WINONA, Minn. — The Page Series at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota will present The Cedar Tree Project, an exploration of identity through the lens of Arab and Arab-American artists, from September 2018 to April 2019. The Cedar Tree Project will include performances and exhibitions as well as workshops and community gatherings with visiting artists Leila Awadallah, Fadi BouKaram, and Leyya Tawil.
The Cedar Project, curated by Winona dance and visual artist Sharon Mansur, begins in September with work by Lebanese photographer Fadi BouKaram’s, whose photo-documentary project Lebanon, USA is the result of five months spent on the road during the 2016 United States presidential election, visiting and documenting all the towns called “Lebanon” across America. He is currently undertaking his second United States road trip. In addition to a progressive exhibit of Lebanon, USA — on view at Outpost Winona and at the Page Theatre’s Ben Miller Lobby — BouKaram will visit Winona in late September and early October to participate in community conversations, workshops, and receptions. Events include:
- Sept. 23: Community meal and conversation with Fadi BouKaram and Sharon Mansur at Outpost
- Sept. 25: A Page in History: The Cedars of Lebanon at the Winona County History Center
- Sept. 24 and Oct. 1: A two-part street photography workshop at Winona City Hall
- Oct. 2: Lebanon, USA artist talk at the Page Theatre
- Oct. 2: Panel Discussion and Lebanon, USA Opening Reception at the Page Theatre
Additional details and event descriptions are available at pagetheatre.org. Gallery hours for Lebanon, USA at Outpost are Saturday, Sept. 8 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; Saturday, Sept. 15 from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; and Saturday, Sept. 22 from noon to 8 p.m. Lebanon, USA will then be on view Sept. 26 through Oct. 26, from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily in the Page Theatre’s Ben Miller Lobby (staffed hours are noon to 6 p.m., weekdays). All Lebanon, USA events are offered to the community free of charge, although registration is required for the street photography workshop.
The Cedar Tree Project will continue Jan. 18, 2019, with “Za’atar,” an evening of performance and dialogue featuring three dynamic, female, Arab-American contemporary artists — Leila Awadallah, Sharon Mansur, and Leyya Tawil — at the Valéncia Arts Center’s Academy Theatre. Each utilizes interdisciplinary and experimental approaches to create evocative dance/performance/visual environments while addressing distinct aspects of Arab culture and identity, drawing from Palestinian, Syrian, and Lebanese heritages. The event will feature solo work by each artist as well as a newly devised collaborative trio.
In March, Mansur will also present a workshop designed to guide community members through an exploration of cultural heritage and personal identity. Drawing from her autobiographical performance work Dreaming Under a Cedar Tree, Mansur will create an interactive process to facilitate community members mapping their own experiences and explore childhood memories and imagery, ancestral countries of origin, and personal identity through creative writing, visual art, and movement. This experiential work will support empathy and understanding of varied backgrounds and experiences among our Winona residents, and create new connections among community members.
The project concludes in April with the Page Series performances of Mansur’s Dreaming Under a Cedar Tree 2.0, which will invite audiences to share art, food, and conversation with a Middle Eastern flavor, and will draw from Mansur’s Lebanese heritage, the complex and fluid nature of cultural identity, and the power of place in our dreams.
For the Page Series, the Cedar Tree Project represents an opportunity to extend the presentation of culturally-specific work beyond the Page Series usual one-night-only performances.
“For more than 30 years, the Page Series has connected Winonans with artists and events that offer a window into traditions they don’t often have the opportunity to experience locally,” said Performance Center Managing Director Theresa Remick. “With the Cedar Tree Project, we will be able to explore how, by involving the local artistic community — in this case with Sharon and her incredible connections and expertise — we can extend these engagements long beyond their performance or exhibit dates and foster a deeper understanding of the artists and work we present.”
“We’re living in a time where there are challenging and complicated questions, misconceptions and sociopolitical concerns regarding the Middle East and Arab Americans,” says Mansur. “As an Arab American artist I’m grateful for the opportunity to add to the conversations by sharing aspects of my Lebanese heritage, my family’s immigrant history, and my personal story through art, food, and dialogue.”
Additional event information and details of The Cedar Tree Project can be found at pagetheatre.org. Tickets for “Za’atar” and Dreaming Under a Cedar Tree 2.0 are $15 each and are on sale now. Tickets may be ordered by calling 507-457-1715 or visiting the Page Theatre Box Office from noon to 6 p.m. on weekdays, or online any time at pagetheatre.org.
About the Artists
Sharon Mansur is a Lebanese-American, Winona-based contemporary dance and visual artist, experimentalist, educator and curator. Sharon’s creative practice and research integrates improvisational techniques, somatic practices, and interdisciplinary collaborative approaches. She has a keen interest in aspects of identity and site responsive art, weaving the visual and visceral, body and space, internal and external landscapes. She is also committed to dance as a transformational and healing catalyst for individuals and communities. Her performance projects and dance films have been presented throughout the United States and abroad. She has recently received support from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council, the Minnesota State Arts Board, and is a 2018 McKnight Dance Fellow. Sharon was also a guest artist at the 2018 International Dance Day Festival Lebanon. www.mansurdance.com
Leila Awadallah is a Palestinian-American dancer, choreographer, film maker and interdisciplinary performance artist based in the Twin Cities. She holds a B.F.A. in Dance and a minor in Arabic Language and Literature from the University of Minnesota. Her creative work unfolds within the intersections of diasporic Arab identity, Palestinian stories, and building a deeper connectivity with ancestry as it lives in the body’s cellular memory. She crafts with intentional response to the ways mainstream media / histories erase, vilify, and distort Arab and Palestinian peoples. Her research in creating Arab Contemporary Dance has recently brought her into living, learning, and performing in Lebanon and Palestine. Leila’s choreography has been presented at the Kennedy Center (Washington, D.C.), Rawi Arab Literature Conference (Minneapolis), and BIPOD Dance Festival (Beirut, Lebanon). Leila is a company member of the touring ensemble Ananya Dance Theatre (2013), and a co-creator of Kelvin Wailey dance trio (2016). Leila received a SAGE Award (2016) for her work in film, a Jerome Travel Grant (2018) to study dance in Palestine, and is currently a Springboard 20/20 Fellow (2018 – 2019).
Fadi BouKaram (pictured above) is a Lebanese photographer and member of Observe Collective, an international photography collective focused primarily on the practice of candid street photography. His project Lebanon, USA documents over 40 cities, towns, and villages called Lebanon in the United States and the people and cultures of each. The project received national attention, with features by CNN and National Public Radio. His work has been exhibited in the UK, the U.S., Germany, and Lebanon.
Leyya Mona Tawil is an interdisciplinary artist working with dance, sound, and performance practices. Tawil is a Syrian, Palestinian, American engaged in the world as such. Her articulation of Arab Experimentalism embeds political sub-narratives and cultural confusions into the performance fabric. Tawil has a 23-year record of choreographies and performance scores that have been presented throughout the U.S., Europe and the Arab world. She is a 2018 Saari Residence Fellow (Finland) and an AIRSpace Resident Artist at Abrons Art Center (NYC). Tawil is the director of DANCE ELIXIR and TAC, a venue in Oakland, Calif. www.danceElixirLIVE.org
About the Page Series
Now entering its 32nd annual season, the Page Series connects professional performing artists from around the globe with thousands of Winonans each year. With events at the Joseph Page Theatre on the Winona Campus of Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, as well as at locations across the Winona community, the Page Series offers dance, music, and theatre performances, workshops, classes, and more that inspire, uplift, educate, and invite community members to discover the relevance of the arts in their daily lives.
Outpost is an accessible, inclusive space for creative regional collaborations that features that features exhibits and programming on the everyday living culture of the Winona region. All Outpost events are free and open to everyone.
This activity is made possible by the voters of Minnesota through a grant from the Southeastern Minnesota Arts Council thanks to a legislative appropriation from the arts and cultural heritage fund.
Page Series community programs are made possible, in part, through a grant from the Xcel Energy Foundation.