First Museum Dedicated To Palestinian Art And Culture Opens in US
By Julee WJ Chung
On April 22, Palestine Museum US, the first museum dedicated to Palestinian art and culture in the United States, opened in Woodbridge, Connecticut.
The 4,000-square-foot space is an independent non-profit institution committed to research and preservation of Palestinian history and culture through visual art, film and literature, including works by the diaspora. The museum is led by chairman and founder Faisal Saleh, a Palestinian businessman who has lived in the US since 1969, and board members Anas Alfarra and Desiree Omran, also US-based professionals of Palestinian descent. It also has a global advisory board composed of both Palestinian and non-Palestinian members.
The opening display consists of paintings, textiles, photographs and installations by 20 artists, including the works of Ramallah-based mixed-media artist Ayed Arafah, Palestinian-American artist Manal Deeb, photographer and scholar Margaret Olin, and renowned abstract painter Samia Halaby, who gave a keynote address at the private opening ceremony on Sunday.
Partly sparked by the controversy surrounding the 2003 traveling exhibition “Made in Palestine” that debuted at the Station Museum of Contemporary Art in Houston, Texas—which major US museums declined to host and which several politicians protested on the grounds that the show was anti-American, anti-Israel and glorified art that promoted terrorism—Saleh felt an urgency to carve a politically neutral space where Palestinian art can be appreciated and embraced without prejudice.
Currently, the museum is financed by Saleh, but he hopes to secure financial backers in order to relocate the institution to a larger facility in New York or Washington, DC. In an interview with Palestine in America, Saleh stated, “The Palestinians are our first audience. Whether they are in the US, or in Palestine, or in the diaspora, we want the Palestinians to have a place that they feel is their own, and that they can be proud of, and they can see it as a Palestinian institution that is excelling at showcasing Palestinian arts.”
Julee WJ Chung is the assistant editor of ArtAsiaPacific.
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