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Bartol Blog

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Get to Know the Grantee: Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture

In 2020, we made our selections for the grantee winners just as the COVID-19 pandemic closed all schools and community programs. In recognition of these difficult circumstances, we enabled each organization to define how they could use the funding to strengthen their programming during the shutdown (e.g. developing curriculum, delivering remote programs, etc).

We are excited to welcome Mohannad Ghawanmeh as the new Executive Director of Al-Bustan.  Mohannad will be the second Executive Director of Al-Bustan, taking over from its founder Hazami Sayed. 

Tell us a bit about your journey that brought you to become the new Executive Director of Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture.

 The journey began with cofounding the Twin Cities Arab Film Festival in 2002, in response to the Sep 11 attacks, as an effort to affirm the breadth and complexity of Arab culture and to defy malign and then intensely propagated stereotypes of Arab and Muslim people. Thus the festival was founded in the same year as Al-Bustan and was motivated by similar impulses and was programmed by Mizna an Arab American Arts organization that does work similar to Al-Bustan’s. I went on to direct/curate four editions of this festival and led the first edition of two others, including the film festival organized by the Arab American National Museum. I continued to work with both of these Arab cultural organizations for years to come, including as I attended PhD school for a degree in Cinema and Media Studies, which I acquired in June.

You moved from California to take on this role. What drew you all the way across the country to become part of Al-Bustan?

Al-Bustan is such an accomplished, impactful organization and I am so committed to cultural production that empowers and inspires that applying to lead Al-Bustan, to succeed its venerated Founding Director Hazami Sayed was an “all-brainer”!

What are you most excited to do or learn in the next year?

 Arts and education programming is the facet that most excites me about my work, I do admit. However, guiding Al-Bustan through the unpredictable, choppy waters of the months to come and preparing the organization for a transition to serving a constituency no longer threatened by COVID19 is what commands my attention most.

Part of a continuing series featuring our 2020 Bartol Grantees.

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