Dozens of North Texans, including artists, nonprofit workers and youth, spent their Memorial Day weekend at an art gallery titled “Art: A Language for Change” highlighting the plight of poverty.

Artwork such as one showing a hand holding some coins with a fortune cookie strip reading: “I don’t want coins, I want change” or a kid staring into an empty fridge, were displayed at the Ismaili Jamatkhana in Plano, a place for congregation for the Ismaili Muslim community. The event was hosted by the Aga Khan Council for Central United States, the social governance body of the Ismaili Muslim Community.

In her welcome note, Samina Hooda from the Aga Khan Council, emphasized, “Art is a powerful language to create awareness about poverty, which can in turn lead to empathy and action towards change.”

Hooda highlighted that Ismaili Muslims believe in the cosmopolitan ethics of honoring human dignity and sharing of one’s competence and time with those among whom one lives, for the relief of hardship, pain, or ignorance is a deeply ingrained tradition within the community.

The Ismaili Muslims, belonging to the Shia branch of Islam, include people from many diverse cultural traditions, residing in over 25 countries, all united under the allegiance of His Highness Prince Karim Aga Khan, the 49th hereditary Imam and a direct descendant of the Prophet Muhammad.

Youth Ambassadors from the Ismaili community had designed this art project for local schools as part of their work with the Aga Khan Foundation, a nonprofit organization to raise awareness about the plight of poverty and the organization in improving the quality of life of the underprivileged in Asia and Africa.

Spoken word recited by Gabi Smith poetically expressed the difference between poverty and privilege.

“Poverty is a family of 5 living in a single bedroom apartment on $15,000 per year,” Carol Zou told the audience in her keynote speech. Zou is an artist in residence for ‘Tans.lation’ an arts and cultural platform located in the refugee neighborhood of Vickery Meadow in Dallas.

She emphasized how art helps facilitate cultural freedom and provides a means to earnings for this diverse and marginalized community in the area. Her message of the role of art and compassion for others, resonated with the theme of the event and was well received by all.

Amy Hofland, Executive Director of the Crow Collection of Asian Art, posted on social media after the event, “The Ismaili religion is a branch of Shia Islam. A major part of their work as followers of Islam is to make the world a better place through volunteerism and helping others. Yesterday, through art, the spoken word and a lecture from Carol Zou a Trans.lations and Vickery Meadow, I learned about the power of community.”

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