Presented by Art2Action, Inc. in partnership with Gallery221@Hillsborough Community College, Dale Mabry campus, “Painting Ourselves Visible” is a three-day free celebration of the rich, diverse culture of Middle Eastern and North African people in the Tampa Bay area.

Beginning November 21, the community can experience art, music, food, and film and see a mural created at this free event.

“These events, like all of Art2Action’s projects, are meant to build bridges across communities and identities, in creative, uplifting, and unexpected ways. “Painting Ourselves Visible” is about raising the visibility of Middle Eastern and North African people in the Tampa Bay area. We’re here, though we’re not always seen for who we are. We’re not always celebrated, even though our cultural traditions are rich, diverse, and contemporary,” said Andrea Assaf, Artistic & Executive Director, Art2Action Inc. “At Art2Action, we love to celebrate creative expression, and the complexity of who we all are, as artists, as communities, as individual human beings in a very complicated, global 21st century.”

Featured during this special event is Aya Tarek, an Egyptian painter, street artist, and illustrator with international acclaim in major cities, from Sao Paolo to Frankfurt.

Andrea first discovered the experimental artist in 2015 during a collaboration with Noel Smith at the USF Contemporary Art Museum as part of Art2Action’s “THIS Bridge: Arab, Middle Eastern, and Muslim Artists” series.

“We did a temporary mural project at CAM, and I enjoyed working with Aya so much that I really wanted to bring her back to do a bigger project. The Gobioff Foundation’s Treasure Tampa initiative finally gave us the opportunity,” said Andrea.

Aya is creating a mural that she said is open to interpretation.

Aya explained, “The visual style is inspired by different styles and eras. First, Christian iconography; El Fayoum portraits (mummies of the Coptic period in Egypt had portraits drawn on them), Roman sculpture and art, and the Mediterranean.

I just want people to enjoy good art and have a taste for beautiful things, beautiful colors, and communicate not necessarily with words but with images, colors, and beauty. Because it’s a language of its own, it cannot be expressed exactly in words. So my message is, spreading beauty… and making people ask questions. You got to think for yourself … or feel.”

To celebrate the premiere of the mural, activities include an official Ribbon-cutting at the mural, a “Block Party” on the Quad featuring Arab and American Hip Hop; and an outdoor screening of an Egyptian film, titled Microphone (in Arabic, with English subtitles), which features Aya as herself—a graffiti artist in Alexandria in 2010.

There will also be a panel discussion on “Creative Placemaking,” Neil Gobioff, Robin Nigh from the City of Tampa Arts & Cultural Affairs, and guest Ashley Walden Davis of Alternate ROOTS with a delicious Middle Eastern lunch from Radiant Kitchens; and free arts workshops for all, including visual arts with Ameena Khan, theatre with Andrea and Syrian director Kholoud Sawaf for all skills, levels and abilities.

“Art2Action, Inc. creates, develops, produces, and presents original theatre, interdisciplinary performances, performative acts, and progressive cultural organizing.  We support women artists, artists of color, queer or trans-identified artists, and creative allies. We are dedicated to cultural equity and innovation, artistic quality and community value, performativity and impact,” said Andrea.

This event is one of many creative arts experiences Andrea and Art2Action Inc. host to bring the community together.

Art2Action Inc. hosts a monthly performance opportunity, the Veterans Community Open Mic, during the first Sunday of every month, 6:30-9 pm at The Bunker café in Ybor City. Anyone can join as a patron supporting the show or as a performer.  Three new plays are also in development to be shared in various stages in 2020.

Andrea said, “Everyone should attend. Everyone in the Tampa Bay area who is interested in the arts, painting, graffiti, murals or public art.  Everyone who likes good music, Hip Hop, poetry, movies, and delicious food.  Everyone who wants to support artists, local, national, and international. Everyone who wants to learn more about Arab, North African, or Middle Eastern arts and culture.  Everyone who speaks Arabic is learning Arabic or wants to see an interesting film about artists and youth culture in Egypt, leading up to the 2011 revolution.  Everyone who wants to support community-building, across cultures in the Tampa Bay, or is curious about this idea of “Creative Placemaking.” We’re also partnering with Muslim women’s organizations, such as Radiant Hands and 200 Muslim Women Who Care, so everyone interested in learning more about our local Muslim community should come, too.  Or, as Aya says – just come for the beauty of it.

Art opens our eyes, makes us ask questions, and sometimes see things differently. It gives us insight, by giving us access to stories and perspectives we may not have been aware of before. It also surprises, disrupts what we think we know, and piques our curiosity. At its best, art shines – and inspires us to shine, too. That is the purpose of everything we do: to uplift, educate, build, humanize, and inspire. To move us forward, from art to action.”

The “Painting Ourselves Visible” free celebration is November 21-23 at Hillsborough Community College, 4001 W. Tampa Bay Blvd. RSVP on Facebook for Thursday eventsMural & Block Party Celebration and Film Screening, Microphone, Friday’s event – Creative Placemaking Panel, and Saturday event – Arts Workshops.  Both Friday and Saturday includes lunch. For more information or opportunities to volunteer with Art2Action Inc., visit https://art2action.org/aya-tarek. To learn more about the artist, visit http://www.ayatarek.com.