In 2014 a group of non-profit institutions and passionate individuals came together to discuss their ideas and begin to organize an array of exhibitions, poetry readings, performances, hands-on street festival activities, and educational programs for the Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here project. These partners include George Mason University's School of Art and Fenwick Library, Smith Center for Healing and the Arts, Split This Rock, McLean Project for the Arts, Corcoran at George Washington University and Georgetown University, Cultural DC, Smithsonian Libraries, National Portrait Gallery Library, and Brentwood Arts Exchange.
Brentwood Arts Exchange
Brentwood Arts Exchange (BAE) is a facility of The Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission; a State of Maryland chartered agency that operates in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties. It is the anchor and public component of the public/private partnership Gateway Arts Center, with a mission to serve the public of Prince George’s County by presenting high quality arts exhibitions, arts events, and learning opportunities, as well as a fine craft store featuring local artists. The BAE acts through its programs to energize communities of the Gateway Arts District. It presents six exhibitions per year on-site in its 2,500 sq. ft. gallery, which serves as its primary program area, attracting an average of 7,000 visitors annually. Focusing on regional emerging and mid-career artists, its exhibition schedule is supported by receptions and scholarly events, including professional development workshops, panel discussions, lectures, and independent video screenings. It also supports Prince George’s County and the Gateway Arts District with off-site events, including a 2014 summer concert series.
Phil Davis, Director
3901 Rhode Island Ave.
Brentwood, MD 20722
"For me, Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here is about human connectedness. We live in a time, that is not historically the first time, when the relationship between the West and the Middle East are defined by misunderstanding and conflict. And, because of our heightened pace of global interaction, it’s more important than ever that people far away from one another understand one another. Ignorance has and will lead to misplaced animosity. The Middle East and the West have more in common than not – including rich cultural histories in all of the arts, music, poetry, visual art, literature, film, dance… However, although the arts have the power to increase understanding, to bridge our differences, one other thing we have in common is that the arts face threats in all of our countries. At home the arts suffer from displacement from education systems and low audience engagement. In many places in the Middle East, the arts are threatened by violence and repressive government regimes. I believe that because we’re connected globally, those two threats are related. Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here proposes a way out. By giving the artists in the project a voice, by giving an audience to expression and understanding, we bring the people of different cultures together beyond rhetoric and politics, and hopefully toward a more collaborative world."
Busboys and Poets
Busboys and Poets opened its doors as a new kind of gathering place on 14th Street, Washington DC in 2005. Each location has a relationship with Politics and Prose, a bookstore operated in their spaces that carry high quality titles that promote social justice. Other locations with the same mission and bookstores are now open in Hyattsville, MD, 5th and K Streets, and Brookland.
Carol R Dyson, Curator in Residence
Busboys@14th and V: 2021 14th Street, NW, Washington D.C. 2009
Busboys@Brookland: 625 Monroe Street, NE, Washington, D.C. 20017
Busboys@5th&K: 1025 5th Street, NW, Washington D.C. 2001
Busboys@Hyattsville: 5331 Baltimore Ave. Hyattsville, MD 20781
For 17 years, CulturalDC has been using art to invigorate and transform neighborhoods. CulturalDC provides affordable space for art organizations, offering free space and mentoring for artists, and working with developers and others to create affordable art spaces to help enliven and uplift communities.
CulturalDC owns two arts centers in vibrant DC neighborhoods: Source on 14th Street in the Shaw/U Street Corridor and CulturalDC/City Center in Penn Quarter in Downtown DC. Between the two locations, CulturalDC has two black box theatres, a dance studio, a gallery, and office space for CulturalDC and eight resident arts and theatre organizations.
Over the years, they have served over 1,000 artists. Through programs at these two locations, CulturalDC welcomes 30,000 audience members annually who patronize local businesses, contributing an estimated $1 million to the economy.
CulturalDC also works in the community to ensure the presence of affordable art and artists’ studios; such as Monroe Street Market Artist Studios in Brookland NE. Their latest project, Storefronts DC, will activate up to eight vacant properties with art uses in DC neighborhoods such as Anacostia and Deanwood (East of the River) over the next two years.
CulturalDC is committed to ensuring that art remains accessible and affordable to all – artists, organizations, and audiences throughout the Washington area.
Juanita Hardy, Executive Director
916 G, St. NW Washington D.C. 2001
George Mason University School of Art
George Mason University is an innovative and inclusive public university committed to creating a more just, free, and prosperous world. Mason focuses on results and measures our success by the impact we achieve. The university was established in 1972 by the Commonwealth of Virginia in the National Capital Region. Mason is the largest and most diverse research university in Virginia, with 34,000 students from all 50 states, the District of Columbia and over 135 countries studying in 200 degree programs.
Helen Frederick, Coordinator, Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here
Nikki Brugnoli, Liaison to the Steering Committee
Lesley Smith, New Century College
Susan Tichy, Professor, Creative Writing, English Department
School of Art, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030
George Mason University Fenwick Library
The University Libraries, as a core academic function of George Mason University, serve as both a repository of and digital portal to the wider universe of knowledge. The Libraries foster innovation, originality, and imagination by qualitatively managing access to scholarship and information, providing expert consultation in the research process, actively teaching the effective and critical use of information, and disseminating research and scholarship through publishing endeavors.
Fenwick Gallery, located in Fenwick Library, is intended to enhance and enrich teaching, learning and culture at the University. This space highlights Mason Libraries’ resources together with original visual and multimedia work. Exhibit themes emphasize facets of the Libraries’ collections, research interests of Mason faculty, students and staff, Mason’s curriculum and local cultural initiatives. The Gallery is dedicated to exhibiting high quality works by students, faculty, staff and other emerging and experienced artists that highlight aspects of the Libraries’ collections.
Upon arriving at George Mason University Libraries six years ago, Art and Art History Librarian Jenna Rinalducci recognized a curriculum-based need for an artists' book collection on the library. The collection now holds over 350 books with special attention given to book artists from the DC Metro area and Virginia.
Provisions Library at George Mason University
Provisions Library investigates the relationship between art and social change through research, production, and education. From its library home in George Mason University’s School of Art in Fairfax, Virginia and at sites throughout the District, Provisions produces and supports projects in the US Capitol Region and across the globe.
Provisions’ art and culture research explores models for a more inclusive, equitable, and connected society.
Provisions partners with organizations, individuals, and institutions to develop and amplify contemporary narratives across cultures, support grassroots modes of action, and provide open access to knowledge and understanding of social change in its artistic and creative dimensions. The library, public programming, and research opportunities host artistic, intellectual, and activist endeavors that explore the educational and social promise of contemporary culture.
Local, national, and international projects include exhibitions, public art, residencies, screenings, workshops, lectures, and publications. Participants include artists, activists, academics, students, professionals from a variety of disciplines, and everyday people.
Don Russell, University Collections and Fine Arts Gallery Director, Director of Provisions Library
"AMSSH offers the public an immersive meditation in response to today's culture of total war. These linked exhibitions offer a superb opportunity to witness the countervailing power of contemporary art and the free flow of contemporary knowledge in the face of violence."
The Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies, institutional is home to four of the most distinguished programs at Georgetown University:
• The Undergraduate Programs in Arabic
• The M.A and Ph.D. Programs in Arabic Literature, Language and Linguistics
• The Division of Eastern Mediterranean Languages (Hebrew, Persian, Turkish)
Although we teach four languages in the department, Arabic remains at the center of what we do. Indeed, the need for area-studies specialists with advanced proficiency in Arabic has never been greater or more compelling. As Americans struggle to build a better understanding of the Arab world, its society, its religion, and its culture, we have continued to develop a determined and vigorous long-term strategy to create and maintain linguistic and cultural expertise among our students. Arabic is the native language of over 200 million people in 20 different countries as well as the liturgical language for over a billion Muslims. It is a member of the Semitic language family and has a long and distinguished literary and intellectual tradition. It is now a key factor in understanding and negotiating crucial contemporary global issues. In accordance with Georgetown’s Jesuit ethos, we stress knowledge of Arabic as a path to living altruistically and creatively in a globally-integrated world.
Elliott Colla, American Scholar of the Middle East, Associate Professor, Department of Arabic and Islamic Studies
1437 37th Street, NW
Washington, D.C. 20057
George Washington University / Corcoran School of the Arts and Design
The Corcoran School of the Arts and Design bridges the university’s academically robust programs in the arts with Corcoran’s creative and inspired scholarship. Part of the GW Columbian College of Arts and Sciences, the school functions as an incubator for artists and practitioners in arts-related fields, and serves to enrich students who are taking classes in other areas of the university. As such, it provides a platform for engagement that bridges creative expression and practical application with the breadth and depth of the larger liberal arts education.
The Corcoran School embodies and exemplifies what Columbian College has defined as the “engaged liberal arts,” which strives to link disparate fields and better prepare our graduates for rich, multidimensional careers in the 21st century world. The challenges society faces are diverse, requiring different modes of thought. While the Corcoran School will prepare specialists, it will also enrich the overall educational experience for the breadth of students in the GW community.
McLean Project for the Arts
McLean Project for the Arts (MPA) mission is to exhibit the work of emerging and established artists from the mid-Atlantic region, to promote public awareness and understanding of the concepts of contemporary art, and to offer instruction and education in the visual arts. MPA was incorporated in 1984 to activate plans for a permanent facility. The result is its current facility: a 2,400 square foot white-box gallery, adjacent atrium and ramp galleries, and a 1,600 square foot art studio located in the McLean Community Center. MPA presents 12 - 18 professionally curated or juried exhibitions by regional artists each year, free and open to the public. Educational programming for exhibitions include a gallery talk, family workshop, and may also include lectures, panel discussions, and docent-led tours. Every March it presents the Youth Art Show featuring area students’ artwork. MPA ArtReach provides free year-round comprehensive art education programs targeting students attending at-risk public schools, developmentally disabled children and adults as well as low-moderate income seniors. Gallery based and school based art lectures, class art projects and after-school art workshops are provided at no cost, reaching more than 2,400 students a year.
Nancy Sausser, Program Director
Sharon Fishel, ArtReach Director
1234 Ingleside Ave. McLean, VA 22101
"McLean Project for the Arts is honored and excited to be part of this important collaborative project, Al Mutanabbi Street Starts here. Artists and writers world-wide have come together to address the important and often threatened right to free expression. The bombing of Al Mutanabbi Street was a horrific event that resonated not only with creative people everywhere and also with the communities that are so important in helping sustain the work that they do. In this spirit, MPA truly values the opportunity to partner with all the other area organizations and individual artists involved in the project in a collective exploration of the essential value of culture. We look forward to showing Absence and Presence, a selection of books and broadsides by artists from all over the world responding the event in the Emerson Gallery. In the Atrium Gallery prints and drawings by sisters Nasrin and Nahid Navab will be featured and in the Ramp Gallery paintings that playfully revere and place the book within the landscape by Carol Barsha will be shown."
Smith Center for Healing and the Arts
Founded in 1996, Smith Center for Healing and the Arts is a Washington, DC-based nonprofit health, education, and arts organization. Its mission is to develop and promote healing practices that explore physical, emotional, and mental wellness and lead to life-affirming changes. It offers programs for the community and specializes in serving people with cancer and utilizing the arts in healing. It offers programs and resources built on an integrative model that addresses healing and wellness for the whole person – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Specializing in using creativity and the arts as tools for healing, it is the only cancer support center serving the entire D.C. community.
In May 2008, it opened the Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery to advance the understanding and utilization of the arts to build, unite, inspire, and heal its communities. The 1,300 sq. ft. gallery is the first professional, nonprofit gallery dedicated to promoting the innate connection between healing and creativity. The gallery hosts five exhibitions each year featuring over 100 local and national artists addressing significant themes, such as social change, multiculturalism, health, identity and community. Complementing its exhibitions, the gallery offers film screenings, artist dialogues, performances and creative workshops. On average, each exhibition receives over 700 visitors, and combined with Smith Center’s on-site programs for cancer patients, their families and the community at large its annual number of visitors is 5,000.
The Joan Hisaoka Healing Arts Gallery
Shanti Norris, Executive Director
1632 U Street Washington, D.C.
"The Joan Hisaoka Gallery is a nonprofit arts space in Washington, DC dedicated to exhibiting fine art that explores the innate connection between healing and creativity. We believe that art has the ability to mend social, psychological, and physical ills by building community, inspiring change, and celebrating life.
I am proud to be a partner to the Al-Mutanabbi project that celebrates culture, learning and the arts as essential tools for a civil society. It is through culture that we maintain our humanity in the face of now daily messages of inhumanity. This project speaks to the importance of recognizing the beautiful and ancient culture of Iraq – the cradle of western civilization. And to the power of poetry, the printed page and the visual arts in challenging times. Al-Mutanabbi is both a real place and a metaphor for every meeting place of learning, arts and culture around the world. And for everywhere that freedom of thought and freedom of speech is honored. For each of us Al-Mutanabbi Street starts and lives where we are."
Smithsonian American Art / Portrait Gallery Library
The Smithsonian AA/PG Library promotes new ideas through knowledge sharing, and plays a dynamic role in advancing scientific and cultural understanding and in preserving America's heritage. The expert staff and extensive collections are a crucial resource for research and education communities at the Smithsonian, within the United States, and around the world. The Smithsonian Libraries is a system of 20 branch libraries within Smithsonian museums and research institutes, and central support services include a Book Conservation Laboratory and an Imaging Center. Total volumes owned by the Libraries exceed 2 million, more than 50,000 of which are rare books and special collections items. In addition the Libraries’ education and outreach includes exhibitions, lecture series, and an online digital library of electronic texts and images.
The Smithsonian American Art/Portrait Gallery Library was developed to reflect the missions of both the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery with strong holdings in American art, as well as American history and biography. The AA/PG Library’s special collections also include artists’ books, rare books, ephemeral materials, early 20th-century scrapbooks on California artists, Columbian Exposition research materials, and items related to the history of the Patent Office Building.
The Smithsonian Libraries places a high value on connecting, collaborating, and advancing knowledge across disciplines and information boundaries. The Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here project embraces ideas that the Smithsonian Libraries esteems, specifically freedom to read, access to books and information, and celebration of the free exchange of ideas and knowledge.
The Smithsonian Libraries will be hosting commemorative readings on the anniversary of the bombing of al-Mutanabbi Street, on Saturday, March 5, 2016 at the McEvoy Auditorium in the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, 8th and G Street NW. The Smithsonian’s American Art/Portrait Gallery Library will display an exhibition of artists’ books and printed works from February 1-March 30, 2016.
Split This Rock
Split This Rock calls poets to a greater role in public life and fosters a national network of socially engaged poets. Building the audience for poetry of provocation and witness from its home in the nation’s capital, it celebrates poetic diversity and the transformative power of the imagination. Split This Rock was born in March 2008, on the fifth anniversary of the invasion of Iraq and in the midst of an historic election year. That first Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness was a major success, bringing together hundreds of poets, activists, and dreamers from DC and around the nation for the first time. The need it addressed inspired it to create a permanent organization as a home for progressive poets.
The poets include those who work in the community, in the academy, and both; well-known poets and poets just starting out. It is a diverse group in terms of gender, race/ethnicity, age, physical ability, sexual orientation, and social class. And it strives to represent the great stylistic diversity of American poetry today, presenting poetry of all styles on a single stage. All of Split This Rock’s programs integrate poetry of provocation and witness into movements for social justice and support the poets of all ages who write and perform this vital work. It presents readings, workshops, and panel discussions; youth programs that reach every ward in the District of Columbia; collaborative programs that bring poetry of provocation and witness to new audiences; contests and publication projects; the Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism; and campaigns to integrate poetry into movements for social change. Its cornerstone program, Split This Rock Poetry Festival: Poems of Provocation & Witness, is a unique biennial four-day event.
Sarah Browning, Executive Director
1112 16th St. NW #600
Washington D.C. 20036
"The mission of Split This Rock is to cultivate, teach, and celebrate poetry that bears witness to injustice and provokes social change. Split This Rock’s programs explore and promote the many ways that poetry can act as an agent for change: reaching across differences, considering personal and social responsibility, asserting the centrality of the right to free speech, bearing witness to the diversity and complexity of human experience through language, imagining a better world.
Al Mutanabbi Street Starts Here engages all these goals, harnessing the power of poetry and culture to help Americans learn more about their Iraqi sisters and brothers, affirming the free-speech rights of all, and reminding us that when we read the literature of a culture different from our own, our lives are immeasurably enriched, as our minds are opened to new ways of considering the world. Poetry reminds us, too, of all we have in common as human beings, making it much harder to endorse making war against our new sisters and brothers in the word. Split This Rock is especially excited to present contemporary poets and poetry of Iraq and the Arab world and to celebrate translators and publishers who are bringing these essential voices to English-speaking readers and audiences."
Olly Olly is a call for local artists to come out from their hiding places to make and show their art in a nurturing, creative, alternative art space. Olly Olly is also a call to the community to come out, support, and benefit from an art scene that helps our community prosper and helps to provide an authentic, art filled environment. Olly Olly promotes collaboration rather than competition and provides studios, an incubator space, and art gym for local artists, as well as a gallery, open studio, and event space for the community.
Jessica Kallista, Owner and Curator
10417 Main St., 2nd Floor
Fairfax, VA 22030
"I take much inspiration from Al-Mutanabbi Street as I work to grow Olly Olly as a cultural touchstone and meeting place for local artists and art lovers where ideas are discussed with passion and art flourishes in a way that not only engages audiences and supports local artists, but also facilitates vibrant and healthy growth of our creative landscape. Community and intellectual curiosity are at the center of being fully human, and an attack on Al-Mutanabbi Street is an attack on the free exchange of ideas, on art as an expression and exploration of our humanity, and on our desire, need and freedom to commune with others. I am incredibly excited about this opportunity to participate in AMSSHDC2016 because Olly Olly, among so many others, shares this spirit with Al-Mutanabbi Street: to build community by encouraging collaboration, compassion, and cooperation rather than competition; and to make space for artists and art forms that are normally underrepresented in the current landscape of suburban art venues in the Fairfax area, with a special focus on conceptual, performance, and durational art."
Northern Virginia Community College - Manassas Campus
Northern Virginia Community College's mission is to provide access to high quality and affordable educational opportunities that positively impact the diverse community and workforce in and beyond our region. It strives to be a learning-centered organization that promotes student success. Engagement with the community is a core value of the college’s diversity plan. Northern Virginia Community College is engaged in initiating a variety of innovative programs and activities designed to address immediate needs while providing ongoing access and support for every culturally and linguistically diverse Northern Virginia resident.With commitment to the values of access, opportunity, student success, and excellence, it is Northern Virginia Community College's goal deliver world-class, in-person and online postsecondary teaching, learning, and workforce development to ensure our region and the Commonwealth of Virginia have an educated population and a globally competitive workforce.
Norther Virginia Community College
Matt Pinney, Assistant Professor
6901 Sudley Road
Manassas, VA 20109
I became involved with Al-Mutanabbi Street Starts Here 2016 because of my love for the lands and cultures of people from all over the world. It is in the food, the art, and especially the stories that one can gain insight and affinity toward a place, whether remembered, forgotten, actual, or constructed. We translate entire cultures and histories on the shoulders of stories, oral or written and it is through the telling of stories that information can be shared and passed from one generation to another. It is in the stories that I have found our common joys and concerns. We rely on the accessibility of story-telling to bridge the incomprehensible gaps, biases, and differences that seek to keep us apart. The bombing of Al-Mutanabbi Street in Baghdad in 2007 represents the worst kind of repression, one that attempts to destroy our common humanity and set us apart. It is through AMSSH DC 2016's programming that the unique voices of all the people who's right to express themselves has been curtailed can stand on a larger stage, with a louder microphone, and speak.
For more information, please contact Helen Frederick, Project Coordinator.