"A Community of Many Worlds: Arab Americans in New York City," which is thought to be the first exhibition ever produced on the history of New Yorkers from Arabic-speaking lands, will be at The Museum of the City of New York, 1220 Fifth Avenue at 103rd Street, New York City, through September 11.
The exhibition features seven thematic sections: 1) Who is an Arab American?, 2) Arab Immigration to New York City, 3) Family, 4) Religion, 5) Culture, 6) Work, and 7) Public Life. More than 300 objects, including archival and contemporary photographs, documents, books, costumes, textiles, and household objects are on view, highlighting the cultural and commercial contributions Arab Americans have made to New York City and the values and traditions that have connected them for generations.
Mr. Rosenthal's photographs of contemporary Arab American life were commissioned by the Museum for the exhibition. He has contributed some 50 images of contemporary Arab New York life. Presented as mini photo essays within the exhibition's thematic sections, they document Arab New Yorkers at school and church, at work and play, getting married, and standing in quiet vigil at a Walk of Peace after September 11, 2001.
The exhibition also includes a 13-minute video in which filmmaker Bob Madey interviews artist Samia Halaby, attorney Abdeen Jabara, "Ameraba" musical style creator Eddie Kochak, and others about what it means to be an Arab New Yorker. There is a slide installation by photographer Sing Si Schwartz that takes the viewer inside Arab New York, from Damascus Baking Co. to an Arab Muslim home in Bay Ridge and the Manhattan studio of Najib Shaheen, a craftsman who makes a traditional Middle Eastern stringed instrument called an oud.
Poetry is a recurring theme throughout the exhibition. The title of each thematic section is a fragment of a poem or prose piece, including works written in response to September 11, 2001.
"A Community of Many Worlds" is designed to introduce visitors to the diverse group of Arab Americans living in New York City who share a linguistic heritage and cultural traditions dating back more than 1,500 years. It was more than four years in the making and was inspired by a similar exhibition created by the Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services (ACCESS) in Dearborn, Michigan. The Museum hosted a two-day scholarly conference in February, 2000, and soon will release a volume of 16 essays and 40 illustrations based on the conference presentations also entitled "A Community of Many Worlds: Arab Americans in New York City."
Mr. Rosenthal is a distinguished professor of art and cultural studies at Empire State College of SUNY and directs the school's photography program. He co-founded Impact Visuals, a photography agency, and the Triage Project, a collective of doctors, photographers, and writers that documents health care and homelessness in New York City. He has exhibited his photographs nationwide and in Mexico. Mr. Rosenthal has been a guest artist at Yaddo twice, in 1998 and 2002.
For information about the exhibition, call the Museum at (212) 534-1672 or visit their website at www.mcny.org.