Contemporary Islamic Art & Events in the Berkshires

Contemporary Islamic Art & Events in the Berkshires
Art Exhibit, Documentary, Music & Eid Celebration

The art exhibit, Islam Contemporary, is just one of several featured events in August that celebrate Islamic art and culture. Over the course of the month, there will be a community Eid celebration, a documentary screening and discussion with the directors, and a concert of classical Middle Eastern music. Find out more about these events!

The Lichtenstein Center for the Arts and the Whitney Center for the Arts in Pittsfield are holding a joint art show, Islam Contemporary, for the month of August, opening on Friday, August 2nd in conjunction with the Pittsfield First Friday Artswalk in the Cultural District. The exhibition features twenty-five artists who hail from around the world, some Muslim, some non-Muslim; some emerging artists, some well-established. Included in the exhibition are works by the Berkshires’ own local artist Daisy Rockwell, granddaughter of Norman Rockwell, and Boston-based Pakistani artist Ambreen Butt. The works on display range from reinterpretations of traditional South Asian art, to critiques of the Western media’s portrayal of women, to statements about multidimensional cultural and gender identities, to attempts to use art to connect communities during times of crisis.

This exhibition offers contemporary and varied perspectives on Islamic art, history, and culture. Students of Middle Eastern studies may find this particularly informative, though families are likely to also learn much from the ideas and images on display. Aziz Sohail, the curator of the exhibition, says, “…this exhibit provides a platform for authentic and diverse voices that grapple with an ever-changing heritage. We hope that the show dispels stereotypes and sparks discussion by facilitating a complex and nuanced look at Islamic heritage and culture.” After (or during) your visit, ask your family to think about the works on display and compare the people and lives that they represent to their own lives. What is similar? What is different? What were they surprised by? What new information were they able to absorb/digest over the course of their visit?

The art exhibit is just one of several featured events in August that celebrate Islamic art and culture in Pittsfield. Over the course of the month, there will be a community Eid celebration, a documentary screening and discussion with the directors, and a concert of classical Middle Eastern music, all happening at the Whitney Center for the Arts.

On Sunday, August 4th at 2pm, there will be a screening of the documentary, The Other Half of Tomorrow, follow by a talkback with mother-daughter filmmaker duo of Sadia Shepard and Samina Quraeshi. The Other Half of Tomorrow is a portrait of contemporary Pakistani women working to change their country and themselves. Through a series of chapters, the film features the work these women are involved in, like educating and empowering with a women’s rights’ workshop, allowing for expression in an underground dance academy, and improving strength and confidence from playing fields of the Pakistan Women’s Cricket Team.  Take your older daughters and screen together.  Talk with them about cultural differences and challenges women and girls face all over the world… and how they are overcoming them! ($)

On Saturday, August 10th from 11am-2pm, the Whitney Center for the Arts will host a family-friendly community Eid celebration. Eid-ul-Fitr, also called the Sweet Festival,  is a three day long festival that celebrates the end of Ramadan, which this year ends on August 8th or 9th, depending on the sighting of the moon. Traditionally Eid a day when friends and families gather, sweet dishes are served, music is performed and gifts are given. For this community celebration in Pittsfield, families can enjoy Middle Eastern fare, learn about Mehndi, or henna, and discover more about this important Muslim holiday. The celebration is free and open to the public, but it is requested that families RSVP:  413-499-9348.

On Saturday, August 17th, the final event in the series will be a classical Middle Eastern music concert by Massachusetts-based Al-Layaali at the Whitney Center for the Arts. Al-Layaali’s mission is to ‘increase the awareness of Arabic music and culture through concerts, recordings, workshops and lectures and features musicians from four Arab countries; Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Morocco’. The concert begins at 8pm, and will feature a pre-concert talk by the musicians at 7pm, focusing on the tradition of music in the Arab world. ($)

The Whitney Center for the Arts is located at 42 Wendell Avenue in Pittsfield, MA.

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