Have you ever wanted to attend one of those painting classes but felt uncomfortable being around the tremendous amounts of wine that are typically involved? Samira Amer of Strokes of Remembrance (and of MissMuslim 😉 ) has created a space for Muslim women to attend a “Paint ‘N Sip” event without the “sip” – unless of course it’s a soft drink!
I was lucky enough to interview her about her successful new start up that she also created as a way to keep Islam in fun activities, because all of the artwork has some tie to Islamic history. Setting up shop in places like community centers, schools and local mosques – Strokes of Remembrance has formed its own space that marries religion and a fun night out into the same category. And with different genres of artists hosting these events, you’ll always walk away with a unique piece of art.
Art has deep roots in Islamic history and its about time our community connected with art again!
MM: What is Strokes of Remembrance (SOR)?
SA: SOR is a halal, Islamic themed twist on the traditional “Paint ‘N Sip” events. The purpose of SOR is to provide the Muslim community with a fun, alcohol-free environment where couples, friends, families and colleagues can learn to create Islamic themed art. Instead of a traditional art studio setting, SOR artists set up shop at Masjids, schools, restaurants and community centers to host events. We host public and private events and also help non-profits raise money through our profit share fundraising plan.
MM: What inspired you to start SOR?
SA: As a single Muslim American it is so hard to meet people outside of your immediate circle. What is even harder is being able to “date” someone in a halal non formal atmosphere that isn’t with family or on an awkward dinner date. I felt we needed a fun, casual outlet for people to meet, and ultimately for families and couples to bond. I love to host community events and this felt so natural and just made sense. Art has deep roots in Islamic history and its about time our community connected with art again!
MM: Do you teach the classes? Tell us about the different artists you bring in for teaching painting classes.
SA: At SOR we do not call our events classes. Classes are where you learn something. We don’t teach art, we just guide you through the steps to recreate the piece of art that is selected for that event. Many people get discouraged when they think of a class, we want to welcome anyone at any artistic or non artistic level. In fact most of our customers have never painted outside of art class in school.
Currently we have 4 amazing artists from NJ who have different backgrounds and are from different walks of life. Their day jobs keep them busy, but SOR gives them an outlet to share the amazing talent they have. I encourage my artists to promote their artwork at our events and direct attendees to their etsy pages to make purchases. I strongly believe that artists should be highly compensated for their talent and hard work. I also work outside of SOR to connect my artists with other non-profit and for profit opportunities like Islamic Relief’s Annual Art Gala.
MM: How many people are typically a part of each event?
SA: We keep events between 25-30 people. One time we did have an event of 40 adults — it really depends on the crowd we expect and the venue.
MM: Is this your full time career or is it something you are passionate about that you do on the side?
SA: Full time I am an account manager for a rapidly growing eCommerce and logistics company. My fascination with art and the love for my community blossomed into SOR. Most of my focus after work was on non-profit events like The Original Halal Food Festival, but I felt in order to have quality events from real professionals you needed to pay people to put in their time so you can get quality product.
MM: Ramadan and Eid are quickly approaching, do you have any special events lined up for the holiday?
SA: Ramadan is tough for this business but we are fully booked every weekend leading up to the first day. We are already booked for two Eid events after the holiday for a non-profit and for a big art center in Long Island. We are so excited for our first holiday season!
MM: What do you hope that those who attend SOR events will walk away with?
SA: I really hope people gain a new appreciation for artists in the Muslim community and give them the credit they deserve. I also hope that Muslim American millennials realize that they can’t just sit back and hope someone is going to create a space for them to have fun, and they don’t need to be constrained by their faith in doing so. It is more than ok to set up an art event in a Masjid, it is actually a very amazing feeling to break for Maghreb while your background dries. I don’t like the idea of living in the shadows of our parent’s cultures, we really need to take charge and create our own Muslim American culture and identity free of the cultural constraints of the cultures our parents came from.
I also hope that Muslim American millennials realize that they cant sit back and hope someone is going to create a space for them to have fun, and they don’t need to be constrained by their faith in doing so.
Not totally sold on how fun a night with Strokes of Remembrance can be? Check out their promo video below – and be sure to connect with them on Facebook!