This week has been a flurry of activity at the Faulconer Gallery. Our summer exhibition came down on Monday, and the first of them shipped out Tuesday. By Friday, all four of the new exhibitions were on their way to completion. The walls had been repositioned and prepped. Artists were hard at work on creating site specific installations. Art was retrieved from storage and readied for hanging.

Meanwhile, Dan Strong, our associate director, alarmed by the news reports of potential qur’an (Koran) burnings and other hostile acts towards those who follow Islam, suggested that we debut a new acquisition we have as an act of compassion for our diverse community. In the week when Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah and Muslims celebrate the end of Ramadan, we wanted a way to use art to spark positive and hopeful dialogue. By Thursday midday, we had contacted all the necessary parties and made the arrangements to present American Qur’an by Sandow Birk in the Smith Gallery of the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center at Grinnell College. 

Birk’s American Qur’an is his transcription in English of the Muslim holy book.  We own suras (chapters) 36 and 37 from the complete work. Birk’s paintings include the text inset into scenes from American life--fields, picnics, floods—a wide range of images drawn from early 21st century American life. His qur’an reminds us that all faiths are imbedded in American culture. The exhibition opened Friday, September 10 and will be on view for about 10 days.

Friday also saw concentrated activity on three projects for the upcoming exhibition Culturing Community: Projects about Place.Members of The Moving Crew, an artist’s collective with local members Jeremy Chen and Lee Running, worked with Grinnell College students to screen print dozens of unfolded boxes which will be used in their gallery installation Ideal X. Artists Marguerite Perret and Bruce Scherting, assisted by Jeff Ashe and Milton Severe, installed 4 skylight inserts glowing with images drawn from collections at Grinnell College. Along with art already on view in the Drake Community Library and art yet to be installed at the Faulconer Gallery, these pieces constitute their project Collect(ive): The Grinnell People’s Museum. Jane Gilmor worked in Faulconer Gallery to begin the creation of her large-scale piece about the history of work in Grinnell:  (Un)Seen Work: Traditions and Transitions.

All three projects have engaged a wide variety of people in their creation. In a sense, they have left the gallery to imbed themselves in the community, taking art from its museum confines and meeting people where they live. Though we are now bringing it back into the gallery, we hope to draw our creative partners along as well. We hope they now see art as a piece of them, and not as something disconnected.  The shows open September 24.

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