrin’s studio as well as her website is Stitching for Social Change, which she explains how she does fabric arts while integrating folk art tradition with activism, including feminism, anti-war sentiments, and reclamation of her Jewish heritage. Most notably, Shefrin tells the story of the Middle East Peace Quilt which aimed to discuss what peace would look like between Israel and Palestine with participants sending her quilt squares with their visions of peace from around the world. Shefrin also shares her exploration of comic and illustrative arts working on Jewish themed children's books and comics about her own life, including her husband's cancer diagnosis and life over the Covid pandemic.

Ron Appleton

Oral History Interview with Ronald (Ron) Appleton, accompanied by his wife Brenda Appleton for the JMABC Artists Scribe. Interviewed by Carol Herbert. Ron Appleton was born in Vancouver and describes his youth working with his father who was an auctioneer and arts dealer. This experience introduced him to Inuit art which became the focus of his life’s work showing and selling works of Indigenous artists in his family-owned and operated galleries. Ron and Brenda describe the relationships they formed with Indigenous artists but also many art collectors, especially Jewish diaspora, around the world. Ron shares anecdotes related to prominent Canadian artists, as well as unique art pieces he’s seen across the decades in the business.

Miriam Aroeste

Oral Interview with Miriam Aroeste for the JMABC Artists Scribe. Interviewed by Daniella Givon. Miriam was born in Mexico City in 1961 and she explains how her family ended up in Mexico from Poland prior to WWII. She discusses her immediate family, and how her and her husband resettled in Vancouver in 1990. Miriam talks about her career in the film industry and how she transitioned to visual arts with inspiration from her father and the need to balance her career with parenthood. She speaks about having little interest in arts, besides dance, growing up, but that changed when she lived in Europe for almost a decade during her 20s. Miriam describes her art style as more abstract than figurative and discusses her love of bright colours and the necessity of knowing what you want from an art career. She talks about curating art for Vancouver’s 2010 Olympics, selling her work, and the kinds of commissions she enjoys. Lastly Miriam discusses her time in art galleries as an artist, curator and art consultant and what she had learned about art collectors and art institutions along the way.

Lori Goldberg

Oral Interview with Lori Goldberg for the JMABC Artists Scribe. Interviewed by Daniella Givon. Lori, born and raised in Vancouver, talks about her family’s history in BC and abroad, her childhood, and early artistic influences in her family. She also discusses how she was introduced to visual arts through attending classes at the Vancouver Jewish Community Centre and her education at Langara and the Ontario College of Art in Toronto. Lori describes how she struggled to find her footing and artistic identity in college and how it affected her mental health, but prompted her to return to Vancouver and get her own art studio on Granville Island. Lori talks about her development as an artist, becoming a teacher at Emily Carr, and continuing art education as a single mother. Lori discusses how travelling to Bali and seeing the country’s spirituality concerning objects inspired her future art projects that addressed meaning and memory in kept things, but also offered her a new outlook on the mundane, like using dryer lint as an art medium. She also talks about being able to do charity in Cambodia through art, and how observing discarded objects influenced the creation of a new exhibit centering environmentalism. She closes with talk about her work with galleries and experiences with commissions.

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