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Exhibition Brings The United Arab Emirates To Kentucky

Josh James

The first major touring exhibition of art from the United Arab Emirates makes its final stop at the University of Kentucky this week.

Past Forward: Contemporary Art from the Emirates looks to bridge cultural divides by recreating the tapestry of life in the relatively young country situated along the Persian Gulf through more than fifty pieces of artwork. While the tour has taken an Emirati delegation coast to coast in the U.S., Dana Al Marashi, head of the Heritage and Social Affairs Department at the UAE Embassy in Washington, D.C., said the exhibition was ending on a high note in the bluegrass.

"I feel it's been a perfect example of cultural diplomacy because it's been a opportunity for Emiratis to speak to Americans and Americans to speak to Emiratis and really understand the similarities between the two cultures," she said.

Hear more about the Past Forward exhibition and the new Bolivar Art Gallery from Rob Jensen, Director of the UK School of Art and Visual Studies, and Dana Al Marashi on WUKY's Curtains@8.

Credit meridian.org
Collage of artwork from Past Future: Contemporary Art from the Emirates.

One of the traveling artists, Maitha Al Mehairbi, shared those sentiments in a public forum Thursday – adding that culture has proven to be less of a barrier than she anticipated. Citing a particular piece exploring feelings of nostalgia, Al Mehairbi said certain ideas have required little translation.

"Participating in this exhibition really opened my eyes to the universality of these themes and to actually have these reactions really struck me," she told the panel. "I was pleasantly surprised."

The exhibition - featuring paintings, photographs, sculptures, and other media - opens Saturday at UK’s Bolivar Art Gallery and runs through May 13.

Josh James fell in love with college radio at Western Kentucky University's student station, New Rock 92 (now Revolution 91.7). After working as a DJ and program director, he knew he wanted to come home to Lexington and try his hand in public radio.