The Chassidic Art Institute was founded to encourage the development and appreciation of Eastern European Jewish artistic traditions. The only organization of its kind in the world, the institute houses a gallery and organizes traveling exhibitions as well as live performances at its headquarters in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood.
The institute mounts a range of exhibitions, among them the Annual Russian Group Show and the Annual Chassidic Art Group Show, both now entering their third decade. The institute is most noted for its many one-person shows by artists such as Meer Akselrod; Michael Muehnik; Rachel Vorhand; Jerry Dantzic; and Robert Feinland among others. Exhibitions feature a wide range of styles and subject matter, some of which focus on the unique religious life of the Lubavitch Chassidim.
The Chassidic movement started in the 1700s in Eastern Europe in response to a void felt by many Orthodox Jews of the day. Its founder, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov, was a great scholar and mystic devoted to both revealed and hidden aspects of the Torah. Today, the Chassidim are differentiated from other Orthodox Jews by their devotion to a dynastic leader (a Rebbe), the wearing of distinctive clothing and intensive study of the Torah. There are perhaps a dozen major Chassidic movements today, the largest being the Lubavitch group of Crown Heights.