artist, angel, culinary professional

University of Kentucky College of Fine Arts

Community Service Award 2008


Zell was an award designer’s and calligrapher’s dream recipient. Born to

a family of gifted musicians, the Arts were woven seamlessly into Zell

Sharff Schulman’s joyous and spirited outlook on life.

From her cantor father she also learned two other philosophic tenets that have guided her as artist and arts advocate: “Remember, your community is only as good as what you give to it and do for it,” and, shortly before she married, “You may need to live on a budget.  Stay home from the movies, but never ever budget on the stomach--always buy the best food.” Her life is testament that she took both to heart.

Beneficiary of her deep commitment to  to the Arts and to the community has been Cincinnati, Ohio, while those who also know her as author*, food writer, and culinary professional have tales to tell of her pure artistry feasting guests with fine food prepared elegantly yet simply, and her wisdom about life

and eating well.

It was only natural, then, that food would become metaphor in my take

on her award.  And, since seder plate design has long provided inspiration for artistic creativity, it also seemed fitting to design Zell’s award as a seder plate

--of her life’s gifts to others.

Each circle represents a dish on the traditional seder plate, a deeply rooted symbol of community survival, each dish of the plate dedicated to an area of her life commitments: music, dance, visual art, drama, culinary art/writing, and philanthropy.  An inner ring on each dish provides a small sampling of the groups, programs or ideas she has been instrumental in either creating

or actively supporting.

The orange circle around each dish is symbolic too--making playful reference to a remark often attributed to a rabbi

but actually coined by a feminist in characterizing certain often backward rabbinical attitudes: “A woman belongs on the bema (altar) like (an) orange on a seder plate.”  Ever since, many Jewish women actually do place an orange or a reference to orange on their seder plates.  Putting orange on Zell’s plate seemed appropriate. 

The “plate” here lifts, by a ribbon pull, onto the full text of the Community Service Award  presented by the University of Kentucky’s College of Fine Arts.  But the food metaphor was just too much fun to let rest there, so I covered the award in a (UK) blue banana paper, and from a block of olive wood carved the two-part latch that snaps shut via a pair of tiny, inset magnets.

*Among Ms. Schulman’s books are  Perfect Passover Parties, Something Different for Passover, and Let My People Eat! Passover Seders Made Easy (reissued by Macmillan as Passover Seders Made Easy).

.  ©ann alaia woods 2008