"Make a mask or costume that taps into something that has been brought into the light during the pandemic."
Ten young Jewish artists from across the US and Israel--including two in Chicago--are following this prompt and many more as they compete in "Expedition Maker," a reality TV-style competition with a prize of $5,000. Each week, the competitors receive a new prompt, film themselves during the creative process, and submit the videos to viewers, whose votes determine which competitors will move on to the next stage.
"Expedition Maker" is the latest production from Nai, the experiential brand powered by Moishe House. Nai encompasses Camp Nai Nai--Moishe House's own Jewish summer camp for adults, and experiences to help Jewish young adults engage safely with one another.
One of the competitors, Alix Kramer, spends about 50 hours a week knitting on top of her coursework for her master's degree. Anytime she's not attending courses or her internship, "I knit every single waking moment of my life," she said.
For the initial prompt, Kramer was inspired by her work educating about Black Lives Matter on Instagram to create a cape. Hearing a "loose, creative prompt" each week on the artist group's Zoom calls is "the best thing," she said. She runs a series of ideas by her mother and local supplier Sister-Arts Studio's owner, Donna Palicka, and then envisions a way to bring her final idea to life.
Kramer is particularly excited to participate because "many people don't take knitting seriously as a hobby or a part-time job," she said. In addition to appreciating the validation from her fellow artists, she loves "having and expanding a Jewish knitting community and sharing my art" with the Jewish community and beyond.
Fellow Chicago-area competitor Kayla Ginsburg, a comic artist and illustrator with experience in many art fields, also enjoys sharing her artistic experience with the group. As a self-taught artist, her favorite part of the competition is to "get to see different techniques and learn how other people are thinking and making art," she said.
Ginsburg comes up with ideas by choosing the part of the prompt that speaks to her most and brainstorming with her wife. For her first project, Ginsburg created a black and white mask depicting moving images of people separated by curtains and lines to demonstrate the difficulty of maintaining connections during the pandemic--and how, sometimes, ties to others slip through the cracks.
Based on her background in film, fiber arts, and illustrative embroidery, Ginsburg tries to create a narrative experience in every piece. In the past, she has written comics about her "journey to considering myself as a beautiful Jew and coming to grips with loving the Jewish parts of myself" and about finding the meaning in experiences like giving her grandparents haircuts during the pandemic. Now, she uses a variety of 2D and 3D artistic techniques to explore the "Expedition Maker" prompts.
"Literally no other prompts have allowed me to use every single one of the skills I've collected over the last eight years of professional artmaking. I was so excited to be able to bring my backgrounds and skills in one place," she said.
Throughout the month of March, check in on Kramer, Ginsburg, and the other eight competitors by signing up as an audience member. Jewish young adults aged 21-39 can learn more about these ambitious artists and their fellow competitors, register to vote for their favorites, and attend interactive art tutorials at
Moishe House Chicago is a grant partner of the Jewish United Fund of Chicago.