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Artist Michael Israel brings his “Art In Concert” to the Scottish Rite

By Jim Fester

Fort Wayne Reader


At every one of his “Art In Concert” shows, artist Michael Israel gets the kind of rapturous reception from his audience that most performers would chew on glass for. They sing, they dance, they scream… there’s even a few tears. And what exactly does Israel do at these “Art in Concert” shows to elicit that kind of overwhelming response?

Even Israel has a tough time answering that one. “That’s the toughest thing in the world to explain,” he laughs. “It’s kind of like a rock concert with paint, if you were to explain the motion of everything. Explaining the emotion is a little different, because at times people are on their feet screaming and cheering and singing along, and at other times there’s tears running down their face. It’s very powerful emotionally. It’s kind of the feeling of going to the coolest concert, you know, when you get that feeling in the pit of your stomach. That’s what it’s like.”

Indeed, explaining what Israel’s “Art In Concert” shows are all about hardly does them justice. Israel creates a number of 6’ by 4’ artworks onstage, with full stage lighting, sound, and musical accompaniment. “The canvases are upside down or even spinning,” Israel says. “I use dozens of paint brushes, lots of paint goes flying all over the place. Sometimes I use my hands, sometimes I’m throwing things. When I’m done, sometimes it’s a detailed portrait of… John Lennon, or a firefighter, or the statue of Liberty… whatever it happens to be.” (a youtube video of Israel in concert has garnered around 6 million hits)

Fort Wayne audiences will have a chance to see what Israel does when he brings his Art In Concert show to the Scottish Rite Center on Saturday, February 9. It’s part of Israel’s Heroes & Icons tour, and the works will include “Hero,” which depicts a fire fighter rescuing a young child.

Following the performance, the artworks will be auctioned to raise funds for two local charities, the Northeast Indiana Burn Council and the Public Safety Foundation of Northeast Indiana (Israel also performs a private invitation only performance of “Hero” earlier in the day at the Public Safety Academy of Northeast Indiana’s Grand Opening of Fire Training).

The “Art In Concert” concept was hatched when Israel was a kid painting at art festivals, where he would line up a bunch of blank canvases and paint whatever people wanted. He’d crank up some music “because I was tired and needed some rhythm to keep me going.” Pretty soon, there would be hundreds of people watching. “That’s how I sold the work, doing the show,” he says. “Now the work is the show.”

Like his stop in Fort Wayne, Israel does a lot of work with different charities and causes; the nature of what he does lends itself to those kind of events. It’s allowed him to meet a lot of remarkable people. He says working with the kids in the Special Olympics was very inspiring, and a recent SPCA benefit he did featured an appearance by Bruce Springsteen (the event was organized by Springsteen’s drummer Max Weinberg and his wife Becky). He also talks about an event where musician Toby Keith wanted to add some beer to the piece Israel was working on (he obliged).

But it’s the reaction of his audience that Israel finds remarkable. “It’s less about what I’m doing and more about people and their own beliefs, how they interpret the art works and the music,” Israel says. “It’s really straightforward and in your face as far as the images, which are very realistic and recognizable, and the music is well known, but the meaning might be a little different or changed as you see the artwork come together.”

Michael Israel
Scottish Rite Center auditorium
431 West Berry
Fort Wayne, IN 46802
General admission tickets: $25.
Tickets available at the Firefighters Museum; the Public Safety Academy; Fire/Police City/County Federal Credit Union branches; the City County office; the Police Office (see page 11 for addresses); and www.michaelisrael.com.

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