Greetings from the American Islamic Congress!

Hi Everyone – This summer I am interning at the American Islamic Congress’ (AIC) Boston Office. AIC defines itself as a civic minded organization, dedicated to building interfaith and interethnic understanding, as well as supporting and fostering civil and human rights. While the main office is in DC, they have a strong Boston office and cultural center, as well as bureaus in Tunisia, Egypt and Iraq.

I am working as the Arts and Culture Program Assistant. This summer, my main responsibility is to spearhead and co-lead the project development of a traveling art exhibit for the AIC scheduled to be launched in 2014. Our aim is to bring 6 – 8 Muslim artists to up to 6 cities on the east coast. We are inspired by the idea of cultural advocacy, (i.e., using arts to make a difference) and letting art counter stereotypes that people have of each other. Our hope is to have a diverse selection of strong artists from the Muslim world who can talk about relevant issues facing them and their communities such as fundamentalism, immigration, gender rights, and democracy. We hope to generate a cross-cultural conversation that allows and fosters positive engagement amongst societies. With this exhibit, we also want to have films and concerts, as well as outreach to high schools, in order to have a significant, 3-dimensional impact. I am involved with helping draft the concept, prospecting for fundraising, engaging partners, networking, coordinating outreach, and planning educational programming, amongst other responsibilities.

My other job is to be the curator for the cultural/gallery space in Boston. I was an Assistant Curator for AIC in Spring 2012 (which is how I got this Summer internship) and this summer allows me to be more engaged with the artists, as well as plan an exciting array of art and cultural exhibits (film and music) exhibits for the 2012 – 2013 year.

My first week has been pretty exciting. I definitely felt like I walked with a purpose my first day in. The location of the internship, at 38 Newbury Street, surrounded by glamour, adds not only the aura of a ‘legit’ operation, but also pressure – because you are competing with so much around you for an audience. As a Muslim-American organization, how can we try to be relevant and have a strong alternative, progressive Muslim voice? I think that is the big issue that this organization is grappling with.

For this summer, I am working with a couple of people in the office but my supervisor is Andrea Dettore, Development Associate – she is a great lover of music and arts programming and is going to guide me through the process of fundraising, and network and partner building for the traveling exhibit.  The final concept will be the result of our joint conversations and expertise.

On Thursday, I was involved in co-curating the most exciting exhibit so far! AIC is partnering with Discover Roxbury, an organization dedicated to the promotion of culture of Roxbury, to feature five American artists of color, who traveled to Egypt before the Arab Spring, and have been inspired by it. Please find pictures for it below!

I co-curated this show with two workers at Discover Roxbury. This was the first time I ever co-curated an exhibit, and this was definitely a learning experience because there were some strong ideas being bounced around and some clashes, but all in all our result was great!

I really hope this summer will allow me to develop skills that I do not currently possess in the field of planning. As an Art/Art History major, theoretically I know about art in general, but I don’t know much about business plans, marketing, and outreach/fundraising. I would love to combine my love of art and knowledge of contemporary Muslim art, and learn how to be successful in this field of cultural management.

Additionally – I would love to find a progressive Muslim voice that is advocating for strong change, and be able to find my own space within it with my multiple identities.

Until the next time we connect,

Khuda Hafiz (May god protect you)

Abdul Aziz Sohail ’13

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