(By: Sandy Eller)
Having attracted a large community of artists in recent years with its comparatively low rents and large spaces, the greater Williamsburg area welcomed yet another art gallery this week – this one devoted exclusively to fine art created by members of the Chasidic community.
Located just south of Williamsburg inside the Condor Hotel, the Shtetl Art Gallery is the brainchild of Zalmen Glauber, who recognized the need for a place where members of the small Chasidic art community could display their work. Having worked previously as a real estate developer before he began learning art, Glauber knew of a ballroom in a nearby hotel had a rarely used ballroom and he began transforming the space into a gallery, with musician and fellow artist Lipa Schmeltzer suggesting the name Shtetl Art Gallery.
Plans for the gallery stalled for months when COVID hit. The Shtetl Art Gallery finally opened its doors on June 15th with a ribbon cutting that drew elected officials, Chasidic artists and business people who came to view more than 40 pieces of art on display created by Glauber, his mother, Miriam Lefkovitz, Schmeltzer, Rosa Katznelson, Pinny Segal Landau, Yanky Waldman and Hillel Weiser, each one of whom has their own unique style.
The ribbon cutting marked the first time that Lefkovitz, who just started painting ten years ago, showed her work publicly and Glauber noted that it proved the lesson she had always emphasized in his childhood – if you want something badly enough, you can make it happen. By contrast, Katznelson’s colorful abstract artwork, which has been shown at other galleries, has been recognized with awards in several art contests and was publicized in both national and international media outlets. Landau used a variety of mediums in his pieces, which showed images of Judaism and the fire of chasidus, while Weiser’s watercolor arts were abstract expression of emotion and experience. Waldman’s love of the great outdoors was evident in his unique pieces, each one created out of elements found in nature, including porcupine quills, acorns and crushed eggshells in a variety of colors. Glauber’s three dimensional sculptures in a variety of sizes often included unexpected elements while the bold colors of Schmeltzer’s modern artwork opened doors to diversity with depictions of his combined passions for chasidus, music, arts and poetry.
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Brooklyn District Attorney Eric Gonzalez, City Councilman Kalman Yeger and City Council candidate Lincoln Restler were among those who came to view the pieces, with prices ranging from $800 for a watercolor painting to approximately $40,000 for an installation art piece titled “Difference in Harmony” featuring 18 painted violins and an assortment of hats that might be worn by Chasidim including a shtreimel, a homburg, assorted colored yarmulkas and a New York Yankees baseball cap.
One watercolor was sold on the spot at the ribbon cutting, with more than five Shtetl Art Gallery pieces sold in the days that followed.
The gallery will be open for several hours each week and will likely host other events as well. Glauber envisions the space as a center for Chasidic art, one that he hopes will provide the general public with a greater understanding of the Chasidic community.
“We look forward to presenting artwork made by Chasidim, depicting Chasidim or anything with some reference to chasidus,” said Glauber. “We see the gallery as a place that will take viewers on an exciting journey filled with twists and turns and opening them up to the rich and mysterious world of Chasidim in an imaginative and inspiring way.”
“Seeing chasidishe people doing art ignited a fire in me,” added Schmeltzer. “It is extremely validating to see Chasidim advancing in the world of art.”