Oak Park resident, Berit Engen building bridges with tapestries

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By Ashley Lisenby

Digital Editor

In her native Norway, Oak Park resident Berit Engen, began what would be a lifelong craft of fine arts weaving. She continued her craft even after coming to live in the United States at the age of 30. 'Weaving the Jewish Experience' has been a six year journey of interpreting Jewish texts, history and modern Jewish life through her art.

"There are ideas from Scripture in my work," said Engen wrapping a horizontal string of linen yarn around a row of vertical strings suspended in a frame. "[but] it doesn't have to be just the Holy Scriptures, it can even be Leonard Cohen. I've used his poetry in some of my tapestries."

Much like her weaving technique of intertwining horizontal threads (warp) and vertical threads (woof), Engen, while she primarily focuses on aspects of Judaism, also uses her work as a tool to connect different people and cultures.

"I do like to think of my project as something to be used in education, for inspiration and for building bridges," said Engen.

Of the almost 300 tapestries Engen has created -- she said she produces about 50 a year -- 86 of them are on display at the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership in Chicago until Feb. 23, 2014.

Engen will lead a free gallery tour of her work at the Institute Sunday, Oct. 20 at 12 p.m.

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