Artist Highlight: Reem Barakat
Start Us Off: Reem was born and raised in Toledo, recently graduated from the University of Toledo with a Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts. She is a 2-D artist that currently works at the Art Supply Depot downtown and her preferred mediums include graphite and acrylic paint; she wields these to create still life and figure drawing pieces.
Origin Story: Reem grew up as a first-generation American. She has a strong cultural background that is heavily influenced by her grandma who is from Lebanon. When she was old enough to work she began working in her family restaurant located inside the University of Toledo, Phoenicia.
Cultural Influence: She is deeply rooted in her culture with her family. “It’s been a fun experience coming from a strong cultural background and adapting to American culture … I find that I incorporate that into the art that I make. It’s a constant back and forth between my family origins and interacting with my friends. It’s Arabic at home and English out in public, Lebanese food at home and American out in public. It’s a confusing, interesting, and awesome combination in my life.”
Heart for Art: Reem got started with Midwest HeArt in 2017 by donating pieces of her work to the annual art gallery. She discovered the call for artists online and was instantly enthused to participate. “I couldn’t imagine my grandparents coming into the country and not feeling welcome or safe. … I wanted to make something that showed that I cared about the art and the people who were receiving it. I think that the idea is really important.” The connection with her family directly influences her desire to use her talent and expertise to make a personal connection with those in need of resources coming into Toledo. “There are many organizations that are ready and willing to help those that can utilize public programs and resources but there are not so many that give the special type of connection that comes along with the gift of art.”
Mandalas? The pieces that Reem donated both years depicted mandalas. These represent an idea that has culminated in her involvement with Midwest HeArt. With her grandma’s house covered in works with Mandalas, she wanted to take both the widely known and deeply personal symbolism and make a true gift our of her experience. If a couple were to get married in Lebanon, they would receive a Mandala as a house warming gift. She wants to welcome families into her home, Toledo.
From the Inside, Looking Out. While Reem exuberantly shares her artistic talent, such as the other art projects she is working on (more on those late), she can be found all around the 419 giving her time to others. She has looked outside of herself since she was old enough to volunteer at bible school. She continues to carry that ideology forward when working with children at Old Orchard Elementary School. Barakat has been working with a certain fifth grader that came from Iraq and is helping tutor him. She is seeing how gratifying it is to see him learn every day. “It’s so rewarding to see him excited to read.”
Accolades and Activities Reem has received recognition for her time and efforts to better her community. The Arts Commission of Toledo has given her a spotlight to showcase her efforts. They also nominated and named Barakat the title of Volunteer of the Year with the Northwest Ohio Community Shares. While she wears these titles modestly, one can see her integrate these principles in her everyday life. She has just recently coordinated the Artist Market with the monthly art loop and is currently working on a mural at Mano’s Community Garden. The objective is to bring local artists into the space to encourage those that are currently working at the garden and those who have not yet discovered it. She values the idea of families congregating at a place of growth and nourishment and the project reflects these sentiments by the efforts to beautify the space and continue to help them feel welcome in the community.
Plug it Up. Keep up with Reem on Instagram @artsy_arab to see where she goes next! We sure will be.