Bringing the Dead Sea to Life Through Art and Music
From March 16-27, 23 artists from around the world visited Israel to raise awareness for the efforts to save the Dead Sea, the deepest hypersaline lake in the world, which is shrinking at an alarming rate of more than a meter per year.
Organized by SPNI’s Ornithological Center, with the assistance of the Netherlands-based Artists for Nature Foundation and the Tamar Regional Council in southern Israel, the 11-day event featured workshops during which the artists painted the Dead Sea and the local landscapes from both the Israeli and the Jordanian sides. The artists also visited Nahal Zin and Mitzpe Ramon in the Negev Desert.
“Following the enormously successful Artists for Nature project to raise awareness for the Hula Valley that included a beautiful book and travelling exhibition, SPNI, the Hoopoe Foundation, and the international Artists For Nature Foundation together with the Dead Sea Research Institute and the Amman Center for Peace and Development developed this bold new project to raise global awareness to the plight of the Dead Sea and promote coexistence,” explained Dan Alon, the head of SPNI’s Ornithology Center.
“The Dead Sea is one of the most unique geographic formations in the world, located at the lowest point on Earth, and it supports unique ecosystems and harbors historic and cultural treasures. The long-term decline of the lake’s water level is creating an ecological imbalance on both land and sea that will eventually destroy this unique and precious resource.”
At the festival’s opening ceremony at the YMCA in Jerusalem, SPNI CEO Iris Hann thanked the project’s ardent supporters and welcomed the artists who had come from across Israel and much further afield, including participants from the Netherlands, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Taiwan, Spain, France, the United States and the UK. The highlight of the evening was a musical program composed by seven-time Grammy Award winning soprano saxophonist Paul Winter entitled "The Music of Birds," a celebration of bird migration that was inspired by beautiful bird songs from Paul’s extensive archives of bird recordings.
In the days following, the artists worked together to create a joint mural measuring 1.5 x 3 meters that depicts both sides of the Dead Sea. Each artist was tasked with painting one nesting or migrating bird and a mammal or a reptile characteristic of the Dead Sea region. Shortly after crossing the border into Jordan to begin their joint project, more than 100 Jordanian students joined the artists for art tutorials and workshops. Upon their return to the Israel to paint the Dead Sea from the Israeli vantage point, the artists repeated the educational art program for a mixed group of dozens of Israeli and Palestinian students.
The festival concluded with a painting exhibition at the International Birding and Research Center in Eilat that dovetailed with the kick-off of the 9th annual Eilat Birds Festival and Champions of the Flyway, an international bird conservation event organized by the Israel Ornithological Center and SPNI. All of the artwork created by the international team of painters during the 11-day event will form the basis of a travelling exhibition and a full color art book of the project.
“Art and nature are excellent focal points for bringing people together and creating a sustainable future,” commented SPNI CEO Iris Hann. “Through this beautiful project and our ongoing nature conservation efforts, we are raising awareness and creating a healthier environment that will benefit the entire biological and cultural diversity of the region.”
Artists for Nature project was made possible thanks to the work of many dedicated people, including Sorrel Ritter, Zev Labinger, Prof. Yossi Leshem, Ysbrand Brouwers (Artists for Nature, Netherlands) General (Ret.) Mansour Abu Rashid, (Jordan) Chieh-Te Liang (Taiwan) and the support of Hoopoe Foundation and the Center for the Study of Bird Migration (Latrun).