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New Jersey Council for the Humanities Awards Major Grant to The College of New Jersey Art Gallery

The College of New Jersey is pleased to announce that the New Jersey Council for the Humanities (NJCH) has awarded a grant of $10,700 to the Art Gallery and Department of Art and Art History to fund the project Art Amongst War: Visual Culture in Afghanistan, 1979-2014, a series of five public programs and an interdisciplinary exhibition that will examine the effects of 35 years of war in Afghanistan on the visual culture of the country.  The exhibition, which will be on view in TCNJ’s Art Gallery from March 5 to April 17, 2014, will present contemporary Afghan and Afghan-American art, photojournalistic images, and traditional crafts. The programs will include historical documentary films and discussions with a Kabul-based NGO, a war veteran, and the leader of a social development organization in Afghanistan.

The year 2014 will mark 35 years since the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. From that point onwards the country has been in a constant state of armed conflict, and there is now an entire generation of adults for whom war is the only lived experience of their country. Next year is also the scheduled withdrawal date of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. Despite, or perhaps because of, 13 years of direct military, political, and humanitarian engagement with Afghanistan, the majority of Americans view Afghanistan as a dusty, barren, cold, and broken land, a view constructed from the images encountered in the commercial news media. TCNJ’s exhibition and programs seek to widen, complicate, and enrich the public’s view of Afghanistan and to probe the cultural effects of long-term war. It will do this by asking two broad questions: What has 35 years of war done to the culture of Afghanistan? And, how do people employ culture to respond to the traumas of war?

The first program, which will immediately precede the exhibition opening on March 5, will be Beyond the Images of the Evening News: Afghanistan’s Visual Culture in Context presented by exhibition curator and Associate Professor of Art History, Dr. Deborah Hutton.

Subsequent programs will include the screening of History of Histories: Afghan Films, 1960-Present, a compilation of fiction films, newsreels, and documentaries from Afghanistan’s national film archive compiled by artist Mariam Ghani; Kandahar Treasure: Empowering Afghan Women One Stitch at a Time presented by Rangina Hamidi, activist and founder of Kandahar Treasure an enterprise dedicated to empowering Afghan women by reviving traditional crafts; a presentation by artist and veteran David Keefe, who will discuss the mission and activities of the Combat Paper Project, which helps New Jersey vets tell their stories through a unique paper and print making program; and a presentation on Skateistan, an NGO based in Kabul that empowers Afghan girls and boys by teaching them to skateboard.

The exhibition and programs are being developed by Dr. Hutton and Emily Croll, director of the Art Gallery. They are assisted by an Advisory Committee that includes Dr. Jo-Ann Gross, TCNJ Professor of History; Dr. Marla Jaksch, TCNJ Assistant Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies; Gregory Thielker, TCNJ Assistant Professor of Fine Art; Dr. Susan Ryan, TCNJ Associate Professor of Communication Studies; Dr. Marcia Taylor, TCNJ Associate Professor of Art Education; and Jawan Shir, Ph.D Candidate at the University of Pennsylvania.

The New Jersey Council for the Humanities is a state partner of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The mission of the NJCH is to develop, support and promote projects that explore and interpret the human experience, foster cross-cultural understanding and engage people in dialogue about matters of individual choice and public responsibility. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations in the exhibit and lecture series do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities or the New Jersey Council for the Humanities.

TCNJ Art Gallery is located in the Art and Interactive Multimedia Building (AIMM) on the campus at 2000 Pennington Road in Ewing.  All gallery exhibitions and related programs are open to the public free of charge. Gallery hours are Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays from 12:00 until 7:00, and Sundays from 1:00 until 3:00.  For more information about exhibitions and programs and for directions and parking, visit tcnj.edu/artgallery or call 609-771-2633.

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