The Ofakim Center for Contemporary art is celebrating ten years of activities in the city. The last year has seen a dramatic rise in the scope of its activities. From two days of activity per week we have increased to three, and in the coming year we expect to operate four days a week. It is clear that the greater the scope of activity, the more the center will become integrated and ingrained in the city network. In the past year 75 children, ten art students from Kaye College (with aid from the Southern branch of the Perach Mentoring Project) and four artists took part in the activities. This year we are prepared to accommodate some 120-150 children and teenagers.
Over the past year the center was renovated and converted to as an exhibit space for contemporary art named "New Horizons" ("Ofakim in Hebrew") assisted by the Omanut L'Am organization and Kibbutz Beeri. At the end of the season the gallery opened with the "An Artist in the Community/Twelve Bold Ones" exhibit which presented artwork by children and artists from the center, alongside artwork by leading Israeli artists such as Rafi Lavie, Gal Weinstein and Mickey Kratzman (and many other quality artists). This is the first gallery for contemporary art in Ofakim, and, in fact, in the entire Negev. In the coming year, five different exhibitions are planned, one of which will be dedicated to local artists.
During the previous year of activity, Eyal Assoulin, who was the first child in David Wackstein's first art group in 1996, returned to the center. Eyal, now a young man, is now completing his career army service. With the staff's encouragement applied to the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, and successfully passed the entrance exam. This October he will continue his training at Bezalel, and this will include follow-up and advice from the center's staff so that he can continue his activity as an artist in his own community in another four years. Eyal is the center's most outstanding success story (although not its only one).
The Ofakim Center for Contemporary Art is a kind of miracle, since year after year it has managed to consistently fulfill its artistic and community goals despite its budget remaining at the same level it was when there was only one day of activity per week with only thirty children and no gallery. In order to properly maintain its activity, and especially to grow and develop, the ongoing budget must be updated according to the number of activity days and number of children. Furthermore, suitable allocations must be found to fund the proper operation of the gallery (insurance coverage for the art works, and a small budget for each exhibition).
We, the center's staff, believe that our activities are of tremendous social importance, and that it should be supported and encouraged.