‘A Night in the Desert’ inspired by former Middfest cultural event

Works by artists Sam Faraj and Xena Hatter will be on view.

Art Central Foundation will bring back the spirit of Middfest with its new fundraiser “A Night in the Desert,” which will focus on the country of Jordan.

The foundation has talked about an event like this for year, according to Sue Wittman, director of the Art Central Foundation (ACF).

“Our inspiration came from Middletown’s beloved festival, Middfest, which brought an immersive cultural event to our city each fall, focusing on a different country every year,” she said. “We hope to do that, on a smaller scale, with this annual event each February.”

Wittman said the ACF will choose a different country to celebrate each year, much like the annual Middfest, but for a single night.

She said the organization has done other annual fundraisers in the past, including a wine tasting, art auction and Mardi Gras, which were ACF’s biggest events, but “at some point, you just want to try something new.”

“The decision was made by the board after the 2020 Mardi Gras that we would try this cultural event instead,” Wittman said.

“We have this event, and then we have a second fundraiser that’s a dinner with an artist, which will be at the end of August, and that’s going to focus on our students and what we do,” she said.

ACF will host the fundraising event on Saturday, Feb. 24, from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. in their first-floor space at 4 N. Main St. in Middletown. Barney Riesbeck’s State Farm office in Liberty Township and Gold Star Chili are sponsors of the event.

The works of two visual artists — Sam Faraj and Xena Hatter — will be on view during “A Night in the Desert.” Faraj will be the featured artist, and Hatter will have a small number of her paintings on display.

Wittman said Hatter “has so many great, creative contacts for this country in particular.”

Hatter leads mural classes over the summer, so students learn how to do public art, Wittman said.

The experience will include a sampling of authentic cuisine; an art exhibition featuring the work of two Jordanian artists; traditional music and dance; and an immersive historical installation provided by Jamil Al Wekhian, professor of Peace and Conflict Studies at Kent State University.

The fundraiser will support ACF’s educational programming, which since 2008 has provided more than 2,200 students with free or pay-what-you-can classes. Serving students from Middletown and the seven surrounding school districts, ACF has offered visual arts experiences for young artists, including participation in 13 public art projects.

Faraj was born in Al-Fahis and immigrated to the United States, where he graduated from Loop College in 1980. Primarily, his works are expressive paintings, featuring the landscape and architecture of Jordan. His work has been exhibited in Chicago, New York, California, Florida and Ohio, as well as at 14 solo exhibitions in his home country of Jordan, where he has received awards for his work.

Hatter, a board member of ACF and chair of the event, was born in Jordan in 1983, and she moved to the United States in 2003. She is connected with the Jordanian community in Cincinnati. Her family founded Gold Star Chili when they came to the U.S. in 1965, and she is still involved with the business. Hatter’s first solo show was in Jordan in 2001, and since then, her work has been exhibited in Chicago, Ohio and Kentucky. She currently has a studio inside Middletown’s Pendleton Art Center.

“I’m hoping that the event will be educational, and bring awareness to the culture, how things work, how people are with certain traditions and habits as far as food, music, and dress. So, we are going to have all of that included, and fortunately, we have a couple of guests who will provide that,” Hatter said.

In addition to the art on view, there will be entertainment with traditional music provided by DJ Remon Naser and belly dancing by Odessa Nyx.

“My main goal in life is to keep the old ancient ways alive, technically, as far as my ancestors’ habits and traditions. The healthy ones, of course ... there are a lot of beautiful traditions, cultural habits and things that have stayed alive, so we’re focusing on that,” Hatter said.

Food for “A Night in the Desert” will be provided by Hummus & Pita Grill, located in West Chester Twp. Owner Waqas Khasawneh has curated a menu featuring traditional dishes such as fattoush, kabobs, hummus and baklava. There will also be a Jordanian liquor to try (for an additional cost).

How to go

What: Art Central Foundation fundraiser - “A Night in the Desert” focusing on the country of Jordan

When: 6-9 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24

Where: Art Central Foundation’s first-floor space located at 4 N. Main St. in Middletown

Cost: $60 per ticket, available at eventbrite.com/e/a-night-in-the-desert-tickets-806309121287

More info: Sue Wittman at (513) 267-4016 or email sue@artcentralfoundation.org

About the Author