Exhibiting Islam. Exhibiting Arab Culture.

The Art History faculty at James Madison University offer an annual seminar which trains students in the theory and practice of mounting a professional exhibition. This class is open to students across the disciplines, and is a seminal course in the Art History Major’s new Concentration in Museum Studies. The 2014 Seminar, “Exhibiting Islam. Exhibiting Arab Culture,” considered the traditions for displaying works of art from a wide range of Islamic cultures and geographic regions, especially those of the Arab world.

Guest speakers included Dr. Christine Gruber, Curator of the Fall 2013 show “Creative Dissent: Arts of the Arab World Uprisings,” and Dr. Jumana Salamey, Deputy Director of the Arab American National Museum. Additional experts from our larger community and campus added to the class’ rich exposure to practices for mounting exhibitions in different local settings. These included Ragan McManus, Executive Director for the Arts Council of the Valley, and Dr. Kay Arthur, Curator of the Spring 2014 Rembrandt exhibition in James Madison University’s Lisanby Museum.

Through our course students gained hands-on professional experience in the planning and execution of this exhibition of Lalla Essaydi’s photography. Along with discussion-based practice, seminar participants contributed significantly to the show’s gallery installation in its two venues, and its larger program of public outreach and education, including the seminar’s workshop for the Harrisonburg High School’s Fine Arts Academy (March 31, 2014). Their online essays here offer important insights into the viewing and critical reading of Lalla Essaydi’s work.