In Baghdad, while working for the Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT), Iraq connecting displaced persons with their families, Anita David, filmmaker and humanitarian activist, made the acquaintance of the Iraqi Plastic Arts Gallery collective of artists. The artists she met had lost their homes and their studios in the conflict, but had manage to preserve their artwork. Other than contractors and military personnel, CPT functions as perhaps the only western presence outside the green zone, the military and diplomatic epicenter of the War in Iraq. They provide an alternative voice of information and a secular advocacy role on behalf of mistreated Iraqi detainees. Seven days a week, 24 hours a day, Anita risked her life to do her humanitarian work on the ground in Iraq. She contacted her colleague and friend, Chuck Trimbach, then Harold Ramis’ Executive Assistant, who contacted Genesis’ Wendy Sternberg to come up with an idea for them.
With the volunteer help of many professional Chicagoland stretchers and framers, Genesis at the Crossroads mounted an art exhibition and silent auction of 40 of their paintings at out 2005 HAMSA Fest. It made history for Genesis as our first-ever global humanitarian initiative, as we returned the proceeds of the art auction following the festival to benefit the Iraqi artists and their families. As importantly, it caused us to add and integrate a third domain of arts-based humanitarian initiatives to be a core program area for Genesis at the Crossroads.
We are forever indebted to Anita’s tireless efforts to secure their works of art, transport them on an arduous journey from Baghdad through Amman, Jordan to the United States.
Six weeks before the festival, Sarmad Ghazi was killed in a car bomb and we elected to dedicate the 2005 HAMSA-Fest in his memory.
Iraqi Plastic Arts Gallery Artists
Neshwa A Mumtaz
Genesis at the Crossroads graciously thanks Chuck Trimbach for his unending stream of energy coordinating with Anita David in Baghdad, arranging framers and stretchers here in Chicago, fielding galleries, emailing through the night, and all of the other details we will never know. Their commitment to empowering and bettering the lives of a terrorized group of individuals, whom none of us may never even have the occasion to meet, serves as an example to the world.
Many thanks to Tim Dashnaw, maker of fine furniture, for his work building the frames.