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New Exhibition Uses Art To Build Bridges Between Muslim, Non-Muslim Communities

Courtesy Wichita Common Humanity, artist

A new art exhibition opens today in Wichita that will showcase the work of Middle Eastern artists displaced by war.

The Building Bridges exhibit includes 80 paintings, most of them from Iraqi refugee artists. The work was brought here by the nonprofit Wichita Common Humanity, a collaboration of different religious and interfaith groups.

Credit Nadya Faulx / KMUW
Jan Swartzendruber, coordinator for Wichita Common Humanity, speaks during a sneak preview of the "Building Bridges" exhibition last week.

Coordinator Jan Swartzendruber says the goal of the project is to challenge stereotypes about the Muslim and Arab worlds and help the Wichita community better understand its Muslim neighbors.

“It’s really effective to look at a piece of artwork that comes from a person in another culture and the visual part of that, the beauty of it, speaks for itself," she says. "You just see the art, you appreciate the humanity of the painter.”

Swartzendruber says many people aren’t familiar with Iraqi modern art, but that the openness of Wichita's strong art community makes it a welcoming city for the exhibition.

"I think this is a ripe time to bring this kind of art to Wichita and it's going to meet with a lot of enthusiasm," she says.

The exhibition will also include a sale, with 80 percent of the profits going back to the artists. The show runs through Aug. 26 at The Looking Glass at Cadman Art Gallery at Wichita State University. It will be at various Wichita State and Bethel College galleries through Sept. 30.

Nadya Faulx is KMUW's Digital News Editor and Reporter, which means she splits her time between working on-air and working online, managing news on KMUW.org, Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. She joined KMUW in 2015 after working for a newspaper in western North Dakota. Before that she was a diversity intern at NPR in Washington, D.C.