Local artist Sharon Stillman’s work featured in JFCS’ new building

JFCS’ new building, our Next Century Home, is beautiful for many reasons, but one is due to all the beautiful art pieces that are strategically placed throughout the facility. Local artist Sharon Stillman was commissioned to create a couple of the pieces that are on display, including a ceramic flower sculpture (pictured above) and the “Community” art piece that is featured in our Community Room. Below, Sharon spoke about her experience creating these art pieces.


Were you happy to be asked to contribute artwork to JFCS’ new building?

Whenever JFCS asks me to contribute in any way, I’m always happy to do so and since Andy and Cass Stillman (of the Stillman Family Foundation) were responsible for making the new building happen, it was extra meaningful! Over the years, I’ve volunteered for JFCS’ Jewish Big Brother/Big Sister Program, and have also helped out with the Annual Benefit in various ways, including creating the award for the recipient of the Friends of the Family Award. So this commission really means a lot to me –  to know that employees and visitors of the building get to see my work every day and enjoy it in some way.


How did you decide which types of pieces to create for the building?

I worked closely with Larry Pepper and Jodi Reeb, who were in charge of the art in the new building. They provided me with the parameters and then I was given the creative license to create the pieces for the space. As fate would have it, I was not aware that the wall the pieces would be hung on was painted in a gorgeous teal color, and when I delivered the pieces many of my flowers had the exact same color as the wall. I consider it to be serendipitous and that the pieces truly belong there!


You also design ketubot (Jewish nuptial certificates) – what is your background in fine arts, and what are some of your favorite types of pieces to work on?

I received my Bachelor in Fine Arts from the University of Minnesota in 2006. I have always been making art since I was in high school in South Africa. I made my first ketubah, which was actually my own, in 1995 and some friends attending my wedding asked me if I would make theirs. From there it just kind of took off and became my career for the past 20-plus years.


Many of my ketubot are mixed media. I pride myself on interviewing each couple that commissions me, so that I can learn something unique about them and create a ketubah that is one-of-a-kind and represents something unique about their relationship. Many of my ketubot also have symbolic Jewish elements to them, such as the size 18-inch by 18-inch, which equates to “chai,” or using a special color such as red, which is known to ward off evil.


What projects are you currently working on? Are there other places your work can be seen around town?

I just completed a couple of ketubot for fall weddings. I’m currently working on the JFCS Friends of the Family Award for the 2018 Annual Laugh on their Behalf Benefit in December and I’m also working on my ceramic flowers for the American Craft Show, which will be in the spring. It’s the premiere juried craft show in the country and I am super excited to participate in it for the first time. In the past, I’ve been commissioned by the Sholom Home in St. Louis Park, where one of my paintings is hanging in the memory care area. I’ve also had a few corporate commissions.


The most fun commission was actually for the collaborative piece that’s hanging in the JFCS Community Room. The community that attended the grand opening of the new JFCS building got to participate in a fun art project, which I facilitated and then completed. It’s comprised of letters creating the word COMMUNITY. The public decorated the letters to create a sort of patchwork to symbolize the coming together of the community, and each letter is a different font, symbolizing the inclusion that JFCS is known for in the community.


Anything else you would like to add?

I am deeply grateful to JFCS for entrusting me with the various projects over the years.