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Syracuse University to expand in the Middle East

May 18, 2011

Ruth Kaplan
(212) 826-1444

Syracuse University has announced the expansion of its educational presence in the Arab Gulf. In June, an information center will open in Dubai, providing resources and background on the University to prospective students and parents. Punctuated by a ribbon cutting on June 17, the opening underscores SU’s dedication to engaging students in learning opportunities for the world, in the world. Opening the day after the ribbon cutting is a new joint exhibition between SU and the Dahesh Museum of Art.

Already engaged in the region in many ways, Syracuse boasts a highly respected Middle Eastern Studies Program, an expanding, specialized faculty in the Arabic language and Middle East history, and an ambitious publications program at Syracuse University Press. In addition, SU has a long, impressive list of alumni, parents and students from Dubai, including several leaders in their chosen fields.

SU Chancellor and President Nancy Cantor points to the key role that the institution’s alumni have played in fostering its growing presence in the Middle East and the Arab Gulf. “SU alumni from the region were pioneers in their time on our campus, and are harnessing that pioneering spirit to broaden and deepen opportunities for cross-cultural collaboration in research, creativity and learning for today’s faculty and students. We are profoundly grateful for all they have done—and continue to do—to make this possible.”

Among the University’s accomplished alumni in the region are Mohammed Al Murr, the prolific author and deputy chairman of the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority; SU Trustee Abdallah Yabroudi, CEO of Dubai Contracting Co., who has created a unique civil engineering internship in Dubai, established a chair in international civil engineering at the University, and helped renovate SU’s engineering classrooms and faculty space; and alumnus Reda Raad in Dubai, who heads the dynamic TBWA/Raad agency in the field of advertising and public relations and has established an internship that soon will host its first students from the S.I.Newhouse School of Public Communications.

“Reconnecting East and West: Islamic Ornament in 19th-Century Works from the Dahesh Museum of Art and Syracuse University,” the latest exhibition in a partnership between SU and the Dahesh Museum of Art, opens on June 18 and will run for a month. Open to the public at the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre (DUCTAC), Mall of the Emirates, “Reconnecting East and West” celebrates and documents the rediscovery of authentic Islamic ornament and design by 19th-century scholars and artists from the west.

The exhibition in the Arab Gulf signifies an expansion in a cultural partnership that began in 2008 to present art exhibitions drawn from the museum’s collection in New York City at SU’s Palitz Gallery/Lubin House, and on the Syracuse campus in central New York.

To celebrate both of these important events, Chancellor Cantor and University trustees will be traveling to Dubai. They will be joined by Amira Zahid, founding trustee of the Dahesh Museum of Art, and Dahesh Museum trustees. There will be a special reception on Friday, June 17, at which Al Murr will be an honored guest.

The expansion of the arts partnership to the Gulf has been a natural evolution for the University and the museum. Each partner has professional, institutional, scholarly and personal ties to the region; each is well known and respected for its commitment to contributing to the important east/west dialogue. The art exhibition hopes to stimulate a productive, meaningful conversation about history, art and the complex relationship between cultures at different historical moments.

According to Zahid, one of the Dahesh Museum’s founding trustees, “The Dahesh Museum of Art is proud to share its collection with audiences in Dubai for many reasons. First and foremost, we have expertise in the field through the scholarly exhibitions we have produced over the years. Dr. Dahesh, who assembled the original collection, was a resident of Beirut and understood the value of collecting Orientalist art for future generations in the east as well as the west.”

An important focus of “Reconnecting East and West” is the rediscovery of Islamic art and architecture by western artists in the 19th century. Examples of contemporary design in Dubai juxtaposed with the earlier material confirm the continuing tradition of Islamic ornament in the built environment viewers inhabit today.

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