Ayala Gordon was the founding director of the Ruth Youth Wing at the Israel Museum in Jerusalem when Elaine Heumann Gurian met her in the early 1970’s. She had begun work giving art classes to traumatized children in a combination of art and therapy beginning in the 1960’s Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design, the great art school in Jerusalem and was invited to move to the fledgling Israel Museum by philanthropists interested in her work.
Her major emphasis was to deliver art classes to children. “Gordon’s idea was to “allow those who see art first learn to observe and discover the cultures of the world through his own artistic expression.”*
Gurian was the Director of the Exhibit Center of the Boston Children’s Museum beginning in the 1970’s when she met Ayala and was invited to Israel to see their work. Gurian was deeply affected by it because of the seriousness of purpose and the effect art classes had on a young multicultural population living in a dangerous land.
Gurian was invited to speak at an ICOM conference in Jerusalem in 1991 and wrote “Museums and the Opportunity for Social Service”, heavily influence by her work. The Ruth Youth Wing went on to engage new immigrant and Arab children and continues this work today. At the same time the youth wing was one of the pioneers of interactive exhibition design concentrating on art, and fought for and won the right to hang valuable original pieces from the main collection of the museum itself. Those of us working in interactivity at the time — the Boston Children’s Museum, the Exploratorium in San Francisco and the Barnsdale Junior Art center all learned from these experiments.
In May, Gurian returns to the Israel Museum at a celebration honoring Ayala who is now in her 90’s and pays tribute to her by giving a newer lecture on Museums and Social service.