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Arab American National Museum Program Receives 'Coming Up Taller' Award in White House Ceremony

posted on: Nov 14, 2008

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SURA Arts Academy, an Arab American National Museum (AANM) program that gives Dearborn and Detroit youth the opportunity to learn and use photography to foster cultural understanding, is being nationally recognized as one of just 15 U.S.-based youth arts and humanities programs to receive the prestigious 2008 Coming Up Taller Award.

A Museum representative and a SURA student photographer traveled to Washington, D.C., for a White House ceremony today to accept the award from First Lady Laura Bush. Included with the award is a $10,000 cash prize to support the ongoing work of SURA Arts Academy. Only one other Michigan-based organization, Mosaic Youth Theatre of Detroit, has been honored with the Coming Up Taller Award.

The AANM’s annual exhibition of SURA Arts Academy images closes this Sunday, November 16 at 5 p.m. Those interested in enrolling children in future SURA semesters may contact Aimee Allen at 313.624.0210 or aallen@accesscommunity.org.

Coming Up Taller is an initiative of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities (PCAH). The President’s Committee partners with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS), the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to administer the program, which was founded in 1998.

The Coming Up Taller Awards recognize and support outstanding community arts and humanities programs that celebrate the creativity of America’s young people, and provide them with new learning opportunities and a chance to contribute to their communities. The awards also highlight the contributions that historians, scholars, librarians and visual and performing arts make to families and communities by mentoring children. More than 320 nominations were received by the program in 2008.

Based in Dearborn, SURA Arts Academy is offered free to middle school children after school throughout the academic year, and in the summer at a school in southwest Detroit. Instructors from Detroit’s College for Creative Studies teach courses in basic camera operation, provide the participants with digital cameras, and then send them into their communities to document topics such as work, food, religion, recreation and family life. The students then discuss their photographs in sessions designed to strengthen cultural awareness among the area’s diverse groups of Arab Americans, African Americans, Latinos and other groups in primarily lower-income communities.

With support from the U.S. Department of State, students in the SURA program also had the opportunity to interact with photography students in Amman, Jordan to promote cultural understanding on an international level. Students share photos over the Internet, comment on each other’s work via e-mail, and interact in real time using videoconferencing technology and interpreters.

“SURA is an Arabic word for photograph,” says Celine Taminian, Assistant Director of the Arab American National Museum, who attended today’s White House ceremony along with SURA student photographer Camille Charara of Dearborn. “In SURA Arts Academy, middle school students not only get free instruction in digital photography, they also learn to view their neighborhoods and the broader community with new eyes and in new and stimulating ways.”

“Arts and humanities activities have a wonderful way of enabling young people to discover their unique talents and Coming Up Taller programs help light the fires of curiosity and creativity in young people, using the discipline that arts and humanities require to learn about themselves and explore the world around them interests while forging a path to success in school and life,” said Adair Margo, Chairman of the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. “SURA Arts Academy helps young people appreciate the values of diversity and tolerance while giving young photographers an opportunity to share the most meaningful aspects of their lives.”

The President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities bridges the interests of federal agencies and the private sector, supports special projects that increase participation, and helps incorporate the humanities and the arts into White House objectives. The National Endowment for the Arts is a public agency dedicated to supporting excellence in the arts, both new and established; bringing the arts to all Americans; and providing leadership in arts education. Because democracy demands wisdom, the National Endowment for the Humanities serves and strengthens our Republic by promoting excellence in the humanities and conveying the lessons of history to all Americans. The Institute of Museum and Library Services is an independent federal grant making agency dedicated to creating and sustaining a nation of learners.

For more information:

SURA Arts Academy: www.arabamericanmuseum.org

Photo caption:
Left to right: First Lady Laura Bush; SURA student photographer Camille Charara of Dearborn; Celine Taminian, Assistant Director of the Museum; and Caren Prothro from the President’s Council on the Arts and the Humanities.