ABOUT THE EXHIBIT
In the summer of 2015, we were two of 10 American students selected to participate in the Iraqi Young Leaders Exchange Program (IYLEP), a month-long cultural exchange with 30 Iraqi high school students where we learned about foreign affairs, diplomacy, and life in the Middle East. As a follow-on to the program, each participant completed an action project relevant to what they learned on the program.
With those lessons in mind, the two of us have decided to create Make Art, Not War, the art exhibit you are currently viewing, wherein we recruited American youth artists to create art that depicts aspects of Iraqi culture not often discussed in Western culture and media. We hoped to inspire these artists with Iraqi students’ responses to the following questions:
● What is the biggest problem in Iraq that you believe most Americans aren’t aware of?
● What part of your culture (as an Iraqi) are you most proud of and would like to tell people about?
As you will see, each piece has been displayed along with the quote that inspired it. As a complement to the artwork, we have also included a selected 16 photos shot by our friend and mentor Mellisa Cain on her trip to Iraqi Kurdistan in 2016. We hope to educate the international community about the liveliness that exists in Iraqi culture and the unique struggles that Iraqis face on a daily basis–we want people to look past their stereotypes of Iraq as being an unstable, terrorist-ridden, and war-torn nation, and to truly learn about the lives of the people who live there every day.
Thank you so much for viewing our digital collection and for being willing to keep an open mind about those different from you.
Makisa Bronson and McKenna Conlin, USA.