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.
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!
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!
I’m very honored to have been selected to join such a talented and accomplished cohort of twelve nonprofit professionals taking part in the 2016-17 American Express NGen Fellows Program with the Independent Sector. Involvement within the fellowship program provides space for self-reflection, intellectual growth, and ongoing professional development. The program runs from November 2016 – October 2017, which began last year during the IS annual conference in Washington, D.C. I’m really looking forward to learning, sharing, and growing with this talented group of leaders.
The NGen Fellows, 12 outstanding charitable sector leaders aged 40 or under, are selected each year to participate in a range of activities that deepen their individual capabilities, expand their collective knowledge, and grow their professional networks. This selective fellowship program continues to build the next generation of charitable leaders as part of IS’ NGen: Moving Nonprofit Leaders from Next to Now initiative.
To honor eight years of the NGen Fellows Program, Independent Sector will officially become a partner of the American Express Leadership Academy, an industry-defining program that has developed more than 2,500 global, nonprofit, and social purpose leaders. Current NGen Fellows and alumni will now be able to take full advantage of the Academy’s growing alumni network and development events.
Earlier this month I had the opportunity to represent the Arab American National Museum at the City/Cité convening in Paris. It was an inspiring program and I was honored to be part of an incredibly talented delegation of professionals representing the US. In addition to sharing how the AANM works to uplift communities through arts & culture, I had the opportunity to meet with like-minded institutions in Paris to explore the potential for collaboration. This included the Cité Nationale de l’Histoire de l’Immigration and the Institut du Monde Arabe. I’m optimistic about the possibilities. Here’s more on the City/Cité program:
At a time where shockwaves of the Brexit and US elections extend to the other side of the Atlantic in a context of worldwide political crisis, City/Cité brings together researchers, policymakers, city architects, activists, artists, and journalists in a transatlantic dialogue on the past, present, and future of urban democracy.
After the 2015 launch of City/Cité in Chicago and before the next stage that will take place in Detroit in 2017, this Paris edition turns to the issue of “neighborhoods”. The two days of events at CentQuatre-Paris and Maison de la Poésie offer a space for exchange and reflection on ways to promote social inclusion and political participation in neighborhoods, and to identify best practices for social justice. Beyond the immediate objective of establishing an international network of artists, researchers, local figures, and activists, the project aims to create a Franco-American commission on urban development policy.
I need to express my heartfelt gratitude to the French Embassy in the US for organizing City/Cité. Not only was it an insightful program, but it also served to foster stronger relationships among the participants. I’m very much looking forward to the next installment of City/Cité, which will take place in Detroit in 2017.
One of the many great things about attending CityLab 2016 in Miami was the opportunity to speak with inspiring and talented leaders from across various professional fields. This included conversations with some great journalists, including the one I had with Megan Billings, Deputy Bureau Chief at Monocle. I’m a big fan of Monocle magazine and I enjoyed speaking with Ms. Billings about the work of the Arab American National Museum. The interview was published by Monocle’s The Urbanist podcast (episode 265).
I’m immensely excited to be in Miami for CityLab 2016. Over the next few days, attendees will explore both challenges and innovative approaches to creating more sustainable and vibrant cities. I have the honor of serving on a breakout session on Monday, October 24 called Community Building with Arts and Culture. Moderated by Sammy Hoi, president of the Maryland Institute College of Art, the panel will also include Franklin Sirmans, director of the Perez Art Museum Miami; and Joe Robertson and Joe Murphy, founders and artistic directors of The Good Chance Theatre. I am humbled to be joined by such a distinguished list of presenters.
Here is the summary overview of our panel:
Two top museum directors working in diverse and, at times, divided cities, will explore the power of the arts to break down division and foster community, particularly across racial and ethnic lines. Franklin Sirmans of Miami’s Perez Art Museum and Devon Akmon of the Arab American National Museum will share strategies for how to use art as a lever for cross-cultural dialogue, They will be joined by Joe Robertson and Joe Murphy of the Good Chance Calais, a pro bono theater company which these two young British playwrights started in the infamous Calais Jungle refugee camp. Despite lacking plumbing, roofs over their heads, or much to eat, refugees from a host of nations came together under the Good Chance tenet and made art. In this session, inspiring anecdotes and clear cut strategic advice will be shared with a common goal of helping participants to reflect on how art connects us, highlighting our common humanity.
Dedicated to highlighting innovation and effective practices in urban governance, CityLab gathers the world’s most creative mayors and city practitioners with artists, academics, funders, and other public and private sector leaders focused on improving cities and spreading urban strategies that work.
Follow the discussion online with the Twitter hashtag #CityLabMIA.
2016 Smithsonian Affiliations Annual Conference
Opening Session: Saluting our Past, Shaping our Future
October 18, 2016 at the Rasmuson Theater, National Museum of the American Indian
Moderated by Harold A. Closter, Director, Smithsonian Affiliations
Devon Akmon, Director, Arab American National Museum
Sarah Holbrooke, Executive Director, The Pinhead Institute
Allyson Nakamoto, Director of Education, Japanese American National Museum
Jose Santamaria, Executive Director, Tellus Science Museum
Affiliate partnerships can be enriching and occasionally transforming. What have we learned from 20 years of experimentation and collaboration, and what do we envision for the future? Four Smithsonian colleagues offer their keynote insights into the power of partnership and the ways in which working together has benefitted their organization and community, while helping the Smithsonian fulfill its national outreach mission.
Middle East Institute and the Institute for Immigration Research (IIR) at George Mason University The Art of Immigration: How Immigrant Artists Enrich America
October 19, 2016 at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Moderated by Monica Gomez-Isaac, Executive Director at the Institute for Immigration Research (IIR), George Mason University
Devon Akmon, Director, Arab American National Museum
Huda Asfour, Musician & Composer and Co-Founder of the DC Palestinian Film and Arts Festival
James Witte, Director, Center for Social Science Research (CSSR) and Research Director, Institute for Immigration Research (IIR), George Mason University
A discussion about the social, cultural, and economic impact of immigrant artists on U.S. society, the infrastructure available to support the integration of immigrant artists, and the personal transformations they undergo as they adapt to their new homeland.
Next week I’m heading to Washington, D.C for a couple of professional engagements. First up is the Smithsonian Affiliations Annual Conference. The conference runs from Monday, October 17 through Thursday, October 20. This year marks the 20th anniversary of Smithsonian Affiliations and our colleagues in Washington have put together an excellent conference schedule. I’m looking forward to reconnecting with colleagues, exchanging ideas, and learning fresh insights. Check out the conference agenda.
My responsibilities at the annual conference are twofold. First, I’ve had the pleasure of serving on the Smithsonian Affiliations Advisory Council for the past three years. On Monday, we will convene for our annual meeting. I’m very much looking forward to learning more about the developments with the Affiliates program, as well as doing my best to provide effect feedback. Additionally, on Tuesday at 9:30am, I have the pleasure of participating on a keynote panel entitled, Opening Session: Saluting our Past, Shaping our Future. During this time we’ll be sharing our work and experiences as part of the Affiliate network, while also exploring opportunities for future collaboration. If you can join us, swing by the Rasmuson Theater at the National Museum of the American Indian. Here’s a peek at what I’ll be discussing.
On Wednesday, October 19, I have the pleasure of serving on a panel presented by the Middle East Institute and the Institute for Immigration Research (IIR) at George Mason University. The panel, entitled The Art of Immigration: How Immigrant Artists Enrich America, also includes Huda Asfour (Musician & Composer), Anne-Marie McGranghan (UNHCR), and James Witte (George Mason University). Our discussion will explore the “social, cultural, and economic impact of immigrant artists on U.S. society, the infrastructure available to support the integration of immigrant artists, and the personal transformations they undergo as they adapt to their new homeland.” Details on the panel, including info on registration, can be found here.
On monday, Governor Rick Snyder spent half a day visiting the Arab American National Museum. We were pleased the governor spent so much time learning about our institution and the communities we serve.