Interactive tour will become part of Art Bridge Film Project Otisville Iraqi-American artist Najim H. Chechen invites the public to a private tour of his studio in Otisville on Saturday, July 31, from 1 to 3 p.m. The theme of the visit is “The Utilization of Art in Developing Positive Communication between Iraqis and Americans.” Visitors can watch a live sculpture demonstration by Chechen and create a sculpture of their own to take home. Views and reactions will be filmed and become part of the Art Bridge Film Project. Visitors will learn how Chechen uses his work to build bridges between Americans and Iraqis to create healing through the arts. Visitors will watch a video of the artist’s creations in terracotta, bronze, pastel and charcoal. Specifically selected indigenous, ethnic music from the artist’s culture will help to create a mood and communicate the spirit of that culture. Chechen will explain the background, origin, inspiration and messages of his work. Chechen is a professional sculptor with over 30 years experience sculpting the human figure. He has a Masters of Fine Arts Degree from Pratt Institute and a bachelor’s degree from the Academy of Fine Arts of Baghdad University. He has exhibited his sculpture both in the United States and abroad. He has been engaged to complete commissions in the U.S., Europe and the Near East. He has over 25 years of teaching experience on the graduate and secondary levels. Both he and his artist wife cast their own bronzes at their atelier, Fine Art Studios. Workshops are offered to the public year round. Return to Iraq is traumatic In September 2003, after a 23 year absence from his homeland, Chechen made a journey back to see his family, relatives and friends. This journey was a traumatic experience for the artist since he experienced the shock of seeing all the destruction and suffering experienced by his family and country during the war. When he returned, he committed himself to finding a way to help his family and relatives. He started working with terracotta and created hundreds of small figures that represented symbolically his family, relative and friends. These he sold at benefit exhibits, the proceeds of which were donated to provide humanitarian relief to family and relatives struggling to survive war-torn conditions The goals of the project include raising people’s consciousness about the power of art to communicate and to generate human compassion for the deprivations of war experienced by ordinary people in hopes of fostering positive communication between Iraqis and Americans. American families have also lost sons, daughters, dads and moms in this war. Both cultures can benefit by recognizing the humanity of the other and feeling compassion for the other. Both cultures can benefit by valuing what is beautiful in the other. The next event will be a husband and wife artist team exhibit featuring Chechen and his artist wife on Saturday, Aug. 28 at the Orange Galleries at SUNY Orange in Middletown. The event will run from 1:30 to 4 p.m. and include a reception. This project is made possible, in part, with public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts Decentralization Program administered by Arts in Orange and facilitated by the Orange County Arts Federation. Chechen’s Fine Art Studios is located at 1864 Mountain Road, in Otisville. For more information visit www.thefineartsstudio.com.