The Middle East Institute and the Institute for Immigration Research (IIR) at George Mason University were pleased to host a discussion about the contributions immigrant artists make to the United States' rich cultural fabric, the challenges they face, and the entrepreneurial approaches they take to resettle and create art in a new environment.
Devon Akmon (Arab American National Museum, Dearborn), joined Huda Asfour (Musician & Composer), Anne-Marie McGranghan (UNHCR), and James Witte (George Mason University) for a discussion about the social, cultural, and economic impact of immigrant artists on U.S. society, the infrastructure available to support the integration of immigrant artists, and the personal transformations they undergo as they adapt to their new homeland.
Director, Arab American National Museum-Dearborn
Devon Akmon is the second director of the Arab American National Museum (AANM) in 2013. Under his aegis, the AANM was named one of just 160 Affiliates of the Smithsonian Institution and achieved accreditation from the American Alliance of Museums, a seal of approval earned by just 6% of America’s cultural institutions. In addition to leading the AANM, Akmon is a board member of CultureSource, the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and The CivCity Initiative. In 2013, Akmon was named one of Crain’s Detroit Business magazine’s “40 Under 40” business leaders.
Musician & Composer; Co-Founder of the DC Palestinian Film and Arts Festival
Huda Asfour is a performer, composer, and engineer who has worked, studied, and collaborated with artists in Tunisia, Gaza, Ramallah, Egypt, Lebanon and the United States. Her most recent release Mars; Back and Forth is a progressive experimentation and reinterpretation of familiar Arabic styles alongside a compelling push for the inter-stellar home, self, and futurism. Since the release of Mars, Asfour has published a 15-minute original film score for the short film Blue Dive by Egyptian filmmaker Mostafa Youssef. In collaboration with a Sri Lankan-American poet, she has also premiered the multimedia project Yasmneen.
Resettlement Officer, UNHCR
Anne-Marie McGranaghan is the Associate Resettlement Officer the UNHCR Washington for the past eight years. She has assisted in the development and promotion of refugee resettlement policy with US government agencies and nongovernmental organizations. In addition, she oversees the Resettlement Unit casework, and conducts resettlement activities out of the Caribbean.
Director, Center for Social Science Research (CSSR) and Research Director, Institute for Immigration Research (IIR), George Mason University
James Witte is a professor of sociology, Director of the CSSR and Research Director for IIR. Since earning his PhD from Harvard in 1991, he has been a professor at Clemson University and Northwestern University. He was a postdoctoral fellow at the Carolina Population Center where he was also a lecturer in sociology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He has published three books, Labor Force Integration and Marital Choice, the Internet and Social Inequality, and The Normal Bar, which made the New York Timesbestseller list.
Monica Gomez-Isaac (Moderator)
Executive Director, Institute for Immigration Research (IIR), George Mason University
Monica Gomez Isaac serves as the Executive director to the Institute for Immigration Research (IIR). Prior to joining the IIR in 2015, she was an expatriate in Stuttgart, Germany pursuing coursework in anthropology and German. Ms. Gomez Isaac's career also involves nearly seven years with the US Federal Government, performing political and economic analysis for the US Department of Defense.