The Markaz Closes Up Shop Definitively

kutsal kocer and chelsea daymon at the old levantine cultural center on pico blvd
the old storefront on W. Pico Blvd.

The physical space is closed but watch for our renaissance

If the pandemic of 2020 has taught us anything, it is that nationalities and borders are meaningless. The coronavirus cares neither for our religion nor the color of our skin and can kill almost indiscriminately, such that most of us, around the world, have been living in the same shared reality these last many weeks, trying to keep ourselves and our families safe.

I have spent many waking hours pondering what lies ahead, as I'm sure you have. Our future is uncertain, but we must face it together.

For now...we must face at once our demise and our rebirth.

We made history when on Saturday, June 23, 2001, we presented our first public program as the Levantine Cultural Center. Writing in the Los Angeles Times, arts critic Don Heckman noted that the center was intended to be “a new paradigm for Middle Eastern cultures and coexistence.” His review, titled "Middle Eastern Program Puts Focus on Inclusiveness," revealed our plans to open "a performance space, art gallery, conference room, workshops, bookstore, cafe and office space" for cultures of the Middle East and North Africa. It was to be the first of its kind in the western United States.


soup for syria the markaz
a 2015 Markaz festival event that raised support for Syrian refugees

A small group of hard-working and determined Americans of Arab/Levantine, Iranian and North African heritage, we waded into deep waters, not knowing our final destination. While searching for the angels whose financial support would secure our existence, we got to work that very first summer, in 2001, organizing cultural programs across Los Angeles.

Then came 9/11 and we entered the "war on terror" era with its culture of fear and unconstitutional spying on ordinary American citizens—Arabs/Muslims in particular.

Rather than spelling our doom, the center came alive with programming that filled multiple needs—thousands of Americans showed up to learn about Iraq, Afghanistan and other countries with whom the US held often hostile relationships.We continued to hunt for backers while pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps.

Over time, we rented our own modest space, a warehouse in Culver City, and then a set of offices on Robertson Blvd, and finally a storefront on W. Pico Boulevard. All the while we hoped to land major funding and either revamp a large existing creative space or build a new home from the ground up.

iranian writers soirée at the center
an evening of Iranian writers with an exhibit by artist Adnan Hussein

From 2001 to 2019 we presented hundreds of public programs, including concerts, plays, comedy shows, literary fora, film screenings, debates, dialogues and classes. In 2015 we changed our name from the Levantine Cultural Center to The Markaz, which means "the center" in Arabic, Farsi, Hebrew, Turkish and Urdu. Over the years we received extensive print, radio, TV and online media coverage. We served nearly 100,000 attendees.

Now, with the pandemic adversely impacting artists and arts organizations everywhere, we have no other option but to shut down The Markaz definitively. 

Sadly, The Markaz as we’ve known it is now officially closed. (Read our many testimonials here.)

And yet we’ve realized that without a brick and mortar home, we can scale down and operate differently by going online, and being at once a global and local community organization.

The Markaz will effectively become The Markaz Review (TMR), as of September 3, 2020.

The Markaz Review is an intellectual and literary destination that seeks to erase the boundaries between peoples and celebrate culture.

TMR will publish in English, Arabic, French and Spanish, adding Persian and Turkish later on, as funding flows in.

We invite you to read our proposal below, and support our new initiative.

Jordan Elgrably
cofounding director
Levantine Cultural Center/The Markaz

donate hereGive as little or as much as you can to support our transformation from The Markaz to The Markaz Review. Contributions are tax-deductible (tax id 26-1125983) and should be addressed to TMR's fiscal sponsor, Muslims for Progressive Values/MPV with The Markaz Review in the memo line of the check, to MPV, 1626 Wilcox, Suite 702, Los Angeles CA 90028-6206. Or donate online. Thank you!

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The Markaz

the markaz review proposal page 1

the markaz review proposal page 2

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