Art All Night by Miranda Macaulay Miller (A’20)

by heatherbarry
Aug 28

As I reach the end of my internship at the Arts and Culture program of the Middle East Institute (MEI), I have been thinking a lot about the intersection of the arts and policy, and more specifically the intersection of arts and policy making in the Middle East.

When I started this internship, I was mostly just excited that I had found a space that was working at the intersection of my two main academic interests -- art history and the Middle East! The only way I had really been able to fuse these interests in the past was by finding artists from the region and exploring their art. I liked a lot of what artists in the region were creating, but I did not really understand the significance of their work in a global context. One of the main things I have gained during my time at MEI is a deeper understanding of the importance of showcasing art from the Middle East and North Africa in a way that is accessible to a broader audience.

Washington, DC is a global city filled with think tanks and policymakers that are talking about the Middle East and developing policies related to the Middle East every day. However, in this city, there is not really one space to visit to see the art that is emerging from the region. The art gallery that MEI is opening in the fall will hopefully fill this hole in an impactful way. It will showcase and amplify the importance of the best in contemporary and modern art from the Middle East. However, it will not only be a place to look at art, but a hub for dialogue about the role of the arts in society. Art often provides a unique perspective on the lives and experiences of certain groups that cannot be adequately expressed in a policy brief or research paper.

One of the first ways the Middle East Institute will engage with the community to highlight the importance of the Middle East Institute Art Gallery is through Washington, DC’s annual Art All Night Festival. This is an arts festival in which galleries, embassies, and other arts spaces open their doors from 7pm - midnight to showcase their art, host artist talks, interactive arts programming and more. This summer, I helped plan the MEI Art Gallery’s programming for this night and wrote and designed the written materials that will be distributed before and during the event.

Art All Night will be the first night that the MEI Art Gallery is open to the public. The opening exhibition, Arabicity | Ourouba, will be on display. Additionally, there will be a calligrapher creating art for people to take home, live oud music, a pop-up bar hosted by the Green Zone, an Iraqi-owned, Middle East themed bar, and live Debke dancing throughout the night. Unfortunately, I will not be in DC for this event, but I am glad to have had the opportunity to help put together all the pieces. I think this night will be a great way to introduce Washington, DC policymakers, students, researchers, and others to the MEI Art Gallery and the significance and power of displaying art from the region.