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Take a virtual Tour of the Sistine Chapel
Panel discussion about spirituality and art with: Guests
The Art of Mohammed Ali has been taken across the globe and described as challenging the oft-heard term ‘clash of civilisations.’ with his fusion of street-art and islamic script, along with his conscious messages. It was after his new-found passion and rediscovery of his faith in Islam, that he began to fuse his graffiti-art with the grace and eloquence of sacred and Islamic script and patterns. He describes his work as, ‘taking the best of both worlds.’ and bringing back to the forefront principles that are gradually fading away from our modern societies.
Mohammed Ali was drawn to the graffiti world from early 80’s inspired by the subway art movement, and like many kids living in the UK was involved with the street-painting scene. After studying Multimedia Design at university, he went onto working in the computer-games industry as a designer. Soon enough he became disillusioned with using his creative skills for commercial benefit and creating art for art’s sake, and began exploring with creating art for ‘mankind’s sake’.
Graffiti was often a self-glorification of one’s identity, the ‘tag’ being the focus. Mohammed began exploring simple messages which at the heart of were still – the words – but words which pointed to other than the ‘self’, with a deeper message, that was speaking to the public, and relevant to the wider society.
Mohammed Ali’s art is appreciated by people of all faith and cultures and he has exhibited his canvas-art as well as created his public spiritual murals in the streets of major cities, such as New York, Chicago, Toronto, Melbourne and Dubai to name but a few. International media ranging from CNN to Aljazeera, have reported his work as a ‘bridge of understanding’between faith communities and he has become a regular media figure. He delivers public lectures about the power of the arts to transform society and how the arts can tackle some of the difficult issues that we face in multi-cultural societies.
Mohammed has recently been awarded an ITV South Bank Show Award which recognises the best in British Art and he continues to travel the world and painting messages of hope, freedom, justice and love
As a successful artist in Japan and the U.S., Makoto Fujimura has emerged as a voice of authority on the nature and cultural assessment of beauty, by both creating it and exploring its forms. Recognized by both faith-based (Christianity Today, WORLD Magazine) and secular (MSNBC, Wall Street Journal, Forbes) media as a cultural influencer, Mako’s contributions consistently challenge the traditional boundaries between the art and faith communities. A Presidential appointee to the National Council on the Arts (2003-2009), Mako has contributed internationally as an advocate for the arts, speaking with decision makers and influencers and advising governmental policies on the arts, both in the U.S. and abroad. In 2009, upon completion of his six-year term on the National Council, Mako was awarded the Chairman’s Medal.
In addition to his paintings, Mako’s essays and books have expanded the dialogue about faith, art
and culture. His first book, River Grace (International Arts Movement, 2007) is an intimate, autobiographical look at his early years as an artist in Japan. In a refreshingly transparent account, Mako recalls discovering Nihonga, the ancient style of painting that would become his trademark, and being awakened to a longing for “higher transcendence through the extravagant materials” Nihonga employs. Yet it was not until reluctantly accompanying his new bride to church that he found the Object and Source of his longing, and this faith has become the cornerstone of his art, marriage and, indeed, entire life.
Mako’s second book, Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art and Culture (NavPress 2009), is collection of essays, thoughts, and prayers, bringing people of all backgrounds together in conversation and meditation on culture, art, and humanity.
Mako’s work is on exhibit at galleries around the world, including Sara Tecchia and Dillon Galleries (New York), Sen Gallery (Tokyo), Contemporary Museum of Tokyo, Tokyo National University of Fine Arts Museum and Oxford House, Taiku Place (Hong Kong). His acclaim as an artist has earned Mako the respect of curators and collectors, including Emmy-award winning actress Patricia Heaton, of Everybody Loves Raymond and Back to You. Mako has painted live on stage at New York’s legendary Carnegie Hall in a collaboration with composer and percussionist Susie Ibarra and the American Composer’s Orchestra, and in 2009, he addressed the Aspen Institute gathering in Colorado.
Of all of his many accomplishments in the arts world, the achievement Mako is most proud of is the growth of International Arts Movement, the non-profit arts organization he founded. In the sixteen years that IAM has been around, Mako has mentored countless young artists and has created a space for artists who are passionate about faith issues to wrestle with the hard questions they face as artists and creative catalysts. Many view the annual IAM Encounter as the only event of its kind, gathering established and emerging artists and influencers for three days in New York City, laying an invaluable philosophical and theological groundwork for facilitating discussions of art, faith and culture through lecturers (Dana Gioia, Miroslov Volf, Jeremie Begbie), workshops and innovative performances.
Mako and his wife, Judy, have three children and live in a lower Manhattan loft.
Rabbi Simcha Weinstein is an internationally known, best-selling author. His first book Up, Up and Oy Vey! How Jewish History, Culture and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero (Leviathan Press), received the prestigious Benjamin Franklin Award for the best religion book of 2007. His second book, Shtick Shift: Jewish Humor in the 21st Century (Barricade Books) was recently published.
Simcha is also a popular television and radio guest, having appeared on CNN Showbiz Tonight, NPR and other programs. He has also been profiled in ma ny leading publications, including The New York Times, The Miami Herald, The Seattle Times and The London Guardian.
Simcha holds a bachelors degree in Film History from the Manchester Metropolitan University, England. Following graduation, he became an associate for the British Film Commission and coordinated the production of hundreds of feature films throughout the United Kingdom. They say that “when man makes plans, God laughs.” As Simcha began to rediscover his spiritual roots, his path veered from show business to the yeshiva, and he eventually became a rabbi.
Today he chairs the Religious Affair’s Committee at the renowned New York art school, Pratt Institute. Simcha also serves as rabbi to Long Island College Hospital and is the founder of the downtown Brooklyn Jewish Student Foundation, an educational and cultural center that strives to ignite Jewish pride and values through innovative educational and social experiences in an open environment. Simcha’s unique background and life experiences have led him t o reconsider the popular culture of his youth through the lens of his commitment to Jewish ethics and spirituality. This one-of-a-kind perspective, along with his wit, makes him an entertaining and much sought-after public speaker.
He is married to his wife, Ariella and they has three young children who don’t sleep and live in Brooklyn Heights, New York.
Valerie Guerra: Violin, vocals
Steve Enison: Electric guitar, vocals
Alissa Strattan: Accordion, flute, keys, vocals
Justin Ferwerda: Bass guitar
Hans Moscicke: Drums, laptop
follow them on twitter @Milanomusic
Ocularpation: Wall Street: Showing Wall Street the Naked Truth
“Ocularpation: Wall Street” saw 50 performers strip down and mime different professions: traders, janitors, secretaries, etc.
Read and watch Video of Hollis Witherspoon’s coverage of Ocularpation