Press Release: Refugee Arts Exhibition Featuring Syrian Refugee And Israeli Artist


Contact: Joshua Sherman
Communications & Creative Manager
joshua [at]
For Immediate Release:
ENCINITAS, CA – September 21st, 2016 – The Leichtag Foundation announced today its “Refugee Artists-in-Residence” arts project and exhibition planned for October-November 2016, involving a unique collaboration pairing a Syrian refugee with an Israeli artist.
“We believe in bold new ideas to welcome and integrate the Syrian refugee community,” said Charlene Seidle, Executive Vice President of Leichtag Foundation. “We know the challenges they will face.  We wanted to explore and collectively imagine what we could do together.”
The “Refugee Artists-in-Residence” is a project conceived by Israeli artist and TED fellow Raffael Lomas.  While preparing for his exhibition in August 2016 at the New American Museum at Liberty Station, he visioned and prepared an unused barn space at Leichtag Commons as a safe creative space for refugees.  With the support of the Foundation and volunteers, Raffael transformed a one-time storage facility into a stunning “maker’s space” and art studio using only found and re-used materials.
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Through the nonprofit co-working space found at Leichtag Commons, the North County Hub, Raffael met with refugee resettlement agency and advocacy nonprofits like Jewish Family Service of San Diego and Partnership for the Advancement of New Americans (PANA).  Through these relationships, he met Abdullah Taysan, a Syrian refugee who arrived with his wife and four children only weeks earlier, living in City Heights after spending three years in a refugee camp in Jordan.  Abdullah’s profession before his family fled Syria a craftsman of crown-moldings.  Raffael invited Abdullah to visit Leichtag Commons and create a sculpture made of only found materials, including slabs of eucalyptus trees and plants donated by Coastal Roots Farm.
“The pairing of a Syrian refugee with an Israeli artist in San Diego demonstrates the bridges we want to build,” said Joshua Sherman, Creative and Communications Manager at Leichtag Foundation.  “Their countries are enemies, and here they found friendship.”
With Raffael leaving for Israel, he invited more local San Diego artists to volunteer and help continue the collaboration.  He discovered Adeeb Makki, an Iraqi painter (El Cajon) who has lived in the United States for 10 years, and Dr. Olga Workman, a Russian artist (Carlsbad) and professor at Walden University who has lived in the U.S. for 20 years.   Together, these three artists support each other with transportation, translation, artistic skills, and community.  
The “Refugee Artists-in-Residence” exhibition will feature individual and collaborative works on the theme of “home.” The exhibition is part of the Sukkot at Leichtag Commons, an annual event for the Jewish agricultural holiday of Sukkot.  Sukkot is a harvest festival that recalls the biblical time when Jews lived as refugees and the Jewish imperative to “welcome the stranger.”
“We’ve always inspired by the courage we’ve seen happen in this community, dating back to when Paul Ecke Senior stepped forward to store property owned by Japanese farmers who were put into internment camps during World War II, and kept it safe for them here at the Ecke Ranch until they returned,” said Sherman. “This exhibition is a small act of hospitality that offers a glimpse into Abdullah’s life and his determination to contribute to San Diego.”
Raffael Lomas presented this project on September 15th, 2016 in New York City at the Lincoln Center Global Exchange, an invitation-only gathering of world leaders and change agents devoted to exploring the role of art and culture in addressing critical challenges facing our collective future.  A theme of the conference, “ART X CONFLICT” asks “how can art heal the wounds and divisions of conflict?”
The “Refugee Artists-in-Residence” is a pilot project that will complete at the end of the exhibition.  As a further clarification, no artists live onsite and the workspace is temporary. The exhibit will also include works from the AjA Project, a San Diego-based nonprofit that provides photography-based programming to transform the lives of youth and communities.
This event is made possible through the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation’s Grassroots Initiative.  For details about viewing hours, please contact Laura Diede at laura [at]