Cory’s Story

Tags: Federation, Arts

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Over the years, the Jewish Federation of Cleveland has accumulated an extensive Israeli and Jewish art collection. And thanks to our recent Cleveland Israel Arts Connection intern, Cory Irwin, we are able to learn the stories behind each piece. During his six month internship, Cory cataloged the art collection and researched the history of each piece.

Through this experience, both Cory and the Federation learned more than just the backgrounds of artists as Marc Chagall and Helen Frankenthaler. We learned how powerful opportunity can be – for an individual and for an organization.

Cory has autism. Through the support of The Bobby Fund of the Jewish Federation of Cleveland, Cory came to the Federation from Milestones Autism Resources of Warrensville Heights, a non-profit organization dedicated to educating and coaching teens and young adults on the autism spectrum.

From the first day of his internship, Cory became part of the Federation family and our community. “I would say this was the right work and environment for the right person. With those two things, anyone with autism or on the spectrum can be an exemplary worker,” said Cory. “With that support here at Federation, I was an exemplary worker and I know more people can do the same thing. They just need an open door.”

“It was so awesome to watch Cory grow through this experience and see how successful he was through the end,” said Haley Dunn, Milestones Teen and Adult Coordinator. “It’s really a wow moment for me to see all the work he put into this project. It’s been a really great match, and I couldn’t be prouder of Cory.”

Cory Irwin gives Federation staff a tour of the building's artwork.

Quickly, Cory settled into his role and began studying and researching each piece in the Federation’s collection. “He was able to interpret artworks in highly sophisticated ways; it became apparent that Cory had a vast, almost encyclopedic, knowledge of visual art and art history,” said Debbie Yasinow, Director of Federation’s Cleveland Israel Arts Connection and Cory’s internship supervisor. “If he couldn’t find information online he would call libraries, and if possible, he would even contact the artists directly for insight into their works. There was never a hurdle he couldn’t clear.”

The final catalog contains detailed essays of more than 20 artworks, exploring the background of the artist, artistic influences, and Cory’s personal interpretations of the pieces. “This will always be a milestone marker for what I do next,” said Cory. “I know the benefits of my time here might have more long-term benefits that I can’t see yet, but I’m just grateful several times over to the Federation for giving me this opportunity.”

The Cleveland Israel Arts Collection Catalog will be available to visitors of the Federation’s Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel Building.

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