What is Levantine Cultural Center and who is behind it?

Long before 9/11, many of us were already working to build bridges and humanize the Middle East. Levantine Cultural Center grew out of an earlier project—Open Tent Middle East Coalition, a group of like-minded individuals and nonprofit arts, educational and peace groups working together in Southern California. Plans for the center formed during the Spring of 2001, and we held our first benefit concert in June of that year. On August 10, 2001, we filed as a nonprofit California corporation.

We are Americans of Middle Eastern or North African heritage. Whether Muslim, Christian, Jewish, Baha’i, Buddhist or secular, we embrace a larger vision of the Middle East that is inclusive, peaceful and forward-thinking. We are creative professionals who believe that Southern California can benefit from a pan-cultural arts center where we are all greater than the sum of our parts. See who's who.

...from Morocco to Afghanistan and Pakistan...

Being equal parts “East” and “West” we resist the “us vs. them” dialectic—the dichotomy of a “clash of civilizations.” We don’t believe that the events of 9/11 have locked us into a binary reality. You can be a secular Iraqi Muslim like architect Zaha Hadid, who lives in London and creates post-modern buildings all over the world. Or you can be an observant Moroccan Jew like André Azoulay who advises the King of Morocco on that country’s economic policies. Whether you’re a Christian Arab from Bethlehem who makes documentary films for a living, or an Egyptian Coptic from Alexandria who writes extravagant science-fiction novels, you are part of a larger, cohesive narrative.

Levantine Cultural Center, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, is the Los Angeles nexus for Middle Eastern/North African and Mediterranean cultures. We look to new ideas and forms of expression from artists, writers, iconoclasts and visionaries, both in the region and abroad.

Tax-deductible contributions support our programs for Middle East peace & cross-cultural understanding.

We strive to be an oasis of cultural exploration, peace, exchange and understanding. Devoted to the Middle East and North Africa, Levantine Cultural Center, headquartered in Los Angeles, serves as a crossroads between contemporary arts and traditional cultures.

We present or cosponsor programs that celebrate the music, dance, poetry, literature, film and video, painting, sculpture, new media, new ideas, and the oral histories of this fascinating, diverse region of the world. From the the cultures of the Levant to the Arab spirit of Al-Andalus, from Greece and Turkey to North Africa, from the cultures of West Asia, including Iran and Pakistan to the Gulf States, the Center expressly includes and honors the many cultures of this vast region.

Perhaps what makes Levantine Cultural Center most unique is that we celebrate both majority and minority cultures, rather than taking a nationalistic approach, so you will find here that most everyone is represented, including Armenian, Bedouin, Kabyl, Kurdish and Sephardi/Mizrahi cultures. Our programs are welcoming and inclusive; as a result, audiences at our events are extremely diverse.

Bilad al-sham is one definition of "Levantine" as it referred to Syria in days gone by when it was interconnected with Lebanon and Palestine; another is El Helaal el khaseeb—the Fertile Crescent. The Levant we embrace embodies as much the imaginary worlds of Naghib Mahfouz and Edmond Jabès as it does the spirit of poets Rumi, Adonis and Darwish. Into the mix come the dancers and musicians who cross-pollinate with each other, whether they are of one religion or another, one nationality or another—regardless of the politics of their respective governments. Visit the Cultures section of this site.

Founded in 2001 as a not-for-profit arts organization, we seek to create or support innovative programs focusing on the expression of artists and writers, performers and philosophers, dreamers and visionaries. Many Levantine cultures are under-represented in American life, and often misunderstood.

We are organizing to support gallery exhibits, lectures, performance art, live concerts, public dialogue, festivals, book groups, conferences, workshops, film and video screenings, oral history and radio recordings, new media productions and much more. You can help by becoming a sponsor.

Our ultimate vision is the creation of a permanent, landmark cultural arts complex that will be a mecca for Middle Eastern/North African cultures in Southern California.