Tag Archives: UAB

AEIVA – A Gem in Our Community

There is a really unique building across the street from the Alys Stephens Center at UAB.  Have you ever noticed it?  It’s the University of Alabama’s Abroms-Engel Institute for the Virtual Arts or in short the AEIVA!

Andy Warhol exhibit at AEIVA last year.

Andy Warhol exhibit at AEIVA last year.

I first learned about AEIVA when they featured an Andy Warhol exhibit called “Fabricated,” in January last year.  It was the first major show by a renown artist for the Institute since they opened and it definitely got my attention.  I went to the opening night reception with my friend Suzanne and we walked around with quite a crowd looking at all the iconic works of art.  Some we hadn’t seen before.  I realized that night how fortunate we are to have AEIVA in Birmingham and for the art community.

AEIVA is named for lead donors Judy and Hal Abroms and Ruth and the late Marvin Engel and features three galleries along with a 95 seat lecture hall.  The building is also the home of UAB’s art galleries and the Department of Art and Art History classrooms and faculty offices.  AEIVA’s mission is to enhance social, cultural and historical understanding through the visual arts across UAB and the broader community.  I especially love that it’s right across the street from the Alys Stephens Center, another UAB gem!

In September, I went by AEIVA to see another exciting exhibit.  It was the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month and it seemed appropriate to visit and see the works of Cuban born artist Luis Cruz Azaceta.  The topics he covers aren’t the happiest, to say the least.  The title of the exhibit was “War and Other Disasters – Selected Works from 2002-2016.”  You have to admit, the title alone is a curiosity.

As I walked through exploring Azaceta’s works, I discovered these are all based on well-known happenings.  The first work looked like the largest matchbook car exhibit I’ve ever seen.  As you get closer, you realize it’s the evacuation during Hurricane Katrina.  Azaceta had been a native of New Orleans for ten years when Katrina happened so it was only natural for him to want to create and include this in his collection.  It’s incredible and takes up most of the first gallery.

Other featured works include “9/11 WTC” which was really moving.  As you look into the piece there are photographs – for instance an “I Love New York” coffee cup in one.  I felt like I was standing in the dust of the towers as they fell while looking at this piece.  It’s just that powerful.  “The Border” is about the ongoing issues regarding security and control at the Mexican/American border.  As we all know, this debate continues especially in the current political environment.  Everything surrounding the fence reminds me of the craziness of our current immigration system and the need for reform.

 

Another current topic comes through in “Hands Up, Don’t Shoot.”  Azaceta created this in 2015 after the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson by a white police officer.  The artist has been vocal about this movement and it comes through in this painting.  “Spill 4” is about the Gulf of Mexico BP oil spill in April 2010.  You can see the black oil making its way through the environment on this canvas.  I remember how the beaches looked after this disaster and that 11 people lost their lives on that oil rig.  The amount of oil that took over the beaches and ocean was just unbelievable.

Azaceta was born in Havana, Cuba and lived there until he emigrated to the United States at the age of 18.  As a boy he witnessed many acts of violence on the streets of Cuba during the Batista regime and during Castro’s post-revolution.  This impacted him greatly and created in him a sensitivity towards violence, human cruelty, injustice and alienation.  These became central themes in his work as he showcases the moral and ethical pulse of our country.

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The Azaceta exhibit runs through December 17th and I encourage you to go by and have a look for yourself.   You can also follow the AEIVA on Facebook to get the latest on exhibits and other special shows.  As I said, it’s a gem in our community and I’m so thankful to the Abroms and Engel families for their generosity.

A Little Turkish Culture

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The “official” flyer for the Turkish Food Fest. This is the 3rd year for the event.

Three years ago I found out about the Istanbul Cultural Center in Hoover.  I was participating in the FBI Citizens Academy that fall and I met fellow classmate, Umut Gunebir, Executive Director of the Center. The following year, Umut invited me to visit the center to learn more about Turkish culture and events they conduct there.    So, of course, I liked their Facebook page so I could stay current with the center’s activities.

Last year, I heard the Turkish Food Festival was being planned and I was really looking forward to attending.  Unfortunately, the date turned out to be the same as my daughter’s wedding so THAT didn’t happen!  This year, no wedding, so I got an early start and headed over to the Center at 10:45 a.m. to check things out.

The crowds gathered early for the festival!

The crowds gathered early for the festival!

There was already quite a crowd when I arrived.  The smell of food was permeating the area and I was pretty hungry since I had skipped breakfast.  Turkish music was playing over loud speakers.  I wasn’t sure if I should go ahead and get food tickets right then or make my way around to see everything and take photos.  I chose the latter and landed at the vendor tables and started clicking away.  All the pretty hand painted bowls  pulled me in and every single one was unique!  Achmed, the vendor did not speak much English so the young lady at the next booth did some interpreting for us.  I had all kinds of questions about the ceramics and he was pleased to share details about how the pieces were created and how time-consuming the process was for the artists – from kiln to painting to kiln again.  I told him I would be back before I left to buy some of the items and he smiled and said he would give me a “good deal.”

Some of the beautiful hand painted Turkish ceramics.

Some of the beautiful hand painted Turkish ceramics.

Next I walked around checking out all the food.  It was a food festival after all!  Each table had signs describing the food being sold which was a nice touch.  The first food items included things like yaprak sarmasi (stuffed grape leaves) and kisir (Turkish tabooli).  Next came the big-ticket items  – gyros and kabobs – served in pita bread with lettuce and tomatoes on top of rice.  Along the last line of booths you could find Turkish coffee or tea to go with some scrumptious dessert items.  Things like baklava, cezerye – a carrot and coconut delicacy, elmali kurabiye (apple cookie rolls with powdered sugar), rice pudding and Turkish cinnamon cookies.  I think they need to create a sampler platter for next year!

Turkish cinnamon cookie and cezerye (with the flag pick).

Turkish cinnamon cookie and cezerye (with the flag pick).

One of the longest lines for food was at the gozleme (Turkish flatbread and pastry) table.  A young man and his mother were hard at work making this tasty and traditional dish.  When I read there was feta in it, that’s all I had to hear!  Like a woman said behind me…”they had me at feta!”  I had to agree!  (Here is a recipe I found online for gozleme.)

One of the longest lines was for the gozleme - a traditional Turkish flatbread and pastry made with feta cheese. Yum!

One of the longest lines was for the gozleme – a traditional Turkish flatbread and pastry made with feta cheese. Yum!

As I waited for my gozleme to finish cooking on gas-fired sac griddle, I told the young man that his mother was the hardest working person at the festival.  He translated for me and she gave me a smile.  From the time I arrived, she was rolling the dough with the “oklava” – a very long and thin wooden rolling-pin.  As she finished rolling out each dough piece, she would hand it off to her son who would paint it with butter and add a feta and Turkish white cheese mixture before sealing it to cook.  I found out that the son was attending the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and majoring in Physics.  His mother had just arrived in the US and was staying with him for several months which clearly made him happy.  I loved how seamlessly they worked together making the gozleme.  It was well worth the wait and my last 3 food tickets.  Plus, I really enjoyed the conversation.

One of the beautiful henna tattoos I saw at the festival.

One of the beautiful henna tattoos I saw at the festival.

Activities for kids included inflatables and face painting and plenty of kids took advantage of this.  I was very interested in the henna tattoos.  I didn’t have time to get one myself but I was able to photograph a few people who did.  I asked the young woman who was in charge of the henna tattoos what purpose they served and she explained they are a way to adorn the body for special celebrations, just like wearing jewelry.  She had several designs to choose from at her table.  On my list of things to do one day – get a henna tattoo!  They are so beautiful!

By the time I left two hours later, the festival was packed!  The lines were long every where you looked and it pleased me to see this for the organizers.  A young man by the name of Huseyin saw me taking photographs shortly after I arrived and introduced himself saying he was the Social Media Director for the festival.  He asked how I found out about the event and I told him through Facebook.  The festival continued on Sunday and from the pictures people were posting, it was another packed house!  Huseyin mentioned they may be looking for a bigger venue next year because of the growth they are experiencing.  Food and cultural festivals definitely bring in a crowd!

Crowds of people enjoy delicious Turkish food at the 3rd annual Turkish Food Fest!

Crowds of people enjoy delicious Turkish food at the 3rd annual Turkish Food Fest!

Oh…and as I promised Achmed, I returned to his vendor booth and bought several of the Turkish ceramic bowls.  And as he promised me…he gave me a good deal!

Here are a few more photos from the event…