A charming artists’ colony in a former military camp in the desert

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“Forty years ago it was a military camp,” says Ilanit Bronstein, one of 15 talented members of the Vidor artists’ colony in Zuqim, a small town in Israel’s Arava region, south of the Dead Sea.

She knocks on the wall of her TelePele studio to demonstrate the solid construction of the former military installation.

“When Zuqim was created [in 2001], they didn’t know what to do with this complex. It’s hard to break because it’s thick concrete. So instead of destroying it, they made it an artists’ village about 15 years ago.

Today, Vidor is a charming, creative oasis in an area renowned for its advanced desert agriculture.

Visitors can enjoy art and yoga at Vidor Artist Colony in the Arava. Photo by Abigail Leichman

The Vidor surname also adorns the visitor center of an agricultural R&D center in Hazeva, not far from Zuqim. Many initiatives in this region benefit from government and non-profit organizations, including the Jewish National Fund-USA and JNF-Australia, to provide employment and tourism opportunities in the Arava.

“I worked in fashion,” Bronstein tells ISRAEL21c, “and when I came to Arava 10 years ago, there was no fashion, so I started working in kindergarten. from the Arava Waldorf school, that’s where I got acquainted with the art of sheep’s wool.

Bronstein uses a technique of dry felting (“The oldest form of textile work,” she says) to handcraft soft fairies symbolizing themes such as dreams, self-awareness, peace and love. .

Felt fairies by Ilanit Bronstein. Photo by Abigail Leichman

“To me, fairies represent joyful energy, faith, and gratitude,” says Bronstein. “Anyone who seeks joy and harmony in their life can connect to the unique magic associated with fairies.”

She also uses wet felting to make sturdy items for home decor and accessories. Visitors can participate in wet felting workshops at TelePele and take home a purse, bowl or wall hanging.

Nature is the greatest artist

The handcrafted wooden sign outside Tomer Hogen’s studio at Vidor Artist Colony. Photo by Abigail Leichman

All artists in the colony offer products and workshops in their specialty areas, which include wood, iron, concrete, clay, stone, photography, painting, natural cosmetics, jewelry and more Again.

Architect Tomer Hogen’s workshop contains the lathe and other tools he uses to carve with raw wood, driftwood, stone and local metals.

“Nature is the greatest artist of all; my art is choosing how to present it,” he says.

This elephant is made of stone and wood. Photo by Tomer Hogen

In musician Danny Tal’s studio, visitors can experience (and purchase) instruments such as kalimbas and maracas made from natural materials.

The entrance to Danny Tal’s musical instrument studio at Vidor Artist Colony. Photo courtesy of Vidor Artist Colony

Nehama Harach, a graduate of the famous Bezalel School of Arts in Jerusalem, leads “desert pottery” workshops for up to six participants.

“Creating with clay is very meditative,” she says. “For me, clay is a pleasant, sensual and healing substance, which allows my imagination to run wild and create endlessly.”

Toshan developed his creative techniques in Thailand and India, using locally sourced fossilized stones, rocks, branches and roots to make wind chimes, bags and jewelry, among other items.

André Gunter, certified gardening therapist, herbalist and former pharmacist, sculpts animals from stone, metal, driftwood, old machinery parts and tools.

The courtyard of André Gunter’s studio at Vidor Artist Colony. Photo by Abigail Leichman

Tinker, who won the Ophir Award (Israel’s Oscars) for Best Actress in 2000 and co-founded an international film festival in the Arava, also owns an art studio in the settlement.

On the day of our visit, Tinker’s female body-focused exhibit, “Vulvanerable,” was on display in the Vidor Center’s Ashosh Desert Gallery, adjacent to the Gallery Café dairy. The village also offers a yoga studio, therapy, cafe, health food store and overnight accommodation.

There’s plenty to explore at the Vidor Artist Colony, open Fridays and the eves of Jewish holidays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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