About

Our Mission

Centering
Silk Road Cultural Center is an interdisciplinary arts organization rooted in Pan-Asian*, North African, and Muslim experiences. We embrace the arts as a catalyst for connecting people, places, histories, and futures.
*We define Pan-Asian as inclusive of all cultures that span the Asian continent, including their diaspora communities.

Our Vision

Evolving
At Silk Road Cultural Center we know that representation matters; it shapes perceptions, informs conversations, and influences policies. In our increasingly diverse In our increasingly diverse American society, we view representation as key to having a “seat at the table.”

Understanding that cultures are inherently linked and not ranked, our artwork explores the intersections of cultures without undermining the specificities of cultures. In striving for a society that values art over ideology and inquiry over dogma, we welcome the complexities and contradictions of our human experiences.

We embrace storytelling in many forms including theatre, film, digital media, music, dance, literature, visual art, and food. At Silk Road Cultural Center, art is both a crossroads and a destination; a sanctuary for healing ourselves, healing our communities, and healing our world.

Our Board, Staff, & Company

Board of Directors

Catherine Dionne
Malik Gillani
Rummana Hussain
Priya Khatkhate
Jamil Khoury
Ryan LaHurd
Nirav Shah
Amynah Ali

Board Member

Mohamed Atef

Board Member

Catherine Dionne

Board Member

Samer Kanaan

Board Member

Priya Khatkhate

Board Member

Nirav Shah

Board Member

Staff & Company

Elizabeth Rosner

Director of Development

Tasneem Mandviwala

Polycultural Educator

Katy Firth

Accountant & Bookkeeper

Sophia Walker

Archivist

Beverly Kirks

Donor Engagement

David Henry Hwang

Artistic Ambassador

Brittany Alsot

Digital Media

Alex Groesch

Digital Media

Sarah Ibis

Publications Editor

Darrel Reese

Graphic Designer

Andrew Skwish

Poster Art Illustrator

Fouad Teymour

Artistic Associate

Anna C. Bahow

Artistic Associate

Carol Ann Tan

Artistic Associate

Teaching Artists

Brianna Buckley
Janyce Caraballo
Elena Victoria Feliz
David Goodloe
Levi Holloway
Lindsay Hopkins
Jarrett King
Sami Ismat
Victor Mallari
Ayssette Muñoz
Lexi Saunders
Yourtana Sulaiman

Our History

From Silk Road Theatre Project (2002) to Silk Road Rising (2012) to Silk Road Cultural Center (2024), our Silk Road story continues to inspire.

Harnessing that power, we set out to challenge the ideology and hatred that fueled the 9/11 attacks and the anti-Arab and anti-Muslim violence that immediately followed. Our vision was to counter negative images of Middle Eastern and Muslim peoples with theatrical representation grounded in authentic, multi-faceted, and patently human experiences. We centered politics that were anti-racist, anti-colonial, and pro-feminist, and elected to tell stories that were by us, about us, and for all.

Our focus quickly expanded beyond West Asia and North Africa to encompass the vast territory known historically as the Silk Road, a network of trade routes stretching from China to Syria and beyond. The legacy of the Silk Road provided us with a narrative from which our core values would appear: Discovery, Empathy, and Pluralism.

In 2012, we changed our name from Silk Road Theatre Project to Silk Road Rising, to better reflect the community we were becoming. The aspirational new name would bridge our live and digital artmaking, with lifelong learning, and cultural activism, enabling us to serve our mission through a more integrative and holistic approach.

The transition to Silk Road Cultural Center in 2024 allowed us to reimagine our programming within a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary arts framework. A curatorial approach to connecting creative mediums provides artists of Pan-Asian, North African, and Muslim backgrounds an expansive landscape from which to broaden the American story and honor the historic Silk Road.

The Silk Road

“Silk Road” refers to the great trade routes that originated in China and spread westward across Central and South Asia, the Middle East, and into Mediterranean Europe.

From the 2nd century B.C.E. until the 15th century C.E. the world’s dominant land routes adjoined China to Syria and connected with sea routes creating an East-West corridor linking Japan with Italy. These transcontinental caravans resulted not only in trade, of which silk was an important commodity, but also in tremendous cultural interchange among the peoples of the regions; interactions that fostered the sharing of ideas and the fusion of art and aesthetics.

The Silk Road spawned rich traditions of storytelling, primarily oral narrative and epic poetry. As we ourselves are storytellers, we understand the Silk Road as both a geographic polestar and a guiding metaphor for our polycultural worldview.

If we were to trace on a contemporary map the numerous trade routes connected to the historic Silk Road, the modern nation-states of this vast territory would comprise some two-thirds of the world’s population. From a political perspective, the Silk Road represents a model of interdependence and connectivity that united diverse peoples across geographically contiguous regions. This history is particularly important to us because it pre-dates the advent of European imperialism and colonialism, with its devastating strategies of conquer, divide, rule, and exploit.

The Silk Road also provides several metaphors within a 21st-century diasporic context. As a historic transportation hub and trading center, we consider Chicago to be the Capital of the North American Silk Road; a dynamic convergence of waterways, land bridges, peoples, and innovation. In a similar vein, the internet represents today’s global Silk Road, a technological ecosystem of ideas, stories, information, and beliefs.

We embrace the Silk Road as a living heritage and a model of the anti-colonial and anti-Orientalist politics that define our company’s aesthetic and worldview. May its legacy continue to thrive and evolve at Silk Road Rising.

Chicago, the Capital of the North American Silk Road

As a crossroads in North America’s vast cultural and commercial matrix, Chicago represents a modern-day Silk Road capital. The city's elaborate grid of railways, lake and river waterways, major highways, and well-connected airports, echoes the historic Silk Road's role in powering movement. Beyond being a conduit for commerce, Chicago stands as a hub of creative and intellectual dynamo. Its vibrant art, education, and hospitality sectors make it a crucible for the exchange of ideas and innovation, mirroring the Silk Road's legacy as a highway of knowledge that connected Asia, Africa, and Europe.

Tasneem Mandviwala

Tasneem Mandviwala’s paintings interrogate the imagined but meaningful boundaries constructed through human cultures, spaces, and truths, inviting the viewer to question the solidity of such delineations. She has most recently embraced abstract landscapes and cityscapes as vehicles for highlighting the fluid interplay between “human” and “nature” and how one is actually a part of the other. Tasneem works in acrylic.
Tasneem Mandviwala
The Sun Sets the Same on Everyone (2022)
Acrylic on canvas; 12" x 24"
Tasneem Mandviwala
Power (2022)
Acrylic on canvas; 36" x 36"
Tasneem Mandviwala
[Earth vs. City] vs. Earth City (2020)
Acrylic on canvas; 14" x 14"
Tasneem Mandviwala
The Sun Sets the Same on Everyone (2022)
Acrylic on canvas; 12" x 24"
Tasneem Mandviwala
Power (2022)
Acrylic on canvas; 36" x 36"
Tasneem Mandviwala
[Earth vs. City] vs. Earth City (2020)
Acrylic on canvas; 14" x 14"

On Colonized Land

Silk Road Cultural Center is housed on land that Indigenous communities had named Shekaakwa and that is known today colonially as Chicago.

We respectfully recognize the Potawatomi, Miami, Peoria, Sioux, and Kickapoo Nations, who have stewarded this land throughout the generations, the place that we call home and on which we create art. We acknowledge that we are on occupied territory that was forcibly taken from its original custodians. And we affirm that while we cannot change history, we can work for justice, and that justice begins with recognition and acknowledgment.
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Silk Road Cultural Center is a dba of Gilloury Institute, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization
© 2024 Silk Road Cultural Center
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