STUDIO STORIES 2020 is a collection of short interviews with artists who have been making contemporary work during the Covid 19 pandemic. It introduces readers to the ways in which artists continue to create and adapt their practice today.
curated BY Lilach Schrag

ABOUT STUDIO STORIES 2020 - As the global health pandemic changed artists' lives and practice, Chicago-based artist Lilach Schrag found herself drawn to stories of how artists were adapting to lockdown and the new reality. The result is Lilach's curated presentation "Studio Stories 2020", hosted by Kol HaOt. "When I realized it would be impossible to have my scheduled June residency at Kol HaOt's gallery in Jerusalem, I reached out instead to colleagues and friends around the world who make contemporary art, and started collecting their stories. “I asked them to provide a glimpse into their mission, their methods, and their hearts. They spoke about their work, altered daily routines, challenging moments, uplifting realizations, and the ways in which they continue to create and adjust their practice during the pandemic. Individually, from their homes and their studios, they tell fascinating stories with thoughtful words and beautiful artwork. Collectively, they offer a snapshot of artists responding to the unprecedented reality of our time.” – Lilach Schrag, 2020


Hillel Smith


As a kid, I was obsessed with superhero comic books and cartoons. I discovered street art while biking around Los Angeles to the comic book store and was amazed by the color and energy.
My parents, grandparents, and aunts and uncles saw my enthusiasm for art and introduced me to artists like Ed Ruscha and Rene Magritte, who fundamentally changed my conception of what art could be. At the same time, despite growing up in a rich Jewish environment, I did not find much Jewish art that aligned with my aesthetic sensibilities.
I resigned myself to having a split identity as an artist inspired by contemporary media and styles in one part of my life, and as a young Jew in another, with those two identities remaining separate.
A few years after graduating from college, I created an experimental spray paint piece with Hebrew on a lark. A friend who was a Jewish arts professional encouraged me to stop whatever else I was doing and focus on doing more of that, since it was so distinctive. I quickly found that making Jewish work in this mode was meaningful to me. Moreover, I came to believe that it was necessary for me to make art to inspire other Jews in a way that I didn't have. Now making Jewish art is the vast majority of my practice, and I'm immensely proud of that.
I work with spray paint, paper-cutting and paper-craft, digital illustration, mural painting, graphic design, typography, printmaking, photography, and occasionally animation, watercolor, wood, collage, and a range of other media.

Friendship Mural - Camp Ramah in Ojai, CA, 2013

I enjoy playing with so many different techniques and tools, and it gives me the freedom to pick the perfect vehicle for a particular project. Plus, it keeps life interesting and my brain fresh. I look forward to opportunities to try new things.

Simchat Torah Mural - Los Angeles, CA

There's an expectation in certain parts of the art world for artists to dedicate their careers to one particular medium. Many artists build their careers around doing one specific thing. Being so diverse in my practice can make it hard to fit into other people's boxes.
I do sometimes wish I had a few years to fully dive into one thing or another. Overall, I think the positives of having a broad practice far outweigh the challenges that come with it.
My work often features humor and whimsy, and I want viewers to feel that positivity with respect to Jewish content.

Purim Horse Box - 2015

I hope that my love for Jewish life, culture, and history will prompt people to continue to nurture that connection in their own lives.

Hamotzi Mural -Los Angeles, CA

Many of my projects, like the Parsha Posters series, animated Omer counter, and mishloach manot packages, are based on my own understanding of our tradition, and I want to give people the authority to develop their own insights on Torah, and creatively approach fulfillment of rituals.
Purim Ambigram Boxes and Purim Envelopes
GIF the Omer -2015

A strong undercurrent in my work is the idea that everyone can make Judaica.

You don't need to be a specialized artisan. You don't need to be a scholar. We all have the ability to be tastemakers and contributors, and if we think deeply about what mitzvot represent, we can use media and modes to produce meaningful and innovative Jewish art.

Alef-Bet-Gimel-Ahava - Jerusalem, Israel, 2019

Welcoming Hand Mural - St. Paul JCC, Minnesota

Jewish-Gay Pride Mural - Los Angeles, CA, 2017

Being stuck in our homes has given us the opportunity to relate to Jewish rituals on a personal level, outside of the greater community.

Individuals and families are pondering what makes Shabbat and Passover special to them, what is it about Judaism that resonates in their lives. These questions inform creation of meaningful art, objects, and traditions in our homes, and build positive connections from our past to our present with our children.

Hillel smith

you can see more of Hillel's work by visiting:


Created By
Lilach Schrag


"Alef-Bet-Gimel-Ahava" is by Daniel Rachamim, courtesy of the Jerusalem Biennale; "Welcoming Hand" is courtesy of the St. Paul JCC; All other photos are courtesy of the artist.