From Mecca to America


KENNESAW, Ga. (May 1, 2017)"If you live your life in fear, then you are going to be more constricted instead of being open to the arts and realizing it’s not a threat."

By actively promoting diversity through the Arts, the College of the Arts continually contributes to Kennesaw State University’s diversity in education and the college environment. “From Mecca to America: Crosscultural Exchange in the Art Classroom” is COTA’s most recent initiative promoting cultural diversity. Project facilitators are Dr. Sandra Bird and Dr. Mona Mohamed Ibrahim Hussein, a Professor in Art Education, formerly at Umm Al Qura University in Saudi Arabia through the University of Alexandria, Egypt. Professor Debbie Hutchinson and two student small sculpture assistants provide technical support for participating Art Education 4410 students in the Islamic Metal Ornamentation Workshop. This collaborative journey began almost two years ago when Bird recognized that Metro-Atlanta’s art curriculum could benefit from Hussein’s local, technical, and academic knowledge of Islamic metalwork because, as Bird states, “Visual arts content bridges cultures.” The project became possible with a Kennesaw State University Division of Global Affairs International Community Engagement Grant. Through the Islamic Metal Ornamentation Workshop (Fall 2016) and the Islamic Art and Architecture course (Spring 2017), Bird and Hussein are building a cultural bridge benefitting art education pre-service teachers and those they are teaching along with Hussein’s Alexandria University students who have contributed examples of their metalwork designs.

islamic metal ornamentation workshop

In the Islamic Metal Ornamentation Workshop, Bird (as primary investigator) emphasizes the principles of design while Hussein (as secondary researcher) teaches how to read Islamic design. Hutchinson helps students develop ideas and solve design problems. Teacher training and student learning are emphasized as students work in the small metals studio located in the School of Art and Design. By planning for teaching visual arts with interdisciplinary connections, art education students are creating intercultural curriculum through a model focusing on global perspectives of under-represented art resources. Implementing visual arts learning to other participants––including KSU students, staff, and administrators–– students are learning to teach about diverse societies and cultures. Professors and student teachers are keeping artbased journals recording the developing model through the collection of art content research, video, and participants’ personal commentary and artistic expressions in photography, drawing and metalwork. This work will culminate in a book. The necessity of teacher training in diversity and inclusiveness in local schools is obvious and, as Hutchinson said, “Broadening peoples’ views seems to always start in the arts.”

“Our students need to know how to teach about diverse societies and diverse works that emerge from these societies in order to help bridge the cultural divides that we still experience in the twenty-first century,” added Bird. Bird, Hussein, and Hutchinson pointed out that cultural divides are based in fear: “If you live your life in fear, then you are going to be more constricted instead of being open to the arts and realizing it’s not a threat.” Hutchinson said. “It’s an opportunity to grow, evolve, and become better people. There are many things we can learn from non-western cultures that would make our lives so much better.” Bird continues. “Fear makes the person weak and so we want to teach our students to be strong. … Fear makes us freeze. We must be strong to be creative,” Hussein finishes. The project continued through Spring 2017 when Hussein and Bird co-taught the Islamic Art and Architecture course. KSU’s Wilson Gallery will be exhibiting participants’ art works through July 30, 2017. v Image, opposite page, left to right: Lu Freitas, Phyllis Fulp, Jeanette Wachtman, Lisa Kastello, Sandra Bir, and Mona Hussein.

Jane Custer

Photos by April Munson