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New DIA Gallery Engages Public with Muslim World

posted on: Feb 24, 2010

This Sunday, February 28th marks the public opening of the newly established Islamic gallery at the Detroit Institute of Arts. With the displayed Islamic art pieces in acquisition by the DIA for over 100 years, the elaborate gallery has been a long awaited arrival. While there is certainly appreciation felt by avid art followers, Detroit’s Arab and Muslim communities are equally acknowledging its value.

Dr. Hashim Al-Tawil, Professor of Art History at Henry Ford Community College, is enlightened by the gallery’s inclusive and edifying characteristics,” The pieces cover major themes and aspects of Islamic art such as painting, sculpture, metal works, calligraphy, textile, glasswork, and pottery.” He continues, “These artworks, objects, and other materials are wonderful sources of education and intellectual joy.”

Art pieces that bring such awareness to the Islamic culture are especially welcome considering the ever-increasing anti-Muslim rhetoric that has developed in the last decade. With several hundred works on display, Muslim Americans in the Detroit area are encouraged by a new-found ability to communicate through a large, influential platform.

“We have been at a loss in terms of having public representation in the diversity of Islam. The collection is especially critical now as Muslims tend to get represented mostly through their politics, and not through their culture. The gallery will give the public a new way to engage with the Muslim world,” says Dr. Sally Howell, Assistant Professor of History at the University of Michigan- Dearborn.

Just this past Saturday, such engagement took root as the DIA held their pre-opening reception, hosting over 300 distinguished dignitaries, consuls, and community leaders—all of varied nationalities and religions. Present at the banquet was Syrian community leader and activist, Hoda Succar, who enjoyed witnessing the integration of such communities.

“As I sat and looked around the room, I saw about half of us were Arab Americans, a mixture of Muslims and Christians, and the other half were non-Arabs and non-Muslims who were excited to be there in support of the DIA’s new gallery. It was a beautiful experience to have all of us come together celebrating something positive from the Islamic world,” says Succar.

With the official opening just a few days away, art gallery curator, Dr. Heather Ecker, hopes to see a similarly varied representation of visitors at the museum in the coming weeks. “I’m very proud of what we have accomplished here,” she says. While Ecker is speaking in terms of the DIA’s efforts, her words would also seem to echo the sentiments of a very proud, very pleased Arab and Muslim community.

Ameera David
Arab Detroit