Israeli animator of ‘Waltz with Bashir’ to visit

Fresh from his recent Golden Globe win, Israeli illustrator David Polonsky will spend three months on campus working with students from Brown, the Rhode Island School of Design and the Providence community as an artist-in-residence.

Polonsky is the art director and lead artist for “Waltz with Bashir,” an animated documentary feature film that addresses director Ari Folman’s search to recover lost memories from his time as a soldier during the 1982 Sabra and Shatila massacre in Lebanon. The film combines historical fact, interviews, fantasy and journalism to create a unique perspective on the event and its aftermath. Polonsky is also an award-winning children’s and comic book illustrator. His stay at Brown is sponsored by groups including the Creative Arts Council, the Hillel Gallery Project and the RISD Office of Multicultural Affairs.

“Waltz with Bashir,” described by New York Times film critic A.O. Scott as “a work of astonishing aesthetic integrity and searing moral power,” recently won the Golden Globe Award for Best Foreign Language Film. Yesterday, the film was nominated for an Academy Award in the Foreign Language Film category.

“His work is phenomenal,” said Tali Rozensher ’09, co-chair of the Hillel Gallery Project, a student group that curates art shows at Brown/RISD Hillel. She has helped create and organize events for Polonsky’s stay at Brown, which begins Feb. 9 and ends May 1.

“It is really important for Brown, RISD and Providence to be exposed to another type of art,” Rozensher said, adding that exposure to innovative art forms would be especially valuable given the extended time that Polonsky will be on campus.

During his three months at Brown, Polonsky will teach two courses: an Israeli cinema class that may be offered for credit to RISD students and a seminar-style class on editorial cartoons. He will also participate in critiques with various Visual Arts courses at Brown and RISD. An exhibition of his children’s book illustrations will be featured at the Hillel gallery. His film “Waltz with Bashir” will also be shown at the Avon Cinema on Feb. 18, with Polonsky leading a question-and-answer session after the screening.

In June, the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation – a group that has worked to bring Israeli artists to cities and universities in the U.S. – contacted Hillel about the possibility of sponsoring an artist-in-residence. The opportunity was in line with the foundation’s broader effort to “foster a connection to Israeli culture and expose the artists to American audiences,” said Shirah Rubin, director of engagement at Hillel.

“His background is quite diverse and it’s a really exciting opportunity for students from Brown and RISD to come together and learn from someone who is such an accomplished, successful and professional artist,” Rubin said. Though Hillel had a number of Israeli artists to choose from, Rubin said Polonsky was the top choice.

Brown is the only university to host an Israeli artist through the Schusterman Foundation. Rubin mentioned that the Foundation was attracted to Brown/RISD Hillel in part because of the strong connection between the two schools.

“I think they were very interested in working with both art students and open-minded Ivy League students,” Rubin said. “It was that unique combination that made working with us so appealing.”

“He’s a great artist and ‘Waltz with Bashir’ is getting great recognition right now so it’s really serendipitous that he can be at Brown,” said Chira Delsesto, program coordinator of the Creative Arts Council, who helped organize grants to bring Polonsky to Brown. The artist-in-residence program “really allows these artists to get their hands dirty and work with students,” she said.

The council is also responsible for funding many artists to come to Brown for extended periods. In March it will help bring two movement specialists – Ronni Stewart and Shanti Pillai – to work with Kym Moore, visiting assistant professor of theatre, speech and dance. It will also fund five LGBT playwrights to work with Karen Allen Baxter, the managing director of Rites and Reason Theatre, during the Black Lavender playwriting contest in March. The CAC is also funding the Maureen Fleming Company to work throughout the semester with Senior Lecturer in Theatre, Speech and Dance Michelle Bach-Coulibaly.