Tabadul Project: Cross-Cultural Exchange through the Arts

Posted On:
07 July, 2016
News, Past Events, School PartnershipsTeaching

During the 2016-17 academic year, with support from The Barra Foundation , The Philadelphia Foundation, Philadelphia Cultural Fund’s Youth Arts EnrichmentStockton Rush Bartol Foundation, and most recently Spruce FoundationAl-Bustan is engaging the Northeast High School community in a cross-cultural arts program that extends to create connections across several neighborhoods in Philadelphia. In addition to in-school arts instruction, the Tabadul (which means “exchange” in Arabic) project will facilitate a series of artistic presentations by students, along with community dialogue workshops and public art installations in several Philadelphia neighborhoods.

Northeast High School

Northeast Philadelphia is a rapidly changing community and its neighborhood high school, Northeast High School (NEHS), is a unique microcosm of the growing diversity. NEHS is the largest and most ethnically diverse public school in Philadelphia, serving over 3,300 students, with 56 languages spoken and 750 English as a Second Language students. Currently, there are few opportunities for channeling this level of diversity in positive ways.

With this year-long project, Al-Bustan seeks to achieve the following main goals:

  • Create forums for students and their parents/teachers/administrators to come together in ongoing facilitated settings, to express themselves through multiple artistic disciplines.
  • Through this process, participants will gain insight about themselves and their home/school communities and how they relate to the urban context of Philadelphia.
  • Develop students’ technical art skills in percussion, music composition, photography, videography, and spoken word/poetry in an effort to increase self-awareness, reflection and non-violent communication skills
  • Provide forums for self-expression and opportunities to represent identity, culture, and heritage to share with others, notably organizing sharing in public settings: within the school, around the Northeast neighborhood, and other neighborhoods across the city.
  • Demonstrate the possibilities for how increased understanding of diverse cultures can strengthen communal relations

In Spring 2017, guest artist WENDY EWALD, an internationally renowned photographer and educator, will be artist-in-residence at NEHS and will facilitate the creation of large-scale artworks reflective of the community. Similar to her collaborative work in varied settings within the US and around the world, Ewald will work with students in a process that explores questions of identity and cultural differences, notions of place and community, and empowers students with the artistic tools to tell their stories. The resulting photographs and literary texts will be printed as large-scale banners installed in several neighborhoods across the city, taking the art of the school community beyond Northeast Philadelphia.

The project will begin by serving a core group of NEHS students in Dr. JAY FLUELLEN’s class. Three Al-Bustan teaching artists will guide students weekly:  Poetry/Spoken Word led by JACOB WINTERSTEIN, Photography led by DAVE TAVANI (1st semester) and RICKY YANAS (2nd semester), and Percussion led by HAFEZ KOTAIN and DARYL KWASI BURGEE.  Monthly after-school community workshops will convene students, parents, faculty, and administration. Al-Bustan staff will guide the formation of “Tabadul Youth Planning Committee,” to meet weekly to plan, organize, and implement the after/out-of-school opportunities and series of forums for cross-cultural exchange.

A series of neighborhood forums will take place in collaboration with other schools, The U School, a new public school in North Kensington, Palumbo High School in South Philadelphia, and Germantown Friends School, an independent Quaker school in Germantown. Several teachers at each of these schools will explore themes around identity and culture, inspired by the work of Wendy Ewald, with the goal of bringing their community in dialogue with the NEHS community.

Click here to learn about another Al-Bustan initiative at NEHS, supporting a Muslim Girls Culture Club, inspired by the work of Wendy Ewald.

Learn more about how Tabadul has been going:

Tabadul: In Action at NEHS

Tabadul: Wendy visits NEHS

Tabadul: Neighborhood Forum 1 Reflections @ Palumbo

Tabadul: Neighborhood Forum 2 Reflections @ Germantown Friends School

Tabadul: Neighborhood Forum 3 Reflections @ U School

We are grateful for the following foundations who make this project possible:

Barra Foundation

The Barra Foundation invests in innovation to inspire change that strengthens communities in the Greater Philadelphia region. Through the Catalyst Fund, Barra invests in ideas that tackle problems or seize opportunities in new, different, better and significant ways. These timely and novel approaches push boundaries and have the potential to inspire change.



The Philadelphia Foundation is committed to improving the quality of life in Bucks, Chester, Delaware, Montgomery and Philadelphia counties since 1918. The Foundation makes grants to strengthen nonprofits in order to improve the quality of life for all in Southeastern Pennsylvania. The Fund for Children supports programs aimed at improving the quality of life for the children of Philadelphia.




The Philadelphia Cultural Fund is a non-profit corporation established by Philadelphia’s Mayor and City Council in 1991 to support and enhance the cultural life and vitality of the City of Philadelphia and its residents. The Youth Arts Enrichment Grant Program supports specific programming that uses the arts to enrich the lives of Philadelphia’s young people both in and out of school.




At the Bartol Foundation, we love Philadelphia and we love the arts, and we work hard to support and celebrate the arts in our local communities. Our work includes offering many grants each year to small arts organizations who are making a big impact, and presenting regular professional training events to help teaching artists better share their gifts and support their careers.