Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Our Student Loans Or About Art And Culture

As a student of Art History, I landed a perfect job at the university art library. There I was surrounded by precious art books, and was even allowed to check them out. But the main attraction in that library were the other women who worked there.

The three librarians were, then, recent immigrants from Bucharest Romania. They seemed much older to me, but I guess they were only in their early forties. Elegantly dressed and tastefully made-up, in my eyes they were beautiful and glamorous.

They were also erudite and clever, spoke several languages and were well versed in all forms of art.   It was clear that they came from a highly sophisticated background, and were used to a richer life. It was the mid-seventies, Israel was a young country (less than 30 year old) with few resources, relatively short artistic tradtion, and limited access to real culture.

They spoke longingly about the concerts, the plays, the operas and the ballets which they enjoyed, almost for free, in their old country. I was very impressed, and even jealous, when they told me that in Bucharest they went out almost every night.

Even after they arrived to Haifa, my  provincial home town, they kept up their cultural persuits. They were critical of course of the inferior quality and the high cost of our local culture. But they still attended every performance and travelled to all the exhibitions at the museums in Israel.

 Their commitment to art and culture beguilled me; going home I repeated the librarians' stories to my husband Tzvi who became increasingly impatient with me. Soon I noticed that he had stopped listening whenever I started talking about the three refined ladies of the library. At first I didn’t understand why and couldn't see what bothered him. Their life style was for me a source of inspiration, and I wanted him to hear all the details.

 But then I realized that he disliked, what he perceived as, my hero worshipping, and was worried that the more I talked about life so rich with art and culture, the more dissatisfied I would become with our own reality. At that point we were both students and had no extra money at all, so consuming art or culture was out of the question.

But he had an idea: when we got our student loans Tzvi suggested that we would  use that money to go to Italy for the summer. He wanted me to see up close those works of art which I had only seen in my art books. So we consulted my text book, the Janson's History of Art: The Western Tradition and made a plan.

At that time Italy was still very inexpensive, and we ended up spending less than 300$ for a whole month (even back then it wasn't much). We hitch hiked our way across the country, slept in campsites, and got fresh food at the markets. It was a wonderful summer and an opportunity to taste life rich with art and culture.

Whenever we entered a museum, or a church, Tzvi reminded me to take my time and see "everything.” In the meantime he usually walked around for a short while and then sat down comfortably gazing at one object.

Tzvi was right, we couldn't find a more educational use for our students loans.

 P.S. This is a link to a post about our summer in Italy back in the seventies

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