Some Philadelphia city officials are spending the holiday week in Israel.
Gary Steuer, the head of Philadelphia’s office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy spent Christmas Eve in Netivot, a small city near the Gaza strip that is known — by those who know it at all — as an enclave of artists and as a place vulnerable to rocket attacks.
He was there to offer insight on fostering creative entrepreneurism. Netivot officials, through the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, reached out to Steuer for help on how to re-brand the city as a cultural destination.
“While Philadelphia is in many ways so different than Netivot, there are also commonalities,” said Steuer speaking from his hotel in Tel Aviv. “It is an extremely diverse city. It has the highest concentration of Ethiopian Jews, Moroccan Jews, Sepharidc Jews. There are actually people from many different cultures and many different races. Cities that are creatively vital are cities that have diversity.”
With Steuer is Jane Golden, the director of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program, who delivered a keynote address at a conference on creative entrepreneurship in Netivot. She is currently in talks with city officials over here about creating a mural using community activism methods.
“As a wall-hunter I can say this is an excellent site,” said Golden, referring to a water tower in Netivot. “Tall, you can see it for miles away. White. It’s this really interesting structure. They had lights and a temporary public art piece. It was very dramatic. It’s really a beacon. If they want to do something, it has to be something big, and bold, and catalytic.”
Golden says she will be helping the city of Netivot develop a public art strategy to develop the city, both economically and creatively.
Correction: An earlier version of the headline on this story suggested that Netivot is in Gaza. It is not.