First Palestinian Museum In U.S. Opens In Woodbridge

Connecticut’s newest museum isn’t where one would expect to find a museum. It’s in the first floor of an office building on a quiet stretch of the Litchfield Turnpike in Woodbridge. The 4,000-square-foot exhibit space is open just four hours a week from 1 to 5 p.m. every Sunday.

Founder Faisal Saleh called the Palestine Museum a “proof of concept,” and he placed it in a building he owns. He hopes it will grow out of its home to a bigger venue in a city. For now, though, Saleh said his museum is the first art space in the United States dedicated to artworks made in Palestine and/or by Palestinians.

“Most activities of Palestinians in the U.S. are political in nature. They give talks on campuses about issues. The average American still doesn’t know much about Palestine,” says Saleh. “I thought the best way to communicate with Americans is with the language of art and literature.”

(Listen to Saleh talk about the museum, the artists and the story of his family in the podcast below.)

The opening exhibit includes works by Ayed Arafah, including a mural of Palestinian national heroine Rachel Corrie; abstract paintings by Hani Amra and Manal Deeb; a diptych, “The Memory of Old Homes,” by Mohamed Harb; portraits of average people by Maher Naji and Mohammad Khalil; portraits of women by Malak Matter and Suzan Bushnaq; installations by Raji Cook; and geometrical abstractions by Samia Halaby.

Also on the walls are photographs by Yale Prof. Margaret Olin of murals in Dheisheh, a refugee camp. The murals memorialize Palestinians killed in the conflict with Israel. In Olin’s photos, children play in front of these islands of artistry in the midst of a slum. All the murals are surrounded by Arabic writing with memorial messages, including “the bodies fall, but not the ideas.”

Saleh, of Wallingford, was born in Al-Bireh, a city in the West Bank. He is one of 11 children of farmers who were driven off their land in 1948. “My story is the story of millions of Palestinians,” he said.

Saleh said the museum isn’t political by design. But, he says, artists create work on any subject; one of Cook’s pieces, an ammunition box full of stones, points out the weaponry inequality between Israelis and Palestinians.

“One of the murals is of an assassinated cartoonist who created a character called Handala, who refused to turn around until Palestine was free,” Saleh says.

PALESTINE MUSEUM, open 1 to 5 p.m. on Sundays, is at 1764 Litchfield Turnpike in Woodbridge.

On Other Walls

The 97th Annual Elected Artist and Contemporary Look exhibit at Lyme Art Association, 90 Lyme St. in Old Lyme, runs April 27 to June 8. The opening reception is May 4 from 5 to 7 p.m.

Southport Galleries, 330 Pequot Ave., presents “Ground Work: Katy Ferrarone,” a solo exhibition of paintings and works on paper, from April 27, opening with a reception from 5 to 8 p.m., until June 6.

“The Artists of Gallery One & Friends” is at Mill Gallery at Guilford Art Center, 411 Church St., from April 30 to May 20. The opening reception is May 4 from 5 to 7 p.m. A closing reception is May 20 from 2 to 4 p.m.

Madison Art Society’s 43rd annual juried show will be April 30 to May 25 at E.C. Scranton Memorial Library, 801 Boston Post Road in Madison. The opening reception will be May 6 from 1:30 to 3:30 p.m.

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