Robert E. Gerhardt, Muslim/American, American Muslim
Robert Gerhardt came to photography via sociology and anthropology, he became hooked on photography when he took a photography class to learn how to document his research projects. His interest in studying social behavior and human nature is apparent in his photographic work – his series The Straphangers presents the diversity of New York as gleaned from its subways, Life on the Border: The Karen People of Burma documents the struggle of the Karen people confined to refugee camps at the border between Burma and Thailand, and his most recent series Mic Check focuses on the #BlackLivesMatter movement and public protests.
Gerhardt became interested in learning more about and document Muslim cultures in the United States “in 2010 after reading about a controversy over converting an unused convent on Staten Island in New York into a mosque and community center. Many local residents vehemently protested the intended repurposing at various community board meetings, including the shouting-down of a US Army officer who simply asked if people would be willing to be good neighbors with the mosque.“ Gerhardt contacted the Muslim American Society who was behind the community center and was invited to visit the society’s Brooklyn chapter and photograph there. He spent several days a week at the center over the next year and through the center came to know the members of the community, was invited to schools and homes where he learned about the everyday encounters with prejudice Muslims face in post 9/11 era. He went on to photograph not only the Brooklyn community, but Muslim communities in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Virginia.
Gerhardt hopes that the portrait he has created of the American Muslim communities will inspire his audience to learn more about the diverse Muslim cultures represented in this country and open a dialogue examining common misconceptions. Gerhardt’s project has been shown at St. John’s University, Manhattan Campus, New York, NY; Schuster Art Gallery, Gannon University, Erie, PA; Schuster Art Gallery, Gannon University, Erie, PA; Annex Gallery, Indiana University of Pennsylvania, Indiana, PA; Sidney Larson Gallery, Columbia College, Columbia, MO; and will move on to the John B. Davis Gallery, Idaho State University, Pocatello, ID after its presentation at DSU.
In the spirit of Gerhardt’s project, the DSU Art Department and QEP (DSU’s Quality Enhancement Program) have partnered to present a series of events that will provide a forum for dialogue. The series begins with a public presentation by Dr. Ahm Reza, Assistant Professor in Biological and Physical Sciences at DSU, on the experiences of a Muslim immigrant to the US on November 12. On November 19, Emad Al-Turk and Okolo Rashid, founders of the International Museum of Muslim Cultures in Jackson, MS, will speak about the history and mission of the institution they founded. On December 3, a public screening of the film Arranged, which centers on the unlikely friendship between an Orthodox Jewish and Muslim teacher in New York. All presentations will be held at the Fielding Wright Art Center, begin at 5:00, and are free and open to the public.
Muslim/American, American/Muslim will be on view at DSU’s Fielding Wright Art Center Gallery from November 5 to December 11. The artist will introduce the exhibit and speak about his work on Thursday, November 5 at 4:00 pm at the Fielding Wright Art Center Gallery on the DSU campus. A public reception and an opportunity to meet the artist will follow from 5:00 to 7:00 pm. All events are free and open to the public.
The Fielding Wright Art Center is open Monday through Thursday 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. It is closed weekends, holidays, and during semester breaks. For further information contact 662.846.4720. For updates and announcements of upcoming events follow Delta State Art Department on Facebook or join our email list.