In college, I studied abroad in the Middle East and had amazing experiences that I carry with me to this day. Although not there anymore, I’ve continued to keep up the studies and interests that had been sparked over there. Despite that, I never really was able to learn a lot about Saudi Arabia. Luckily, last week during my fall break off from teaching, I was able to visit “Desert to Delta”, an art exhibit hosted by the Art Museum of the University of Memphis. The exhibit displays amazing contemporary works by artists from Saudi Arabia and gave a cool perspective into the country and its arts scene.
I lived in a dorm on the University of Memphis campus during my summer training, or “institute”, for Teach For America but kept myself isolated to the buildings where training and sessions were held. Being able to walk around the campus on a breezy fall day and view it outside the lens of the stressful and sweat-drenched hustle and bustle of summer training was a welcomed reacquaintance with the campus.
Located inside the arts and communication building, the museum has the feel of any other art museum; you wouldn’t think classes were taking place in the same building. Inside, sculptures, multi-media works, portraits, and other works filled the exhibit. I spent almost two hours pacing around the rooms, in awe at the quality of work I had found on the campus. It’s usually difficult to find works of art that reflect alternative narratives of peoples dominated by mainstream ideas and perspectives. Religious tolerance, capitalism, gender, and other ideas were reflected in these works. I definitely plan on revisiting just to take in that energy of thought and reflection again. The political science student in me was also reveling in the alternative ideas that usually weren’t reflected in the usual curriculum and readings surrounding the Middle East, especially a country like Saudi Arabia.
I highly suggest checking these artists and their work out! It’s open until January 6th and is totally free. Through all the issues swirling around today, visiting this exhibit was a touching reminder of the power that art holds, the power to transcend political and religious barriers created by the powerful. I’m grateful to have found it in Memphis.