By Richard Deutsch Studio
At the center of the Jessica Lynn Saal Town Square is Chai, a steel sculpture soaring 45 feet above the ground and featuring a sound installation that visitors can play on their own smartphones.
(Skip to instructions for how to play Chai.)
Chai is the creation of artists Richard Deutsch, Ron Shalom, Rebecca Deutsch and Silvie Deutsch.
The word “chai” means “life” in Hebrew and corresponds to the number 18 in Jewish numerology. Chai speaks to duality in Judaism, such as the primal divisions of Genesis, separating light from dark and the sea from the sky. The design is a reflection of itself that alludes to the transformations sparked by the two tablets of the Covenant and the parting of the Red Sea. The sound component was inspired by the artists’ desire to involve the multi-generational community in exploring the sculpture.
Composed of 18 pipes fabricated by Richard Deutsch Studio from 316L marine stainless-steel tubing, Chai ascends a tower covered in more than 5,000 ceramic tiles produced by Fireclay Tile of San Francisco. The tiles are arranged in a complex pattern of seven different hues of red, evoking the pomegranate, a traditional symbol of fruitfulness and the richness of the Torah’s commandments. The pipes themselves range from 8–20 feet long and vary in diameter, presenting a range of sonic properties.
Sound artist and composer Ron Shalom worked with sculptor Richard Deutsch to identify 10 resonant locations on the pipes and install transducers, which create vibrations that turn the sculpture into an amplifier that can be controlled through a unique software interface that visitors can access by scanning a QR code. Users can press buttons in the interface to play a variety of short arrangements of musical tones and harmonies. Arrangements are randomized so that the experience of playing the sculpture is different every time.
How to Play Chai
Chai can be played between noon–1:00 PM on weekdays.
1. Standing in the Jessica Lynn Saal Town Square, connect your smartphone’s wi-fi to the network named “Sculpture.”
2. Scan the QR code and open the corresponding web page.
3. Scroll to the bottom of the page and press “Connect.”
4. Open the interface. Each button offers a different sound.
A Community-Supported Initiative
The installation of Chai is the culmination of a community-wide project undertaken in 2018 and completed in 2021. This project was fully funded by generous members of our community, with lead sponsorship by the Taube Philanthropies as part of a larger Jewish peoplehood grant, and additional support from Barbara Oshman, Carol Seiler Roberts, Amir and Nicole Rubin, Carol and Harry Saal, Dorothy R. Saxe, and Lawrence Seeff and Maya Adam.