Conversations | Gal Nissim, Interdisciplinary Artist & IAP alumna
“Today, as an immigrant artist in New York, I realize that being part of a community that is like-minded and yet diverse is critical for my professional and personal growth.”
Gal Nissim is a New York-based interdisciplinary artist and researcher who bridges art, science, and technology to create interactive work that invites participants to explore the dynamic relationship between nature, culture, and human-made environments. Originally from Israel, Nissim was selected to participate in NYFA’s Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program and recently received a Lower Manhattan Cultural Council (LMCC) grant for her project, The Synanthrope Preserve: The Washing Bear Tour. The work is part of a series of immersive audio experiences exploring New York City, questioning our relationship to the “natural” world in it.
NYFA: While technology is often used to shield us from nature, you utilize it to bring people closer to it, enhancing the feeling of being present. How did The Synanthrope Preserve: The Washing Bear Tour start?
Gal Nissim: It all started at the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at NYU, where Jess Scott-Dutcher and I met. We found out that we were both fascinated by the natural world. We started looking at the city as a common habitat, shared by people and animals and began our exploration of New York City as an ecosystem. These are synanthropic animals–instead of being pushed away, they thrive in extreme urban environments. We wanted to create a meaningful and pleasant experience around the animals, which usually are associated with diseases and aggressiveness. Each walk focuses on a different synanthropic animal.
NYFA: Tell us about the process of applying for funding and grant writing for this project. Is there anything that you would do differently now?
GN: The process of applying for funding and grant writing included plenty of preliminary research in targeting the relevant organizations that would like to support us. Culture & Animals Foundation (CAF) is a wonderful organization that supports artists in advancing our understanding of animals, and LMCC supports creative projects that engage the public in Manhattan. Both seemed to share our project’s agenda and therefore were a perfect fit. In addition to that, I believe that having a working proof of concept was helpful to convince panels about our capabilities to create such a project and our vision for the project. I feel very grateful for receiving the support and recognition from LMCC and CAF. The support from both organizations was what drove us to take our project further.
NYFA: You are an alumna of the Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program (IAP): Visual Arts. In what way did participating in this program help your career?
GN: Today, as an immigrant artist in New York, I realize that being part of a community that is like-minded and yet diverse is critical for my professional and personal growth. Participating in the IAP mentoring program for visual arts helped me become part of a community that I can both learn from and contribute to. Being exposed to other amazing artists enabled me to establish systems for collaboration and to collect friends for life. Moreover, the mentorship program was a significant and very helpful experience. Eric Corriel was the best mentor I could have asked for. He was extremely supportive and helped me navigate the art world in New York, a world that was unfamiliar to me. IAP plays a huge part in my professional growth as an international artist.
NYFA: Would you like to share any future plans?
GN: The next tour will tell the story of one of NYC’s most prominent residents, the rat. We are very excited about this tour because it is one of the most hated animals in the city and it will be one of the most challenging animals to shift people’s perspective about. Rats are especially interesting in the way they reflect on human behavior in the best way, not only from an ecologic perspective but also from a scientific one.
NYFA: Any advice to immigrant artists living in NYC?
GN: Sometimes a city as big as New York can feel lonely and isolating for an immigrant artist and it can take a while to build a professional network; you might not even know where to start! NYFA’s team helped our group to establish a community of immigrant artists. IAP creates a platform for artists to associate and meet with other fellow artists. I would strongly recommend that newcomers apply for the program. You might find out that more people feel the same way as you feel.
– Interview Conducted by Alicia Ehni, Program Officer at NYFA Learning
This interview is part of the ConEdison Immigrant Artist Program Newsletter #110. Subscribe to this free monthly e-mail for artist’s features, opportunities, and events.
Images: The Washing Bear Tour, The Synanthrope Preserve; Credit: Roy Rochlin