TAKREEM Award for Cultural Excellence

On Saturday, November 25, 2017, the Arab American National Museum was honored with a TAKREEM award for Cultural Excellence in Amman, Jordan. TAKREEM, founded in 2009, aims to “honor Arab’s accomplishments and bring Arab achievers to the forefront of the globe stage, defying the negative perceptions that have plagued the region and becoming a source of inspiration to the Arab youth in their search for role models.” We are honored and humbled to be a TAKREEM 2017 laureate. This prestigious award for cultural excellence is a testament to the hard work and vast contributions of all those who support the mission of AANM. It’s incredibly inspiring to know our work is being recognized abroad and across the Arab diaspora.

TAKREEM Awardees with HM Queen Noor
TAKREEM Awardees with HM Queen Noor
Accepting the award for Cultural Excellence
Accepting the award for Cultural Excellence

In attendance for the award ceremony at The Crystal Palace was HM Queen Noor Al Hussein, members of The Hashemite Royal Family, and more than 1000 invites from different parts of the world. (Read more about the event at The Jordan Times: Arab success stories celebrated at TAKREEM awards). In addition to AANM, the following laureates were recognized for their achievements:

  • Mr. Ghanim Al-Muftah – Qatar for the Young Entrepreneur Award
  • Jusoor – Syria for the Humanitarian and Civic Services Award
  • Mrs. Maali Alasousi – Kuwait for the Outstanding Arab Woman Award
  • Dr. Nahla Hwalla – Lebanon for the Excellence in Education Award
  • Ms. Sarah Toumi – Tunisia for the Environmental Development and Sustainability Award
  • Dr. Zohair Al Halees – KSA for the Scientific and Technological Achievement Award
  • Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture – USA for the International Contribution to Arab Society Award
  • Mr. Raymond Debbané – Lebanon for the Corporate Leadership Award
TAKREEM 2017 Award Ceremony in Amman, Jordan
TAKREEM 2017 Award Ceremony in Amman, Jordan

Additionally, HRH Prince Sultan bin Salman (KSA) and Mrs. Melek El Nimer (Turkey) received a Special Distinction Award, and Mr. Maroun Semaan (Lebanon) was posthumously bestowed a Lifetime Achievement Award. The “Legacy Award” was given for the first time to the memory of HM King Hussein bin Talal.

The TAKREEM 2017 Jury Board was composed of Dr. Nouha Alhegelan, HE Dr Lakhdar Brahimi, Mr. Samir Brikho, Mr. Carlos Ghosn, Mr. Marc Levy, Dr. Akef Maghraby, Lady Hayat Palumbo, HE Sheikha Paula Al Sabah, Dr. Ahmed Heikal, Mr. Issa Abu-Issa, Mrs Nora Joumblatt, HE Sheikha Hala Al Khalifa, Mr. Riad Al-Sadik, Mr. Raja Sidawi, HRH Princess Alia Tabbaa and Sheikh Saleh Al-Turki.

The TAKREEM 2017 Honorary Board was presided by HM Queen Noor Al-Hussein and includes HE Dr. Hanan Ashrawi, HE Dr. Farouk Hosny, Dr. Suad Juffali, HE Sheikha Mai Al Khalifa, HRH Princess Banderi AlFaisal, Mr. Samer Khoury, Mrs. Latifa Kosta, HE Dr. Amre Moussa and HE Dr. Leila Sharaf.

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Amman, Jordan

Images from a visit to Amman, Jordan.

Mural of Marcel Khalife and Mahmoud Darwish along Daraj Al Kalha street in Amman, Jordan.
Mural of Marcel Khalife and Mahmoud Darwish along Daraj Al Kalha street in Amman, Jordan.
Temple of Hercules in Amman, Jordan
Temple of Hercules in Amman, Jordan
Temple of Hercules in Amman, Jordan
Temple of Hercules in Amman, Jordan
Al Shamasi (the umbrellas) in Amman, Jordan.
Al Shamasi (the umbrellas) in Amman, Jordan.
Looking south towards the Roman Theater from the Citadel in Amman, Jordan
Looking south towards the Roman Theater from the Citadel in Amman, Jordan
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Busy Week of Conference Presentations & Events

An incredibly busy week has come to an end. To kick things off, Independent Sector hosted its 2017 conference, Our Common Future, in Detroit. In addition to completing my American Express NGen Fellowship, I had the pleasure of hosting a the Detroit Inside And Out: Refugees And Immigration Tour at the Arab American National Museum as part of the conference program. Much gratitude to the forty people who choose to spend their morning learning about the museum and the local Arab American community.

Detroit Inside And Out: Refugees And Immigration Tour

It’s hard to believe that our eleven-month NGen Fellowship has come to an end. More than anything, I am most grateful for having met and grown with such a great group of young nonprofit leaders. I’ve been inspired by their work, impressed by their individual accomplishments, and touched by the genuine friendships that have been fostered through the program. By far, this has been one of the most rewarding experiences thanks to my NGen colleagues. I’m looking forward to remaining in touch with the crew and watching their careers evolve. So much will become of my peers!

Photo of the 2016-17 American Express NGen Fellows
2016-17 American Express NGen Fellows

Immediately following the conference, AANM hosted its signature annual gala at the Westin Book Cadillac in Detroit. The museum’s annual gala is the largest source of unrestricted income to help sustain educational programs. The phrase “thank you” seems wholly inadequate when I consider our supporters; the inspiring work of the Friends of the AANM Committee, who curated every detail of the program; and the life-giving support of foundations, corporations and individuals who made this event possible and fuel the museum’s work all year long. I am indebted to Friends Committee co-chairs Rajaa Saksouk and Raghad Farah, and the stellar group of accomplished, creative women who produced this elegant evening. Each one demonstrates excellence, dedication and service, and represents the best of what our community can be.

To end the busy week, I was honored to participate in the Grantmakers in the Arts’ Legacy & Leadership conference, which was also held in Detroit. I had the honor of serving as one of three plenary speakers who kicked off the conference as part of IDEA LAB—inspiration from individuals creating the work in the community. A tremendous amount of gratitude for including the museum in the program!

Devon delivering a plenary talk at IDEA LAB
Delivering an IDEA LAB plenary at Grantmakers in the Arts.
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Yalla Eat! Program Featured On NPR

The Arab American National Museum’s Yalla Eat! culinary program was recently featured on NPR’s The Salt. We’re incredibly honored our work is garnering national coverage. The tour is a key component of our institution’s work towards embedding museum experiences into the local community; dispelling stereotypes and misconceptions about Arab Americans; and working with the community to tell our story. Read on!

Unlike most museums, the Yalla Eat! tours take people outside of the building and into the community. People who are unfamiliar with Arab cuisine and culture can talk with business owners about their experiences and the products they sell.

Now in its fourth year, the museum’s Yalla Eat! (“Come on, Eat!”) food tours have spiked in popularity.

Screenshot of Yalla Eat! on NPR's The Salt
Yalla Eat! on NPR’s The Salt
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Epicenter X: Saudi Contemporary Art

This past week, the Arab American National Museum opened a new exhibition entitled Epicenter X: Saudi Contemporary Art. Epicenter X represents the first exhibition of its kind from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to appear in Michigan.

Epicenter X explores contemporary Saudi culture by promoting meaningful dialogue between Saudi artists and U.S. audiences. Furthermore, the exhibition sheds light on the vast diversity of contemporary artistic practice in Saudi Arabia. Cutting through the political discourse of media outlets and government officials, the artworks featured in this exhibition open doors to the lives of the Saudi people. In doing so, this presentation will challenge common views and stereotypes of Arab culture by lending voice to artists exploring poignant ideas centered on urbanization, globalization, religion and the impact of American popular culture in Saudi society.

A variety of works in diverse mediums by both established and emerging artists are featured in the exhibition. Highlights include works by current AANM resident artist, Ayman Yossri Daydban; Abdulnasser Gharem’s Men at Work I-IV; Qamar Abdulmalik’s Asylum of Dreams installation; Ahmad Angawi’s Wijha 2:148; and Yusef Alahmad and Josh Higgins’ Ahlan wa Sahlan. Also featured in Epicenter X are two contemporary Qut murals (on display in The Annex) created in the age-old traditional style of house-painting by skilled female artisans from southwestern Saudi Arabia.

The exhibition has been garnering lots of media hits. Here is some coverage from the Associated Press, Stateside on Michigan Radio, Hour Detroit, Middle East Eye, and Al Arabiya.

A digital copy of the exhibition catalogue can be found online. Catalogues and exhibition posters are available for free within the museum. Epicenter X is on display through October 1, 2017.

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Keynote at National Council on Public History’s Annual Meeting

A big thanks to the National Council on Public History for inviting me to deliver the keynote address at the organization’s annual meeting in Indianapolis last weekend. It was great connecting with colleagues from across the nation to explore the many ways public history enriches our society. And, a big thanks to those who woke early to attend my talk.

I would also like to give a big shout out to the conference attendees who stroked my ego ( ??? ) by providing great feedback via Twitter. Seriously, though, this was my first major keynote and I appreciate the encouragement!

Screenshot of Twitter Feedback

Up next, I’m looking forward to presenting the work of the Arab American National Museum at the American Alliance of Museum’s (AAM) annual conference in St. Louis. Our session, Interpreting Oppression: An Uncomfortable Opportunity, is on Monday, May at 8 from 1:30 to 2:45pm. If you’re in STL, then please join us!

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What the Elimination of the NEA and NEH Means to Us

On March 16, President Donald J. Trump put forth his budget proposal and it calls for the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), among other governmental agencies. These vital government programs have been pillars of cultural and intellectual production throughout our nation. Thousands of museums, libraries, and cultural institutions will be significantly impacted if these programs are eliminated.

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the National Foundation on the Arts and the Humanities Act. This important piece of legislation established both the NEA and the NEH. Since their inception, these Endowments have played an essential role in helping cultural institutions make the arts and the humanities more accessible to all Americans. This includes giving voice and visibility to marginalized and underrepresented communities throughout our nation. The Arab American National Museum (AANM), our nation’s singular museum dedicated to the Arab American experience, has been one of the thousands of museums, libraries, and cultural institutions to benefit from this support.

Since its founding in May 2005, the AANM has been able to shine light on Arab Americans and their presence in our nation through multiple NEA and NEH grants. For example, support from the NEA has enabled the museum to present its biennial DIWAN: A Forum for the Arts. DIWAN is a national convening that has provided hundreds of artists and scholars a safe, welcoming environment in which to connect, exchange ideas, and document emerging trends in the creation of art. What’s more, DIWAN has played a pivotal role in the Museum’s effort to build community through the performing and visual arts. In addition to shedding light on the creative output of Arab Americans, DIWAN has fostered relationships that have led to new research, collaborations, exhibitions, and public programs.

The NEA has also been a supporter of the museum’s award-winning SURA Arts Academy. SURA helps middle school and high school students learn to interact with an increasingly diverse world through professional photography instruction. More importantly, it affords youth from low-income and immigrant communities the opportunity to engage with high-quality mentorship in an enriching environment outside the classroom, which is vital given the cuts to arts programs in our schools. In fact, this award-winning program has been so successful that it received a prestigious Coming Up Taller Award in 2008 for best after-school program from the President’s Committee on Arts and the Humanities.

Most recently, the AANM was awarded a planning grant from the NEH. This grant supports research to update the museum’s permanent exhibits. Specifically, this project is examining recent patterns of migration to the U.S. from the Arab world for the purpose of current and inclusive representation in the museum’s public programs, collections, and permanent exhibits. Museum staff are partnering with leading scholars to conduct community-based research with a representative selection of recent immigrant and refugee communities from across the country. Collectively, we will produce a compelling and inclusive portrait of Arab immigration to the U.S. from the 9/11 era until today.

These are but a few ways the NEA and NEH have impacted the Arab American National Museum’s programs, research, and exhibitions. Through this support, we have been fortunate to give voice to Arab Americans while placing our community’s stories in context with the larger American historical narrative. In short, the NEA and NEH have played a critical role in helping our institution provide accurate and reliable information on Arab Americans while working to build greater connectivity among all Americans.
Elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities would have a profound impact on not just Arab Americans, but thousands of communities big and small, urban and rural, throughout our nation. We urge Congress to take bold and immediate action to preserve both of these American institutions. We are a more vibrant and democratic society with their support.

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