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Mixed media art exhibit celebrates common bonds between Los Angeles and Qatar

Celebrating the crossroads between American and Arab cultures, Qatar Foundation International (QFI) will host an art exhibit opening on Monday, June 24, 2013, 6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m. The artists are high school students featured in a dynamic multi-disciplinary exhibition presented by QFI from June 24 – July 13th at ADC Contemporary & BUILDING BRIDGES International Art Exchange at Bergamot Station in Santa Monica, California. The art installation 'Aber: Expressions of Culture, Identity and Language invites Angelenos to imagine a world where decades of misconceptions and stereotypes between two cultures can be broken down and re-imagined through the modern works of young people, unafraid to explore common bonds. The opening reception is free to the public and will feature a special performance by Omar Offendum, a Syrian-American Hip Hop artist. The exhibition features the collective work of 60 youth hailing from Doha, Qatar; Portland, Oregon; and Los Angeles. The high school students participated in a week-long cultural exchange in Doha, where they explored cultural identity and language. Using graffiti, calligraphy and photography, the students created 10 art panels that celebrate their cultures, environments and the unique trans-global journey they've shared. 'Aber is an Arabic word meaning to express one's feelings and thoughts, or to move across from one side to the other. As the exhibit travels from Doha to Los Angeles, and then on to Portland and Washington, D.C., the juxtaposition of graffiti, photography and stencils will offer visitors that same experience of exploration and moving from one culture to another. The participating U.S. based schools – Bell High School, New Tech High School, and Granada Hills Charter School in Southern California and Lincoln High School in Portland, Oregon – are part of QFI's Arabic Language and Culture Initiative (ALCI). ALCI provides new opportunities for students to acquire basic Arabic and understand the Arab world's history and culture, through authentic cultural experiences, activities and programs. 'Aber: Expressions of Culture, Identity and Language highlights the importance of Arabic language programs in U.S. schools at a time when funding for such programs is being slashed across the board. "Along with language learning comes the opportunity to embrace and connect with another culture. All too often, Arabic and the Arab world are not well understood," says Maggie Mitchell Salem, Executive Director of QFI. "So our programs not only meet real community interest in expanding access to Arabic, they also ensure that students who would not otherwise have access to high-quality language programs are able to participate and experience the Arab world through an exchange like 'Aber. For us, that's absolutely critical." In 2012, the budget for the Department of Education's Foreign Language Assistance Program was drastically reduced, forcing schools to look outside of U.S. government grants to either start new programs or to keep existing programs afloat. Of the 33 million elementary school students in the United States today, only 24 percent receive global language instruction. According to an economic study conducted for the Business Roundtable, one in every five jobs in the United States is tied to a foreign trade. Yet students growing up in U.S. public schools cannot take advantage of the benefits of the global economy because they are not literate in a second language. With this in mind, cutting foreign language funding at this time is incongruous to the economy's growth. Arabic is the 5th most widely spoken language worldwide and is considered a critical world language by the U.S. Government. Yet less than one percent of high schools offer Arabic, despite research that shows learning a foreign language has academic, professional, cognitive and cultural benefits. QFI bridges the funding gap by supporting new Arabic language programs in cities across the United States and South America. About Qatar Foundation International (QFI), LLC: A U.S.-based member of Qatar Foundation (QF), dedicated to connecting cultures and advancing global citizenship through education. QFI is a for-profit organization in Washington, D.C., focused on grant-giving and programmatic activities that promote education as a force that facilitates collaboration across geographical, social and cultural boundaries. About ADC & BUILDING BRIDGES International Art Exchange: A 501(c)3 nonprofit organization dedicated to cultivating an understanding among cultures worldwide, through international art exhibitions (workshops-lectures), art exchanges and artists residencies. About Omar Offendum: Omar Offendum is a Syrian-American Hip-Hop artist, born in Saudi Arabia, raised in Washington DC and living in Los Angeles. He has been featured on several major news outlets, toured the world to promote his ground-breaking music, helped raise hundreds of thousands of dollars for various humanitarian relief organizations, lectured at a number of prestigious academic institutions, and most recently been involved in creating several critically-acclaimed songs about the popular democratic uprisings throughout the Middle East & North Africa. He is currently hard at work on several new projects while touring to promote his solo release 'SyrianamericanA'.

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