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Sharing Culture and Experience, Arab-American Gallery Opens at Pontiac Creative Arts Center

posted on: Apr 18, 2019

Sharing Culture and Experience, Arab-American Gallery Opens at Pontiac Creative Arts Center

SOURCE: THE OKLAND PRESS

BY: NATALIE BRODA

The Pontiac Creative Arts Center is holding its third Arab-American Art Exhibition this month.

The exhibition features work from 12 artists including paintings, glass mosaics, printmaking and mixed media. It’s one of several heritage shows the arts center puts on each year, such as its Black History Month exhibition, now in its 37th year and its Hispanic Heritage Month exhibition, which has been held for 45-years.

“I like the idea of doing these shows because it helps to connect our diverse community through art,” Bill Dwyer, director of the arts center, said. “We see it with kids all the time, they work on art projects here together and they all get along, black, white, Hispanic. They’re not thinking in terms of ethnicity.”

Which, for Dwyer, is an important part of holding the heritage shows. By giving voice to artists with diverse cultural experiences, he said he hopes to educate and share great, local art with the community while dispelling prejudice.

The Pontiac Creative Arts Center will be presenting its Black History Month Exhibition until Tuesday, Feb. 28 featuring two artists, both with…

In 2016, after the inaugural Arab-American exhibition was announced, graffiti displaying hate speech was spray painted onto the back of the arts center.

“That made me feel like I was doing something right,” Dwyer said. “Some of the artists dropped out, but many of them stayed. I wasn’t going to cave in. We’re using art to connect people in different walks of life.”

Ilham Mahfouz, a mixed media, acrylic, ceramic and sculpture artist from West Bloomfield, has shown work in the exhibition since its inception. Her pieces in this year’s show delve into how the subconscious can be reflected in colors, abstract shapes and forms.

Ilham Mahfouz, a mixed media, acrylic, ceramic and sculpture artist from West Bloomfield, stands beside her piece entitled “Sea Flowers” at the Pontiac Creative Arts Center.

Photo by Natalie Broda – The Oakland Press

“Ever since I’ve been involved with this show, we’ve been trying to push for diversity,” she said. “As Arab-Americans, we’re trying to contribute and embrace that diversity. The best way I know how to do that is through my art.”

Rana Loutfi, a mixed media, acrylic and oil pastel artist from Rochester, agreed with that sentiment. The subject of her work is women and the challenges they face in societies throughout the world.

“It’s very important to share our work, this is our voice,” she said. “Through my work I want to show that women can do anything, can reach anything.”

As for the exhibition as a whole, Mahfouz said she hopes it can inspire a new understanding of her culture and heritage.

“What’s most important is for them to walk away not thinking Arab people are fanatics, or terrorists. I want them to be seen as human beings, with respect and dignity just like every other human being,” she said. “If we can reach love and tolerance, we will build a better society and future.”

The Pontiac Creative Arts Center underwent about $30,000 in renovations last year for a new roof. The building went up in 1898 and was last renovated in the 1960s. Staff is currently working to change over to LED lighting this year.

An opening reception for the Arab-American Art Exhibition will be held from 6 to 8 p.m. on Friday, April 12 at the Pontiac Creative Arts Center, 47 Williams St. in Pontiac. Admission is free. The exhibit runs until Friday, May 3.