In Conversation With Artist Sandra Dovberg

The J’s Bodzin Art Gallery-goers have been excited to take in the new exhibition with curiousity to know if all the artwork is by the same artist. Sandra Dovberg’s mastery of both landscape paintings and abstractions have impressed many of us. In this blog, Sarah Berry, the gallery curator, speaks with Sandra to learn what inspires the artist, how she decides what to paint when faced with a blank canvas, and how she defines her vast style. See the exhibit “UNBOUNDED” before it closes on July 5.

When you sit down to paint, do you have an idea whether you will paint a landscape or an abstract before you approach the canvas or do you let the inspiration flow once you are in front of the blank canvas?

I work with common compositional patterns that can work with either abstract or expressive realism.  The subject matter stems from experience, memory and photo references that I take in my daily journeys. The first step is to commit to covering the canvas with paint, using a personal choice of color temps from warm to cold and or dark to light value changes.  Various tools are used to apply paint, not just paint brushes.  Be brave, have courage!

When did you start making art and what keeps you going?

Early on in elementary school, my parents and teachers recognized my interest in working with my hands to create.  In school I was always selected to make holiday decorations: murals for windows, blackboards & bulletin boards, sometimes alone or leading the pack.  My parents bought me paint by number oil sets, a woodburning set and finally a sewing machine for my 8th grade graduation.  Making clothing led eventually to my extensive career in silversmithing and original jewelry creations.  In college, I majored in Studio Art leading to a deeper understanding of color theory, composition, drawing, painting, and especially working with metal and enamels.

You place your art in the category of Neoexpressionism.  What is that, and why do you think that is the term that best captures what you create?  

Expressionism came into being during and after WWI. Famous artists, such as Egon Schiele and Edvard Munch were seeking to depict not objective reality but rather the subjective emotion & responses that objects and events aroused in a person.  

Neo Expressionism came along later in the 70s.  In my work, I often combine elements of figurative portrayal with abstract  emotional color and mark making in order to tell a story.

Do you have any advice to share w/ aspiring artists?

Try not to make making $ your main goal. Constantly explore and don’t rely on just one teacher.  Take workshops or college level courses from many different teachers,  Overcome your fear of that expensive blank piece of paper or precious metals and gems.  Take a breath and force yourself to get started and then the MOMENTUM will push you forward.  Get involved with an arts organization where you will be constantly stimulated by challenges to produce, learn how to hang and display shows, how to develop the business side of making art and make friends of like-minded people.   

Bodzin Art Gallery Presents: In Conversation with J Artist Ilana Hever

Since March 21, the vibrant and serene mixed media artworks by local artist, Ilana Hever have been turning heads in the Bodzin Art Gallery. Aptly named “Joyful Journey with People, Places, and Nature,” the exhibition is a 25-piece window into what the artist considers to be the keys to empathy and self-reflection.  Sarah Berry asks the artist four questions about her process, the intersections of art and psychology, and advice for artists on their journeys.

When did you start making art and what keeps you going?

I started painting in 1985. I painted for several years then shifted to study Counseling Psychology while holding a degree in Art History and Philosophy from Tel Aviv University.

As a single mother, I dedicated my time to raise my two beautiful daughters and made a living working in art galleries. Using my education, I was able to gain insight on different perspectives and develop a deeper understanding of images, colors and composition which shaped my skills in self-expression and reflection as an artist myself.

How did you gravitate to the medium and style you are working on?

Impressionism and pointillism are what I admired most while studying art history and this is what I implement in my art. My psychology expertise has contributed to my art by shaping my self-expression, helping develop empathy to nature, to people, and places, and uncovering the story behind an image. Visual analysis and critical thinking also contribute to my art.

In today’s world, everything is visual. We are trained to shift from verbal to visual thinking.

How does your work as a psychotherapist inform your practice as an artist?

Most people have difficulties communicating feelings and thoughts, so I have implemented art into my counseling practice. Counseling  provides a process that gives people focus and can help them make appropriate choices, using art can give people tools to create a picture of their own image and issues – revealing the invisible, making it visible.

Do you have any advice to share with aspiring artists?

Receiving feedback from others can help artists see their work in a new light and inspire them to explore new directions. I am a big advocate of learning and exploring nature, people, and places. Appreciate the beauty of art and nature that surrounds you. Open your mind to philosophical concepts, and connect to all aspects of art. Most importantly, create a narrative in each picture and never stop learning.

Getting to know the ECLC Fairfax’s Atelier

Aligning with the principles of the Reggio Emilia philosophy, the Pozez JCC Early Childhood Learning Center established an Atelier in 2010. Over the years the ECLC’s atelier has become an integral part of the children’s learning experiences at school, as an active space where curiosity is sparked and creativity flourishes.

But what is an Atelier in an early childhood context?

Atelier is a French word defined as a workshop or studio. For the young children that attend the ECLC, the Atelier is a space, a laboratory of sorts, where they can express themselves authentically, question, wonder, and discover new knowledge through aesthetic experiences.

Children live in a world of relationships, and use multiple senses, such as touching, smelling, tasting, and listening, to investigate and process connections between themselves and the world around them. This interconnectedness is not limited, but incorporates materials, provided, or discovered. In the Atelier, materials are presented in visually appealing ways, and the quality and authenticity of materials are essential in supporting the children’s thinking and learning. Children are given agency to explore these materials through poly-sensorial investigations. As children become more familiar with a material, it evolves into a ‘language’ for them to further communicate their thoughts and ideas. Intentional considerations of materials demonstrate deep respect for children’s capabilities and the importance of aesthetic experiences in learning.

In the Atelier, small groups of children visit at a time.  There are many benefits to working in a small group context, as there tends to be fewer distractions, establishing a place for children to observe, interact, listen, and learn from each other. Through small group interactions, children not only learn from their peers but also develop crucial social skills and a sense of belonging within the learning community.

This year, the intention of the atelier has been focused on mark-making. The goal is to continually offer a variety of materials to explore different impressions, scribbles, patterns, and shapes, which is simply the beginning of emergent writing. In the early stages of mark-making, utilizing different types of tools, from watercolor paints to clay, strengthens hands while children are engaged in the simple physical pleasures of making marks. When children realize that they can control their marks and share their ideas through these various forms of languages, mark making becomes a form of connection, as the traces that are left are purposeful. Each child is on their own journey, as they practice coordination and creativity through their own aesthetic lens.

A new video highlighting the happenings of the ECLC’s Atelier is being featured in the Pozez JCC lobby. As the children that attend the ECLC are the largest population that inhabit the community center daily, showcasing them and the work that they do shares to the children that they are valued, seen, and are contributing members of the community. Please enjoy!

ECLC Atelier Video

The Bodzin Art Gallery Presents: Curator’s Conversation with J Artists, with Anne Schlachter-Dagan

There are some conversations that stay with us forever. I was lucky to have one such conversation with Anne Schlachter-Dagan at opening night of the 11th annual ReelAbilities Film Festival: Northern Virginia

Anne Schlacter-Dagan’s oil paintings and digital artworks offer a glimpse into her personal experiences and highlight the difficulties she encounters in perceiving light and color. We spoke about her process as an artist. I was able to ask Anne about her reaction to the four short films, which all focused on artists and entrepreneurs with disabilities, most of them blind. We wrapped up our conversation by talking about how a blind artist can change the world. This blog recounts some of that conversation for you now.

Anne, myself, and our audience were very moved by how powerful it is to share stories that defy what most people hold true. I invite you to come see for yourself how important shifting your perceptions of what a legally blind, color blind artist can do.  “Bright Darkness” is on view in the Bodzin until March 6, 2024.

When did you start making art and what keeps you going?

I discovered my passion for art when I was very you and during high school, I pursued it as my major. However, after life led me on a different journey, I only returned to art in 2015 while living in South America. Under the guidance of artist Paul Birchall, I realized my creative potential. The drive to create new, intriguing things and push my limits keeps me going. I must say though that having a supportive partner enables me to balance art, a full-time job, and raising three children.

How did you gravitate to the medium and style you are working in?

I express my artistic vision through oil and digital paintings. Due to limited vision, working with oils suits me as it allows for a slower pace and easy revisiting, unlike acrylics for example. Discovering the digital medium during my B.A. in Studio Arts, 5 years ago, opened up new possibilities, offering the magic of enlarging everything on the screen.

In terms of style, my focus lies in capturing light. I contemplate its impact – whether harsh or soothing – and through a slightly unreal approach, I draw attention to it. Transitioning from realistic to more emotionally driven paintings took time but enriched my artistic journey.

Since you shared that you have difficulty detecting color, how do you select the colors we can see in your art?

Given my inability to detect color, selecting specific colors is impossible. I often opt for random choices, but I’m influenced by societal color meanings. I incorporate monochromatic elements in each painting so for me, each painting looks colorful.

Do you have any advice to share with aspiring artists?

My main advice is TRY! and don’t shy away from making mistakes—they are steppingstones to growth.  Happy creating!

ReelAbilities Film Festival: Community partnerships, stigma-smashing film, and fine art

The 2024 festival will open at the J and close at the John F. Kennedy Center for Performing Arts at the REACH’s Justice Forum. As per festival tradition encouraging accessibility for all, the films will be screened by partner venues throughout the region.

“These partnerships have been a cornerstone of the festival’s success since day one, eleven years ago,” says the festival’s director, Sarah Berry. “When we moved the festival to February  in commemoration of Jewish Disabilities Inclusion and Awareness Month, many of the local synagogues became participating venues.”

This year, half of the venues are synagogues, and the other half are a combination of arts organizations and direct service organizations. “It’s a privilege to work as a presenting partner with these organizations, we are all driven by similar missions of access, culture, and community,” Berry adds.

This year, our partners include Beth El Hebrew Congregation with Agudas Achim, Congregation Adat Reyim, Congregation Olam Tikvah, Down Syndrome Association of Northern Virginia, Northern Virginia Resource Center for Deaf and Hard of Hearing Persons, Reston Community Center’s CenterStage, ServiceSource, Temple Rodef Shalom, The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. The J is hosting the opening night screening, with attendee groups including Hadassah and Our Stomping Ground.

Not able to travel around town? No problem. ReelAbilities Northern Virginia will continue to make all films in the festival available to stream online. The lineup is comprised of contemporary international films, complemented by post-film programs, and an exhibit in the J’s Bodzin Art Gallery. For a full listing of events, visit

To screen the festival online, create an account at

Join us opening night!

We are excited to invite the community for a full program celebrating the arts on opening night. The evening includes a suite of short films celebrating creativity: films will cover topics such as art, entrepreneurship, comedy, filmmaking, and theater, allowing us glimpses into the lives of creatives in these fields, and how they make their art and dreams happen. The films will be followed by a Q&A with Anne Schlachter-Dagan, a local, legally blind painter.

Schlachter-Dagan’s exhibition, Bright Darkness, is now on view at the J’s Bodzin Art Gallery through March 6, offering viewers a glimpse into her personal experiences and highlighting the difficulties she encounters in perceiving light and color.

ReelAbilities Film Festival: Northern Virginia aims to shine light on the lives, stories, and artistic expressions of people with disabilities. Each film selected for the 2024 festival was done so with care by a committee of screeners, as well as each presenting venue. Thought was put into the quality of the films, the messaging, and the goal of each event. Heartfelt thanks for your time, committee members: Harold Belkowitz, LaRue Cook, Joan Ehrlich, Rachel Greenblatt, Dawn Kaye, Nancy Reder, Bill Rosen, BoMi Rosen, Michael Toobin, Charlotte Woodward, and Darcy Woodward.

We look forward to sharing these stigma-smashing films with our community, both in-person and virtually. Reserve your seats now at

In Conversation with Melinda Hofstetter, daughter of photographer, Seymour Hofstetter

In the summer of 1976, Seymour Hofstetter, along with 20 other teachers from Ohio participated in a 6-week program of African studies sponsored by the American Forum for International Study under the auspices of the U.S. Department of Education.

Between now and January 9, 2024, the J’s Bodzin Art Gallery is proud to display about 40 photographs that Mr. Hofstetter took as the official photographer of this group and which appeared in a traveling show, “Portraits of West Africa” from 1977-1979. The J is the first stop of the 2024 revival tour of these photographs. We thank long-time J member, Melinda Hofstetter, for the opportunity to share her father Seymour’s photography in the gallery and for answering four questions from our gallery curator, Sarah Berry.

1. Tell us more about your father’s journey in West Africa, and why he was selected to be the group’s documentarian.

For 25 years, my father was a teacher in predominantly Black and Hispanic schools in Cleveland, Ohio. In the summer of 1976 he, along with twenty other teachers from Cleveland and northern Ohio, participated in a six-week program of African Studies sponsored by the American Forum for International Study (AFIS). These Ohio educators were chosen from over 100 applicants and studied at the University of Ibadan, Nigeria, travelling under the supervision of faculty from the University of Ibadan and University of Ghana to various sites throughout West Africa. The program was funded by the Division of International Education of the U.S. Office of Education (now the Department of Education) under a grant from the Hays-Fulbright Program. My father received one of the grants. The director of the AFIS, Dr. Melvin Drimmer, recognized my father as having been a professional photographer in previous days and whose avocation was remained photography. Dad always had a camera around his neck, so it seemed like a good idea and great advertising to select some of those photos my dad was taking anyway for a show!

Although this exhibit was my dad’s first major “One Man Show,” he had been a serious student of the camera since his student days in Cleveland. He was the school photographer in high school using a folding Kodak camera. During World War II, he spent five years in the U.S. Coast Guard as a combat photographer, serving one tour of duty in the dangerous North Atlantic run, and two tours in the South Pacific. He took thousands of pictures and left the service as Chief Photographic Mate, with three letter of commendation and a Navy Commendation Medal. Many of his pictures won awards. Some can be seen today in the permanent collection of The Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut; in Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington D.C.; and the National Archives in Washington D.C. I have donated many of Dad’s photos to the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredrickburg, Texas, the birth place of Admiral Nimitz, the great WWII leader who led our naval forces to victory over the Japanese as Commander in Chief, US Pacific Fleet and Commander in Chief, Pacific Ocean Areas.

2. These photos have already been shown extensively. Which institutions have exhibited them and when? Where are they off to next?

The photos of the exhibit “Portraits of West Africa” started in our hometown of Cleveland at the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. In 1977 these pictures were shown at: U.S. Department of State, Washington D.C.; Overseas Press Club of New York; Afro-American Historical and Cultural Museum, Philadelphia; Cleveland State University. In 1978 these pictures were shown at Ohio State University, Columbus; Cleveland State University; Cleveland Board of Education Supplemental Education Center. He had a full show full show in Washington D.C. at the U.S. Office of Education (now the Department of Education), as part of the celebration of the International Year of the Child through the spring and summer of that year.
I am happy to say that the exhibit will be showing from 1-29 February 2024 at the Jewish Educational Alliance (JEA) in Savannah, Georgia, where my daughter and grandchildren live. My oldest grandson there is named for his great-grandfather so having my dad’s photos in Savannah will mean a lot to our family. I hope to reach out to the Cleveland JCC for a showing there as well as my dad is a real “son of Cleveland.”

3. Did your father bring his love for photography into his family and community life?

As soon as I was born I was in front of the camera. I don’t remember a time when on our many family trips, family events or other occasions that he didn’t have a camera around his neck. At weddings, b’nai mitzvot and other family events, he’d be called on to take the pictures. Of course, he wasn’t always on point. One of his first cousins never ceased to remind me (no matter it was 25 years after the fact) that Seymour was supposed to have taken her wedding pictures but he met Betty, her friend at the wedding, with whom he was taken. His cousin, the bride, was constantly calling “where’s Seymour?!” to take the pictures of her he had promised. Betty, it seems, was a bit distracting at that event. However, in general my dad was more focused!

4. We look forward to hearing more about the revival of this exhibition on December. What do you hope people will come to learn?

I hope that people will come to understand in a small way how a Jewish boy from Cleveland, whose parents, one of whom was born in the Austro-Hungarian Republic and the other born in New York City and who ran a second-hand furniture store, came to learn a love of travel, photography and patriotism, and who somehow developed an innate sensitivity that won the confidence of his African hosts “by smiling, by meaning well, and using forbearance and kindness.” As can be seen, young and old alike responded more than favorably to him and his camera.

Holiday Sale (Fundraiser) 2023… That’s a Wrap!

If you walked into the Pozez JCC this past week, you probably saw tables with merchandise for sale that took up most of the lobby. This year’s Chanukah/Holiday sale included work by several artists with disabilities as well as select members and staff. The purpose of the sale was to highlight the talent of these artists in addition to fundraising for Inclusion and Disability Services programming (and of course to give members, staff, and others an opportunity to buy some lovely items). The sale was a success, exceeding sales from 2022! Thank you to everyone who stopped by and made purchases.

If you are thinking, darn I missed it; you actually have another chance to accomplish these goals. Throughout the month of December, you can buy from some of the artists online, including one artist that was not able to be at the J in person. Below are the artists who have shared their websites.

Let the artists know that you are buying through the JCC sale.

Emily Kim’s journey as an artist started at the age of 3, when she was diagnosed with leukemia. Even after several years of treatments, her cancer returned when she was 7.  She underwent a successful life-saving cord blood stem cell transplant but suffered complications resulting in permanent and progressive neurological damage. Despite many setbacks and obstacles over the years, her love for drawing and creating cheerful prints has continued to grow.  According to Emily, “The themes of my art are positivity, hope, whimsy, and imagination. I like to create drawings with bright colors that bring joyful and happy thoughts.”

The Avery Oerth Company was started so Avery could share his talents and spread kindness. He makes buttons (pins) and magnets. In addition to his art, Avery has an extensive knowledge of rocks, minerals, and gemstones, and is an expert Lego builder. Avery offers over 200 different words or phrases on his buttons and magnets. All of them are positive affirmations. Avery enjoys his work and takes great pride in the quality of his buttons. Like most people, Avery wants to have meaningful work at a job he likes. Avery just happens to have autism.

Instagram @hellolove_cards 

Michael loves drawing animals and characters.  He finds drawing animals to be calming, and that the sensory overload and anxiety that can accompany being autistic seem to go away when he is focused on a picture. Hello Love Cards was born of Michael’s dream to make a difference. In 2020 he began sending notes of encouragement to healthcare workers and elders in facilities. Now with every purchase, a card with Michael’s artwork is sent anonymously to someone who may need that hello. Michael hopes that his art will make people feel uplifted when they see it.

Sophiola by Sophia Pineda sells prints and notecards bearing art created by Sophia, a young artist who happens to have Down Syndrome. As a baby, Sophia faced life-threatening medical conditions, then later, many learning challenges. Sophia enjoys many activities, including ballet, horseback riding, modeling, and swimming. But it is really art that has Sophia’s imagination and her heart. Today she is vibrant, healthy, and loves to paint, sketch, and help run her business. 

*Please use code “JCCHF” when you check out to indicate participation in the JCC Holiday Fundraiser. 

Ian Gwinn is a fine art and commercial photographer, specializing in still life, landscapes, and portraits. He loves animals… so you will see lots of animal photos, including images of his favorite subject, Milo, his aging beagle, as well as wildlife and other animals around the farm including frogs, chickens, ducks, geese, and a chameleon.  Ian graduated magna cum laude in May 2016 with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Photography from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. 

Jessica Tischler was the originator of this Holiday Sale seven years ago, and the long-time Director of the Inclusion and Disability Services department at the JCC. She has Tourette’s Syndrome and OCD.  Jessica wrote two childrens’ books in the hopes that she can educate children on learning important life lessons at a young age so that they grow up as healthy, open-minded individuals…with great senses of humor! Jessica, along with her husband Shy Ashkenazi, are the creators of delicious homemade chocolate clusters. Jessica loves to experiment with different ingredients and fun names for the clusters. Mother Clusters are customizable to your favorite flavors and mix-ins.

Humans of Israel: Photographs by Erez Kaganovitz

The Humans of Israel project combines photojournalism with digital storytelling to give a sense of what makes Israel and the diverse humans in it tick. Here you will find ultra-religious Orthodox Jews, Muslims, and Christians alongside asylum seekers and the one percent on Rothschild Boulevard. You will see Ashkenazi and Mizrahi, American, Russian, and French Jews, and basically all the ingredients that make Israeli society one of the most diverse in the world. After seeing this exhibition, you will better understand what the Israeli story is all about.

With intriguing, thought-provoking photographs and the stories about the humans behind them, the project puts a human face on an extraordinary place and challenges preconceptions those outside of Israel may have by communicating a sense of our shared humanity. The Humans of Israel project offers a fresh look at the rich and remarkably diverse lives of Israelis and showcases Israel’s diversity, multiculturalism, and vibrant civil society.

This exhibition captures fascinating people in Israel to tell the Israeli story as a whole. Each photo and story provide a glimpse into the hearts and minds of a variety of Israelis.

Photographer, native Tel Avivi, Erez Kaganovitz is the human behind the Humans of Israel, Humans of Tel Aviv, and Humans of the Holocaust projects. Through his work, Erez has helped bridge a cultural gap in society both within and outside of Israel. His compelling work brings understanding, emotional connection, and unity to many around the world. His TEDx talk, “The Humans behind the pictures on social media” is an eye-opening discussion on the power of digital storytelling, offering a different approach to how we should tell the stories that we know. Take in the visual journey illustrating the impact of technological storytelling on the world online at 

The Humans of Israel exhibition at the Pozez JCC is presented in partnership with the Edlavitch DC JCC, in celebration of Israel’s 75th Birthday in 2023!

Humans of Israel: Photography by Erez Kaganovitz
On view through October 19, 2023