Artist Spotlight: Lea Pollak


Lea Pollak.
Lea Pollak has lived in Oak Park, Michigan his whole life. He was raised Orthodox and grew up attending Young Israel Synagogue in Oak Park, he was diagnosed with ADD and depression in second grade. He has five brothers, four older and one younger. He attended Akiva Hebrew Day School, graduating in 2013. In high school he was involved in the National Council for Synagogue Youth, a division of the Orthodox Union. He also attended Oakland Community College for two and a half years, taking courses in psychology and the visual arts.

Finding His Place

Pollak speaking at the Center’s Gala this month.
For many years, he had displayed an interest in the visual arts. Following Rosh Hashanah, his mother mentioned to him that the Friendship Circle was opening an art studio in West Bloomfield. She thought he might enjoy getting involved with the project. In early October, he visited the Farber Soul Center and immediately fell in love. He had not previously been involved with Friendship Circle, but liked the idea of being a part of the art center.  Pollak describes his experience in the Soul Studio, “[I like] seeing people with disabilities creating beauty, and seeing friendly and devoted staff and volunteer members working with the artists in the studio one-on-one. They know how to to tailor their teaching methods to each individual student. And there is no pressure for a grade.”

Un-ironically Enthusiastic

Pollak with one of his pieces.
Pollak believes that words are not enough sometimes, but through his art he is able to communicate his emotions more effectively. “Words are inefficient. With art, anger can be red. There can be varying degrees of the red, and different textures can convey levels of an emotion. I have been doodling for a very long time.” He believes he focuses better when his hands are moving. Pollak has created several pieces in the Farber Soul Studio including a scarf inspired by the British television series Doctor Who. Pollak’s art is influenced by the style used in japanese manga novels and the popular Pokemon series.  He is a self proclaimed, “nerd” that enjoys being, “immersed in Japanese pop culture.” He said he is currently working on a “nerdist” print incorporating various fandoms and a quote from author John Green, “Nerds like us are allowed to be un-ironically enthusiastic about stuff.” Pollak hopes to see the print placed on posters, mugs, notebooks, etc.

“I’m Home Here.”

“By working at the Soul Center, as someone who works in various media of art, I’m able to create art while receiving instruction.” Pollak says. To people or artists in particular who want to get involved with the Soul Center but are apprehensive or afraid to do so, Pollak says that “coming here affords numerous opportunities to grow as an artist and to learn new techniques. Also, the staff and volunteers create a super-friendly environment. I’m home here.” Pollak is excited for the Center’s bright future, including new additions such as the woodworking and framing studio.  He is especially looking forward to getting use the 3D printer and seeing new talent come to the studio.

Empowering Artists Through Ink: Silkscreening at the Farber Center

Many teens and young adults with special needs are never given the opportunity to express themselves creatively. Lack of opportunity, resources and time generally are barriers for any human being, let alone those who require a little extra investment.

This problem is exactly what Friendship Circle aims to solve at the Farber Center, a flagship facility currently under construction that will meet the needs of these individuals and help them hone undiscovered creative skills, and it all stems from generosity.

The generosity of others has driven the Friendship Circle since its founding, and the same holds true of the upcoming Farber Center. The donation of effort, expertise, time, funding and supplies has brought the facility to life while the temporary Soul Center Mini has succeeded brilliantly in its pilot programs, which include ceramics, laser and digital arts, painting, paper mache, weaving and more.

Such generosity has paved the way for the Farber Center’s programmatic appeal, catering to a number of interests, skillsets and mediums. One such program is silkscreening, which has quickly become a growing favorite among the artists.

Silk screening with a quality machine can be incredibly expensive, often coming with a price tag of $10,000 or more. It is by the benevolence of that the Friendship Circle is able to offer such a unique and expressive program at the Farber Center.


Just last year, the Friendship Circle approached with a longshot request. However, because the potential of the Farber Center so eminently shone through, the resulting gift took everyone by surprise. Not only was a brand new, state-of- the-art four-panel silkscreening machine donated, but so were the necessary accessories required for its use in a studio, including: a conveyer drying machine; cleaning materials; 75 practice screens and ink.


The silkscreening process has become an valuable learning tool for the artists and a noticeable asset for the Farber Center. As a manual machine, the artists are walked through every step where they learn to execute stunning designs.

But don’t let the word “manual” fool you into thinking the process is slow; this machine is intended for large orders and is a promising source of revenue for the Farber Center and its artists.

Outweighing the machine’s production is its usability. All of Farber Center’s artists are capable of silkscreening, which translates into the artists realizing what they, otherwise, might have not known they had.

The structure and repetition of the screening process is key for a wide variety of diagnoses, while the use of color and design evoke individual creative expression. The end results are not only beautiful; they are useful results that instill confidence and comfort to the Farber Center’s artists.

“The silkscreening program is very empowering,” said Jordan Shifman, Farber Center’s Manager of Operations. “It gives our artists the chance to see a project through from start to finish and send it out into the world almost immediately to be appreciated.”


With the continued use and production of the silkscreen, more items will soon be available for custom order, including: sweatshirts, sweatpants, t-shirts, skirts, bandanas and hats. This list will continue to grow as the artists become seasoned in their silkscreening technique.

The Farber Farber Center’s opening in 2016 will only enhance these extraordinary programs. From the talented artists that are constantly discovering their hidden gifts, to the growing list of donated materials, this new venture for the Friendship Circle is already exceeding expectations.

The generosity of organizations like is tremendously appreciated by every member under the Friendship Circle and Farber Center umbrella as the artists continue to find new ways to comfortably and confidently express themselves and their creativity in an environment where they feel safe from judgement and their souls can continue to shine.

People with special needs can really teach us life lessons that we cannot get from professors; they are people who are capable of doing things the same as typical, productive people to society and what they have to offer can be truly inspiring and amazing.