NEA grant supports Syrian-American artist’s Home project at WCSU
Connecticut artist and architect Mohamed hafez bring their recognized skills in sculpture, assembly and installation to Western Connecticut State University this fall, as he shares his deeply personal exploration of the concepts of home and travel with WCSU and Danbury students as part of “The Home Project,” sponsored by a $ 13,000 grant from the National Foundation for the Arts.
With support from the NEA, Hafez will pursue an extensive program of collaborative art installations and exhibitions, student mentoring, public lectures, and other activities during a WCSU residency. Department of Arts which will start in August and run until the end of the 2021-2022 academic year. Through these diverse and interactive exchanges, he will draw inspiration from his unique experiences and his artistic works to encourage project participants to create their own artistic interpretations of the meaning and concept of “House”.
Curator of the gallery and assistant professor of art Melissa Ralston Jones and assistant in visual arts and assistant professor of art Lori Robeau have worked with Hafez over the past two years to develop a residency and exhibition, and with Gabrielle Jazwiecki, director of the Office of Sponsored Research, to complete the NEA grant application. Ralston-Jones noted that WCSU is one of only three colleges in Connecticut to have achieved the prestigious distinction of receiving a NEA Grants for Arts Projects award in the current cycle.
“Gabrielle drew our attention to the grant knowing that we have had a relationship with Mohamad for the past two years and that the goals of this project align perfectly with the goals of this NEA grant program,” said Ralston-Jones. “Our hopes for ‘The Home Project’ were to create dialogue and awareness among displaced and undocumented people, helping to deepen understanding and empathy for those afflicted by war, poverty and poverty. roaming.
The WCSU Art Department in 2019 became one of five Connecticut art departments to achieve accreditation from the National Association of Schools of Art and Design and the only department in the college system and Connecticut state universities to achieve this distinction. The WCSU Department offers a Bachelor of Arts in Art with concentrations in Graphic Design, Photography, Painting or Illustration, and a Master of Fine Arts in Visual Arts. NASAD accreditation means that both programs meet the higher standards set by the agency.
As part of the residency, Hafez will join WCSU faculty members, associate professor of art and director of the Kathwari Honors program. Sabrina Marqués and Dr Christine Hegel-Cantarella, Associate Professor of Anthropology and Associate Chairman of the Department of Social Sciences, to mentor students in a fall semester course “There’s No Place Like Home”, designed in conjunction with the residence and exhibition, to inspire intercultural dialogue and creativity elements to communicate concepts and experiences of the house. Students participating in this WCSU course will incorporate found objects and other materials to create three-dimensional assemblages representing their personal visions of the home, which will be installed as a collaborative piece and shown along with Hafez’s work in an exhibition at WCSU Visual and Performing Arts Center Gallery opening in January 2022. The course is also co-created by professors at Pace University, who will teach it simultaneously on their campus, allowing WCSU students to interact with their peers at Pace through discussions, work sharing and field visits.
In spring 2022, two WCSU students from the course will collaborate with Hafez to serve as peer mentors to high school and high school students participating in the after-school program at the Harambee Youth Center in Danbury. The student mentors will help guide middle and high school students in the center in creating their own assemblages focused on the question: “What is home?” Hafez will also visit the center and review the projects, which will be on display in downtown storefronts in the summer of 2022 as part of a cooperation with City Center Danbury.
“The Home Project” brings to WCSU an artist whose artistic vision and career have deep roots in the multicultural experience of his life’s journey from the Middle East to the United States. Born in 1984 in Damascus, Hafez spent his childhood in Saudi Arabia and studied electrical engineering in Syria before moving to the United States to study art and architecture at Northern Illinois University and earn his bachelor’s degree. in Architecture at Iowa State University. Over the past decade, he has created a unique body of multimedia artistic works that seeks to tap into the crossroads of cultural heritages within him.
Hafez was recently Performer in Residence at the Oriental Institute and Artist in Residence at the Harris School of Public Policy, both at the University of Chicago. He has a studio in New Haven and has been recognized as a Silliman College Fellow at Yale University and the 2018 recipient of the Arts Hero Award from the State of Connecticut Office of the Arts.