Art entrepreneur Milana Gitzin Adiram expected to open the latest installation of mobile museum Zumu on Tuesday in Lod, a mixed Jewish-Arab Israeli city that has been swept by civil disobedience and violence.
For now, that plan is off the table.
“This city was erupting,” said Gitzin Adiram, founding director and chief curator of Zumu. “It’s like someone walked on the wrong side of the street and everything exploded.”
Zumu Lod was meant to be open May 18 through July 2, in four open-air locations in the middle of the city, featuring the work of 40 artists.
The Lod location was seen as a major step for the arts and culture initiative, which has taken place in far more peripheral locations in its six years of existence. Lod, located in the country’s center and home to Jews and Arabs, was seen as a window on all the complications and challenges facing Israeli society.
Gitzin Adiram has been working on the Lod location for over a year, even as the previous Zumu exhibition, set for the Lower Galilee, was delayed and eventually canceled due to the coronavirus.
Lod is “a microcosm of Israeli society, but more intensive and difficult,” said Gitzin Adiram. “It’s a boiling pot and if you throw a match in, it could explode. It doesn’t need a lot for that to happen.”
As with any Zumu installation, Gitzin and her team had spent hours and weeks in Lod, getting to know the small local art community as well as setting up artists from outside Lod to do residencies in the city for an exhibit of community-based art. There were connections made with city hall which helped bring the museum to Lod.
Gitzin Adiram came up with the idea of Zumu six and a half years ago upon returning to Israel after several years abroad. She wanted to grow seeds of art and creativity in the Israel’s north and south, to bring artistic appreciation to the country’s geographic and cultural periphery. She said that only one out of five children got to a museum before the age of 18, and she wanted that to change.
“I wanted to get up in the morning and go meet people I didn’t know and create art in the most complicated places in Israel,” she said.
Eventually Gitzin Amiram gathered a few funders and opened the first Zumu pilot in the tiny desert town of Yeruham in 2017, with 20 artists and a small turnout. The portable museum was set up in an empty hothouse and an abandoned schoolyard, which was the temporary home for Zumu’s Zim containers and exhibits, now a hallmark of this museum on the move.
The following year Zuma used 9,000 square meters of the logistical center of a towel factory in Arad, another desert town, and 10,000 visitors.
The northern town of Hatzor Haglilit followed, utilizing space in a local college, and then Kiryat Yam in December 2019, with 24,000 visitors — more than half of them children — taking in the art exhibited in an old, unused supermarket on a road leading to Haifa’s suburbs.
At each stop, Zumu takes the time to get to know the locals and work with them, making sure to invite in all the various communities and have guides who speak their languages, including Russian, Arabic and English.
Eventually, the idea arose of setting up an exhibit in Lod, even though it was a much larger city than Zumu’s usual, and was located in the country’s center, to boot.
Now Gitzin Adiram hasn’t been in Lod since last Tuesday, when the civil violence and disobedience broke out. Artistic activity has been frozen, at least for the moment.
“They want us to come back quickly but we can’t just cover this up with a Band-Aid,” she said.
“We’ll go back there and we’ll figure out where to do it, just not too soon.”