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Getting the Stamp of Approval

April 6, 2011 By:
Rachel Vigoda
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Senior Laurie McQuaid and her Barbra Streisand stamp

Since the Hussian School of Art and the National Museum of American Jewish History are right next door to one another, sharing a view of Independence Mall, the folks at Hussian decided it was time to help the museum put its stamp on the new neighborhood.

Last week, the museum unveiled commemorative stamps designed by students in Hussian's Junior Design and Senior Portfolio classes. The stamps depict individuals featured in the museum's "Only in America" gallery/Hall of Fame.

Each person in the gallery represents an American Jewish man or woman who has made a significant contribution, from Albert Einstein to Steven Spielberg. There are 18 honorees in total; stamps from 24 students were selected to be put on display, with a few of the stamps portraying the same individuals.

The art project was conceived as a welcome to the museum by Ronald Dove, chairman of Hussian, which is a four-year professional career school in the Bourse building that teaches advertising design, illustration and digital media.

"We call ourselves the 'realists of artists,' " said Cathy Sue Ott, a junior at Hussian whose stamp was in the show. "Everything we learn is practical."

Ott said she felt a personal connection to the historic figure she was assigned.

"I did Rose Schneiderman, who was a leader in unions and an influence for social reform, especially for women. She was inspiring -- I really attribute a lot of what we as women have today to her influence."

For her stamp, Ott set a photo of Schneiderman against a vibrant red background. "She was beautiful inside and out," says Ott. "I wanted to show that."

Next to Ott's stamp, senior Aaron Johnson's stamp of Isaac Lesser is muted, done in browns with words scrolled across the background.

Leeser was the famous chazzan of Mikveh Israel, which is still located across the street from the museum, and the founder of Maimonides College, the first rabbinical school in the country, among other achievements.

"I hadn't heard of him, but the first thing I did was start researching him and found out that he translated the Bible and founded a Jewish newspaper. So I focused on the typography," said Johnson. "I went with a sepia tone, partly because there were no color photographs of him."

All of the students spent weeks researching the accomplishments of the individuals they were assigned and translating them to paper, then went through several rounds of critiques before the 24 stamps were chosen.

Telling Several Stories

"We thought stamps were appropriate because of the simplicity of the vehicle. It allowed the students to focus on commemorating the individual, letting them tell a story while also giving their artistic interpretation," said Bruce Wartman, president of Hussian.

"The students learned a lot. I learned a lot," he continued. "It's important for young people to understand the value of contributions others have made, and how those contributions impact them."

The stamps, which were on display at the museum for the opening reception, are now at the Bourse until April 30.

Senior Laurie McQuaid admitted to being a little nervous at the reception, but said she's thrilled to have her Barbra Streisand stamp on display. "I was so excited when my stamp was picked -- I've never been in anything like this!" she said.

Her portrait is designed in a pop-art style, reminiscent of Andy Warhol, because "Streisand is iconic," said McQuaid.

"When I started researching, I realized I knew very little about her," she acknowledged. "But I knew I wanted to use an image from when she was young. Mostly because my inspiration came from 'Yentl.' "

The other figures who got "stamped" include Irving Berlin, Leonard Bernstein, Louis Brandeis, Mordecai Kaplan, Sandy Koufax, Estée Lauder, Emma Lazarus, Golda Meir, Jonas Salk, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Henrietta Szold and Isaac Mayer Wise.

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