Artist and Teacher

I began my undergraduate studies at Olivet College in 1946, but didn’t graduate until 1966. I was the oldest graduate in my year! In the aftermath of WWII, I impulsively left the United States in 1951 to come to the new state of Israel as a pioneer, although I am not Jewish. With all the energy and idealism of my youth, I wanted to help build a “new world.” I settled in kibbutz Urim in the Negev wastelands (in the south of Israel) to “make the desert bloom.”

Eventually, I found myself teaching three-dimensional design in the architectural department at the Israeli Institute of Technology in Haifa. In 1965, I received the Dizengof Prize for Painting from the Tel Aviv Museum. Since I had not visited the States since leaving in 1951, and my parents had not met my wife, Rina, or my two sons, Eilam and Jonathan, I decided to use the prize money for traveling.

Before leaving Israel I had written to several schools, including Olivet, about a teaching position. Librarian George Hanson received my letter and remembered me from my student days at Olivet (1946-49). He arranged for me to teach and also helped me to be allowed to complete the two hours of credit that I needed to in order to qualify for my bachelor’s degree. It was a particularly rewarding experience to be able to return to my alma mater as a teacher. I am very indebted to George Hanson, who was a wonderful person and who did much for Olivet College.

Former professor John Byle ’66 now lives in Tel Aviv, Israel

.I am grateful to have had the opportunity to teach at Olivet during this exciting period of the late ’60s It was a special moment in American history, when almost anything seemed possible and creative energy was in abundance.

There were many interesting teachers at Olivet at that time, such as Stephen Hazel, with whom I founded the Nez Perce Professional Printmaking Workshop. Many interesting guest artists came to the workshop during that time. I also remember the annual Print and Drawing Exhibition, which I curated during my stay at Olivet.

There was a weeklong Bergman film festival organized by one of the English professors and a general atmosphere of openness and possibility. Although I enjoyed my time at Olivet very much, and it remains one of the high points of my teaching experience.

Rina, who is an Israeli, and I planned to return to Israel in the summer of 1967. I had been asked to teach at a new department of art that was opening at the Bezalel School for crafts and design in Jerusalem (Bezalel is the only artist mentioned in the Old Testament). I became the first head of the department and I held the position for 10 years.

It was the first department to become accredited and I became a full professor in 1976. During the years at The Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, I taught basic design (which I had introduced), drawing and painting. My years of teaching at Bezalel and heading the department allowed me to develop my vision of art education and create a broadly conceived pluralistic program of art studies that encouraged intellectual, artistic and personal openness.

Besides teaching, I painted, sculpted and did several projects of art incorporated in architecture and public art. In 1990, I received the Arieh Elhanani Prize for Art in Architecture for a wall I created in the social sciences library at Tel Aviv University. After retiring in 1993, I continued to teach a private painting workshop, to serve on several public committees and to paint and sculpt.


S H I P H E R D ’ S   R E C O R D 31

"peace" by john byle)

read art review on john's work.

                                John Byle's website