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November 27, 2008 - Image 57

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2008-11-27

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Arts & Entertainment


Chai-Lighting Art

The Janice Charach Gallery celebrates 18 years.

Elizabeth Applebaum
Special to the Jewish News

"She was a loving, giving person:' says
Janice's close friend, Silvio Benvenuti,
who continues to be active at the gallery.
anice Charach's paintings were
"She was extremely creative and talented:'
like fireworks: bright and brave
a daughter and sister who adored her
and filled with dazzling greens,
parents and brother, a woman who loved
purples thick as sweet wine, reds that
fashion and silver jewelry, a friend who
popped and yellows so warm the heat
always was generous.
jumped right off the canvas.
Once Benvenuti was admiring a paint-
Like her paintings, Janice was bright
ing Janice had just finished. After he told
and brave and filled with life. She loved
her how much he liked it, "she handed it to
being with friends and family, traveling,
me as a gift. It was still wet!'
discovering the world and making art.
Though she was a serious artist, Janice
In June 1989, Janice died of cancer. She
had a sense of humor about herself and
was 38 years old.
remained graceful even under the most
In their daughter's memory, Natalie and difficult of circumstances — like being
Manny Charach of West Bloomfield estab- stuck in an elevator.
lished the Jewish Community Center of
Benvenuti and Janice attended the CCS
Metropolitan Detroit's Janice Charach Gallery. at the same time but only became close
The gallery is celebrating its 18th year
friends after they ended up in the same
with "Chai-Lighting 18 Years',' an exhibit that broken elevator. "Once you're stuck in an
begins Dec. 7 (see sidebar) and features the
elevator for three hours with someone, you
work of previously highlighted artists.
really get to know them;' Benvenuti says.
Janice's first love was art.
The Janice Charach Gallery began as
As a tiny girl, she discovered paint-
something of a museum. But Janice's dream
ing and drawing. She was so unusually
was to help young artists, so today the
talented that her parents hired a teacher
gallery regularly hosts events that show-
for Janice when she was only 6 and let her
case and sell the works of new and often
cover the ceilings and walls of their home
unknown painters, sculptors, photogra-
with her artwork.
phers, potters, jewelry makers and weavers.
After graduating from Oak Park High
The gallery's director is Terri Steam, a
School, Janice attended the Center for
graduate of Eastern Michigan University
Creative Studies, then continued post-
who previously worked at galleries in
graduate work at the University of
Birmingham and Novi and was known
Michigan through the spring of 1988.
to all her B'nai B'rith Youth Organization
She received numerous honors for her
friends as "the art person!'
work, including a Michigan Fine Arts
Steam's passion was art conservation and
Exhibition prize at the Detroit Institute
art history; but after she married and had
of Arts in 1972; the Michigan Watercolor
a daughter, Paige, today a student at Hillel
Society Annual Exhibition prize in 1973;
Day School, she took a professional break.
and honorable mention at the 30th Annual
Then, she was reading craigslist.com ,
Scarab Club Watercolor Show in 1973.
where she saw an advertisement in search
Her works were exhibited in one-
of a new director for the Janice Charach
woman shows in 1975, 1978 and 1981.
Gallery. She came for an interview and
knew right away: This was it.
She liked the JCC director, Mark A. Lit,
who assured her he loved his work but
never missed a single one of my kids'
games" because of it. And she was in awe
of the physical space — expansive walls
almost whispering, "Fill us with art!" and
a window that caresses the room in folds
of sheer, silky light.
Her assistant is Hillary Fisher, who also
came to the gallery thanks to craigslist.



Natalie and Manny Charach, shown with
their son, Jeffrey, wanted to honor their

daughter's dream of a gallery where new
artists could exhibit their works.

Remembering Janice Charach: The artist was only 6 when she began taking
professional art lessons.

com and who also knew immediately that
this was the job for her.
Fisher holds a bachelor of fine arts
degree, with an emphasis on painting,
from Western Michigan University. She's
an artist, as well, who knits and paints.
Their office on the top floor of the gal-
lery is a happy cacophony of photos, coffee
and cider, postcards, stacks of paper and
a glass jar filled with candy (even though
Steam acknowledges, "My mother owns a
dentist's office").
Here is where the two plan exhibits that
find their inspiration from as close as
Steam's younger brother (who asked her
to consider a show about Israeli graffiti)
or Natalie Charach (who recommended
an exhibit about the Jews of Mexico), to as
far as Israel, where Steam saw a hamsah
she admired, then thought to ask artists to
create their own. The gallery also receives
calls at least once a week from an artist
hoping to exhibit his or her work.
Steam never opts for the offensive, but
she likes to take a wild ride every now and
then. When the gallery hosted "PostSecret,"

an exhibit in which anyone could tell a bit
of information never before revealed, a
few guests raised their eyebrows. One even
asked, "This is art?"
"But if all I did was shows that every-
body liked:' Steam says, "how boring
would that be?"
Once an exhibit has been confirmed, the
next step is getting it to the gallery. This
can be a bit more complicated than one
might imagine. Items come from Israel
in huge boxes; if they're glass, they need
special care. Sometimes antiquities are
included, which may mean the services of
an attorney to sign for their safe arrival
and departure. Then there are those oddly
shaped objects that require construction
of a special crate and sometimes meals.
Yes, meals.
The owner of one exhibit wanted
his own curator to come from Israel to
arrange the placement of objects. As the
man finished the job, he realized it was
almost Rosh Hashanah, and there was no
time to return to Tel Aviv. So Terri invited

Chai-Lighting on page B16

November 27 2008


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