Havng the Life of Our Times: A community response to children, war and possibilities for peace

About the Exhibit

Exhibit will open at 12:00 noon, Wednesday, June 22
Opening Reception at 5:00 p.m.

And, the child/We took on a trip/Said/We're having the life of our times
- George Oppen, Quotation, 1962

Northampton Center for the Arts
17 New South Street
Northampton, Massachusetts
11:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m.
Wednesday, June 22 - Friday, June 24, 2011

What can we understand about the lives of youth in Iraq and in the US over the last twenty years? They have come of age in the shadow of conflict and war, in a struggle journalist and author Robert Fisk calls "The Great War for Civilization." What messages have been absorbed; how have their individual and collective experiences shaped their lives and attitudes?

The Iraqi Children's Art Exchange has worked for ten years on a small, human scale using art and art-inspired projects to consider these questions and focus on what we see as one of the most critical and challenging social, cultural and political issues of our times, the conflict between the United States and Iraq. We are preparing to unveil our latest project and share it with our community.

Over the last three years ICAE initiated and supported sixteen Iraqi and American mural projects, working with artists, youth and supporting adults in Baghdad and Amman, Jordan and in eight communities in the US, from the Bay area of California to Normal, Illinois, to Salisbury, North Carolina and Northampton, Massachusetts. We worked through churches, independent media centers, international NGOs, art galleries, museums, and community organizations. The mural projects created a unique opportunity for Iraqi and American youth to express themselves across the barriers of language, culture and politics. Painting in response to the question, How will they know us? young artists used their creative talents to speak on their own behalf, describing themselves and their communities, sharing their cultural and historical identity across the deep divide created by years of war.

An exhibition of these murals will be the focus and inspiration for a three-day series of events. The sixteen 12' x 5' acrylic-on-canvas murals will be installed on free-standing frames in the beautiful ballroom space at NCFA. Having the Life will create a vibrant "town square" where scholars, curators, performers, visitors and audience members can come together to reflect and expand on the dialogue begun by the young artists. The murals will be the focus of a panel discussion about Iraq, children's art, history and culture. They will be the back-drop for Aftermath, the acclaimed play about Iraqi refugees in Jordan written by Jessica Blank and Eric Jensen of the New York Theatre Workshop, and the inspiration for a series of dance, music, and spoken word performances. The Pleasant Street Theater will screen, Our Feelings Took the Pictures: Open Shutters Iraq, a documentary film by Maysoon Pachachi. ICAE collaborating artists Thamer Dawood and Harriet Diamond, will bring an adult perspective with their work Two Artists, Two Cultures, Two Views in the West Gallery right off the ballroom at the Center for the Arts.