Statement Regarding the event in the Gallery on March 3, 2024

On March 3rd, 2024, we held an event at the Massy Arts Gallery for the launch of Sarah Mughal Rana’s newest book, Hope Ablaze. Throughout the organization and lead up to the event, done in partnership with Sarah’s publicist, it wasn’t made clear to her or the other speakers that the event would be taking place within an art gallery and among artwork. Although it was advertised as taking place within our gallery, the current exhibition was not shared directly with the publicist or the author. The current show is visceral, challenging, and can be upsetting, and we deeply apologize for how this context shaped the event, hurt the author, their family and guests, and overshadowed the exceptional work of Sarah Mughal Rana and the exhibiting artist.

Massy Arts Gallery is a small, independent not-for-profit gallery where we may show intense, challenging work. Through that work, we prioritize underrepresented artists, and this often includes identities at multiple intersections. In exhibiting this show we wished to give space to the artist’s individual queer Lebanese experience, one that focuses on concepts within the realms of anti-colonial, anti-capitalist, anti-religion and anti-establishment theory and practice, exploring the intricacies of identity, faith, and the profound impact of cultural expectations on the human experience. We are deeply sorry that Sarah’s launch was booked during this exhibition, resulting in feelings of hurt and alienation for the author and their guests. In no way do we intend to contribute to Islamophobic, or otherwise hateful worldviews.

The unfortunate overlapping was not intentional and is the outcome of a discovered disconnect between the bookstore that sends us all author requests, the events and admin coordinator (who works remotely and is not physically in the gallery) and our art curator (who is not involved in any literary bookings). This has shown us the dire need for explicit communication and coordination between all members of our team, publishers and authors.

In terms of hospitality from staff, we are deeply apologetic for the lack thereof, including welcoming visitors in a timely and appropriate manner, and communicating carelessly that bad weather and attrition naturally occurs with events. We are investigating the situation with staff to ensure this doesn’t occur again. We are sorry to the readers and guests.

Although this exhibition had been confirmed several months prior to the author’s publicist reaching out to book Sarah’s event, and the exhibition information was published publicly online during the lead up to the event, neither we nor the publicist made it clear to the author and fellow speakers the contents of the exhibition. We hope to rectify these oversights through our action items listed below:

  1. Each booked event includes an explicit note the event is taking place within an art gallery setting, with art as a potential backdrop for speakers. We will notify all those booking our space with information on the current exhibition, and offer mobile backdrops if guests do not wish for that artwork to be visible. 
  1. Improved communication between the bookstore, our events and admin coordinator, the curator, and all those booking with us. 
  1. Ensuring the space is set up and the doors are open at least 30 minutes prior to the start time of the event, authors are offered a table for signing. Improved hospitality. 
  1. Although consent to record events is requested with authors prior to the event by email, being more explicit in seeking consent in person and detailing the consent procedure more accurately. 

  2. Putting a clear content warning on our website and on the door to the gallery that indicates the content of the exhibit may be disturbing/unsettling.

Massy Arts Society was created for over-excluded authors and artists, thinkers and creatives. Its Board is 100% Indigenous woman-led, and is committed to fostering a space for creatives of all backgrounds to be celebrated. We acknowledge we are living in a time of extreme Islamophobia, and recognize more than ever, the need for Muslim voices to share their exceptional work, and we recognize we failed to communicate and be that space for Sarah and her guests. We also want to state we do not deserve the threats of violence and vitriol we are currently receiving, including accusations this was done intentionally. We are communicating with Sarah’s publisher and working privately to repair harm, and commit to improving our operations to avoid unexpected distress for authors and other members of communities who may hold events in our space. 

We apologize for the harm done,

Massy Arts Society