Al-Bustan Seeds of Culture is dedicated to presenting and teaching Arab culture through the arts and language.
“Al-Bustan,” Arabic for “The Garden,” offers structured exposure to the language, art, music, dance, literature, and natural environment of the Arab world. Al-Bustan promotes cross-cultural understanding among youth and adults of all ethnic, religious, and socio-economic backgrounds through artistic and educational programs. Al-Bustan supports the pursuit and affirmation of Arab American cultural identity, while playing a constructive civic role within broader American society.
Importance of Language. Full appreciation of a culture requires knowledge of its written and spoken language. Similarly, learning a language is inextricably tied to an understanding of the multiple layers of its cultural context. For those of Arab heritage living in the United States, exposure to the Arabic language can be a critical link to their cultural heritage and Arab identity.
Role of the arts. The arts are a powerfully effective medium through which youth and adults can engage in self-expression, explore cultural identity, and form critical thinking skills. The arts provide a platform to analyze assumptions through dialogue and inquiry, thereby encouraging participation in the social and civic spheres of their communities.
Artistic quality. It is important to engage the highest quality artists and teaching artists, of Arab heritage or immersed in Arab cultural traditions, to teach and present their art form to youth and adults in educational and community-based settings. This in turn provides opportunities for participants to explore new art forms, more fully develop their artistic skills, and gain enhanced understanding of and appreciation for Arab culture.
Cultural production. Culture informs arts education, which in turn shapes culture and its expression. Cultural production acknowledges that culture is dynamic, continually produced in relation to myriad influences, rather than a static set of traditions and values handed down from generation to generation. Our approach to the arts is founded on the idea that youth and adults can actively produce new cultural forms that incorporate and transform the world around them.
The organization’s main goals, which embody its core values, are the following:
- to expose and educate youth and adults of Arab and non-Arab heritage in the Philadelphia region and beyond to the language and culture of the Arab world
- to make the Arab cultural arts, in all their diversity, accessible to a wide audience in an effort to promote cross-cultural awareness and exchange
- to use a common language and cultural heritage to bring together the diverse community of Arab-Americans
- to support the development of Arab-American youth leadership by empowering them with a deeper knowledge of their cultural heritage and history and creating opportunities for greater academic achievement and civic engagement
The development of Al-Bustan’s programming is guided by the following priorities:
Intra- and Intercultural dialogue as a path to mutual respect
Through its educational programs, Al-Bustan encourages youth and their families to engage in meaningful dialogue about culture and identity and seek collaborative, peaceful ways to resolve conflicts, both within the diverse Arab-American community and broader American society. Combined with our cultural arts programs that present the depth and diversity of Arab culture in many art forms, such dialogue seeks to promote peaceful, respectful paths for bridging differences, celebrating diversity, and seeking alternative ways of effecting positive social change.
Affirmation of culture to constructively counter prejudice and discrimination
Al-Bustan’s programming aims to counter prevalent prejudice and institutional discrimination in educational settings, media outlets, and political discourses. Cultural arts presentations to the public – involving both youth program participants and professional artists – provide opportunities to demonstrate the richness and diversity of Arab culture, both in its traditional form as well as contemporary explorations and transformations. By offering the public a nuanced portrait of Arabs and Arab culture, Al-Bustan hopes to seed alternatives to the negative images and understandings that dominate in these times.
Youth development and initiative
Youth are encouraged to use the arts as a medium for (1) self-expression and cultural production, (2) developing their self-identity, particularly as it relates to ethnicity and culture, and (3) improving their personal efficacy and leadership skills within their peer community. Youth are encouraged to utilize these developing skills by constructively and creatively pursuing the other programmatic objectives noted below.
Individual and community partnerships
In order to bring together individuals from diverse ethnic, religious, social and economic backgrounds and experiences, Al-Bustan works to foster a collaborative environment that values the contributions of all. This approach extends to actively engaging with and learning from various community partners and organizations that support our mission and share our core values. Through such collaboration, mutually beneficial social change can begin to occur.