Tag Archive: Slifka Center

  1. The View from Within

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    Bright vermilions and brilliant yellows brushed in large strokes over a sheet of paper; multicolored feathers stuck into foam, creating the illusion of hair; yarn crisscrossed innovatively to create an imperfect grid — the “Changes in the Face of Autism” gallery offers newfound perspective and a study in vibrancy.

    Having a younger brother with his own share of mental complications as well as many close friends with autistic siblings, I have an intimate view of mental illness. I have seen what it does to families and to challenged individuals. But regardless of how familiar I am with mental disability, nothing parallels the understanding one can achieve by seeing how the condition looks from the inside.

    “Changes in the Face of Autism” was created by autistic adults from the greater New Haven community with the help of Students for Autism Awareness at Yale and an organization called Chapel Haven. The gallery, on the second floor of the Slifka Center, contains a mixture of mediums. A long sheet of paper covers half of one wall, depicting an abstract, dreamlike scene with swirls of color and carefully placed puzzle pieces. Below it, a bicycle tangled up in yarn and decorated with other materials is propped against the wall. Two drawings decorate the wall opposite the gallery entrance: One appears to be a study of a building while the other features multicolored stick figures randomly placed on the page. The rest of the works are variations on one project: sculptures with tubular bodies made of wire and decorated with assorted materials, with a foam head on top.

    Although all the works share a vibrancy and a youthfulness, each is highly individual. For each work, I could not help but imagine the personality of its artist. The architectural drawing on the far wall displayed a unique attention to detail and perspective hinting at an artist with a penchant for spatial design. Meanwhile, the large drawing amalgamated many individual brushstrokes to create an abstract landscape with small details that reveal the presence of multiple artists: a bicycle or the upper body of a confused, primary-colored child. It belies the artists’ age, showing a very loose perception of the world and a great appreciation of color.

    Many people with autism have difficulty communicating and expressing their emotions; society often considers those with autism and other mental conditions to be less capable and less perceptive. This exhibit offers a useful corrective, showing not only that people with autism communicate and express emotion, but also that they also have a lot to say and feel. Their so-called impediments in no way prevent them from being people.

    I truly enjoyed this small, albeit important exhibit. This gallery could have easily become a depressing reminder of the struggles of the mentally challenged; instead, the kaleidoscopic quality of the artwork beautifully illuminates the world inside of an autistic person’s mind.

  2. Slifka Center names new executive

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    After a year of structural transitions, Rabbi Leah Cohen has been chosen as the center’s new executive to begin this summer, according to a Wednesday email to the Slifka community from Slifka Center President David Slifka ’01.

    Interim executive director David Raphael told the News in January that the board has re-evaluated its spending and fundraising methods over the past year. The center has also undergone leadership changes after the departure of four staff members in spring 2012, including former executive director Steve Sitrin, and the Board of Trustees has been reappointed to include members with more finance and managerial experience.

    Raphael also said he hoped the new executive director would be able to inherit a Slifka Center with “foundational elements” already in place so he or she would have the freedom to move forward.

    Cohen previously worked in the healthcare field and has over a decade of business experience, Slifka said in his email. As a rabbi at Temple B’nai Chaim in Georgetown, Conn, she led the congregation through a period of growth and transition, the email said.

    “Who could better lead our amazing student body, talented staff, and multifaceted community than a knowledgeable and compassionate rabbi with a decade of business experience, who speaks five languages and competes in triathlons?” David Slifka wrote.

    A 10-person search that included students as well as members of the Slifka Executive Board selected Cohen from over 45 initial applicants. The job pool was narrowed down through preliminary interviews in February and in-person interviews over the past two months.

  3. Graffiti threatens Slifka with arson

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    Graffiti that appeared to threaten the Slifka Center with arson was discovered on a wall at the Sterling Chemistry Laboratory, according to a campus-wide email sent by University Vice President Linda Lorimer.

    The graffiti was discovered on a bathroom wall of the Sterling Chemistry Laboratory on April 22 and appeared to threaten arson at the Slifka Center on May 16. Yale police, who discovered the graffiti, promptly opened an investigation involving University officials, New Haven police, the  FBI and the Connecticut chapter of the Anti-Defamation league, according to Lorimer.

    Since the graffiti was found, security around the center has been increased, and visitors will be required to show identification at certain times when entering the building, according to an email to the Slifka community from David Rafael, the interim executive director of the Slifka Center.

    Rafael said that the center plans to move forward with all plans surrounding senior week, Commencement and the Jewish holiday of Shavuot.

    “Difficult times can serve to remind us of our many blessings,” he wrote in the email. “Slifka Center is fortunate to be a vibrant hub of Jewish and interfaith life within a welcoming community, in which incidents such as this one are very rare.”