On November 5, 2022, at The Judy Black Memorial Park and Gardens, Mr. Alibaba Awrang discussed Islamic calligraphy, its origins and modernization. Mr. Awrang practices calligraphy, but not as we think of it here in the United States. His stunning works are illuminated paintings, using bright colors to create bold patterns, loosely in the form of Persian lettering. He taught this art for over 20 years in Iran and Afghanistan, and has shown his works in Pakistan, Iran, Bahrain, and the Smithsonian Museum in Washington D.C. He was recently commissioned to do a large piece for the re-opening of the Museum of Islamic Art in Doha, Qatar.
In Kabul, Mr. Awrang served as head of the calligraphy department of the Turquoise Mountain Institute, a NGO founded in 2006 by King Charles III, formerly Prince of Wales, with the purpose of reviving historic areas and traditional crafts, to provide jobs, skills and the protection of heritage.
The Judy Black Memorial Park and Gardens welcomed Afghan master artists Alibaba Awrang, calligraphic artist, and Matin Malikzada, ceramist, for an art exhibition titled, “From Kabul to Connecticut: Works by Afghan Master Artists.” This show will feature works by both artists.
Hailing from Afghanistan, these two men and their families (each has a wife and four children) fled Kabul after the city fell into the hands of the Taliban in August of 2021. The families were granted refugee status in the United States, both resettling in New Milford in March of this year.
Both are talented artists, and are well known in their home country and abroad. Awrang practices calligraphy, but not as we think of it here in the States. His stunning works are more like paintings using bright colors to create bold patterns, loosely in the form of Persian letters. Awrang also taught this art form for over 20 years in Tehran and Afghanistan and has showed his pieces in Pakistan, Iran, and Bahrain.
Malikzada is a seventh-generation potter, having learned the craft from his father. He is internationally recognized for his technical skill and elegant designs. In Kabul, Malikzada served as head of the ceramics department at the Turquoise Mountain Institute, an NGO founded by Charles, Prince of Wales, where he studied in his youth. Upon graduating he was hired as a Master of Ceramics, and ultimately rose to lead the department. Malikzada has shown his works in India, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Japan, the United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates and Switzerland among other places.
We would like to acknowledge the generosity of Jack Baker and the Litchfield Distillery for underwriting this event. This enabled us to raise just over $18,000, which will greatly help our efforts to support our current family and more to come. It was a sold-out event that helped expand our reach to new community members and our common mission.
At the initiative of Kat Richards, a first year at FGS, she organized a Saturday evening event not only to collect funds, but to more widely inform her peers of the local efforts being made to help refugees.
On December 4th and 10th we hosted an interactive fundraising activity for WRRP at the Judy Black Park on. Visitors to the table were invited to donate toward one of the many items listed, with a bucket for each hanging from our pretty winter wonderland tree. They were able to donate cash on the spot or go online at the table to donate on our website through our GoFundMe page. In addition, adults and children alike were invited to write a note to welcome the refugee family, on seasonal notecards provided. Finally, our table "hosts" were able to collect email addresses of people interested in learning more about the project.
In total, so far, we've collected almost $1000 plus a pledge of another $1000, plus more names and lots more awareness of the project. I am sure that this awareness will translate into more support. Several people commented, "Wow, this is really happening."
On Saturday, October 23, 2021, the Washington Refugee Resettlement Project (WRRP) held a community-wide “Conversation” about our helping to resettle a refugee family in New Milford. The Washington Council of Congregations (WCOC) hosted this event at the Judy Black Memorial Park and Gardens in Washington Depot.
An unexpectedly large group -- 80 friends and neighbors -- attended the meeting to learn about the goals of refugee community sponsorship: to allow us as a community to welcome and integrate newcomers to our beautiful corner of Connecticut, while also creating bonds among neighbors as we unite around a common cause. Two of Washington’s selectmen, Jay Hubelbank and Dean Sarjeant, attended as well; as did Michelle Gorra, Town Economic and Community Development Coordinator.
Members of the WRRP leadership team explained the critical need for community sponsors, mentioning that more than 40 communities in Connecticut had already signed on to sponsoring a refugee family. They also reviewed various levels of volunteer opportunities as well as the need for community financial support. Finally, they explained that WRRP will work collaboratively with Integrated Refugee & Immigrant Services (IRIS) (www.irisct.org) based in New Haven to apply as co-sponsor. Ashley Makar, IRIS Community Co-Sponsor Liaison, introduced IRIS and their role in a co-sponsorship of a refugee resettlement in Connecticut.
Following the presentation, attendees enjoyed refreshments and asked more questions of the WRRP team. Many members of the audience expressed their continuing interest by sharing their email addresses, as well as filling out volunteer application forms and pledge cards for donations.
If you have ideas for an event to help support WRRP, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org