Dixon Gallery & Gardens Hosts TuBishvat Community Day

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By Sarah VanderWalde

On Sunday February 5, more than 500 people walked through the Dixon Gallery & Gardens to celebrate TuBishvat, the Jewish New Year for trees. The sun was shining outside, music was playing inside, and community members of all ages discovered new ways to observe TuBishvat.

While planning the Dixon’s 2023 events calendar, Dixon’s Public Programs Coordinator Elizabeth Sloane noticed that the holiday of TuBishvat began on a Sunday night in February. On the Hebrew calendar, the holiday falls on the 15th day of the month of Shvat. “It was almost serendipitous, as the Dixon Gallery & Gardens is not just an art gallery, but also a robust garden full of trees,” Ms. Sloane said. “We are the perfect place for the community to celebrate TuBishvat, so I asked the education team if we could move our community day, which is normally on a Saturday, to a Sunday.”

With permission for the Sunday date granted, Ms. Sloane reached out to the Memphis Jewish Federation. Federation’s Community Impact Manager Lorraine Wolf was excited to get involved and referred Ms. Sloane to other Jewish organizations for partnership. “It was truly a community effort,” said Ms. Wolf. “We were thrilled with all the Jewish organizations represented there and the fabulous turnout from both the Jewish and broader community.”

The Dixon staff along with dozens of community volunteers brought TuBishvat to life. Outside the main entrance, children played with bouncy balls, hula hoops, Connect 4 and tic-tac-toe, overseen by teen volunteers from BBYO. Entering the lobby, families were greeted by a Memphis Jewish Federation table and handed a packet of seeds to plant at home courtesy of Federation’s Israel@75 initiative.

Inside the auditorium, local musician Jason Caplan played music and led a circle of kids playing home-made instruments. In the same room, Bornblum Jewish Community School, and the Memphis Jewish Community Center had tables set up with tree-inspired arts and crafts.

Leaving the auditorium, visitors walked through the art gallery and could stop to participate in additional tree-themed activities along the way. Many families with young children ventured to story time sponsored by PJ Library, a program of the Memphis Jewish Federation. Donning a home-made tree hat, Bornblum kindergarten teacher Ariel Figueroa read a story about trees to a packed audience.

“Having recently moved to Memphis, it was amazing walking through the Dixon and being able to recognize many people from the Jewish community, as well as from my daughter’s school,” said Lillia Osadzinski​​. “It is nice to see the entire Jewish community come to one event and be together.”

Continuing through the galleries, another favorite stop was in the education room where local Jewish artist Marisa Baggett demonstrated her tree-of-life painting process. While Marisa painted, visitors were able to add their own paint strokes, making the finished painting a TuBishvat community masterpiece.

Leaving the education room took visitors outside to a TuBishvat seder hosted by the Torah Mitzion Kollel. At the seder table, one could try a variety of fruits known for this holiday including figs, dates, and raisins. With a large crowd eager to partake in the food, they broke out in song and led the blessings of the different fruits in Hebrew, English and Spanish.

More tables of art were outside with teen volunteers in charge of different projects including create-your-own tree ring necklaces. Parents left with bags full of art projects, and everyone walked back to their cars with a Ricki’s cookie, a gift from the Dixon.

“It was easy working with all the different organizations within the Jewish community to make this day possible,” said Ms. Sloane. “We were thrilled with the turnout, especially with many people walking into the Dixon for the very first time. Come back and visit us because the Dixon is free until 2024!”

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