“Samia Halaby Uncanceled,” an event showcasing videos of Palestinian painter Samia Halaby’s art and life, will take place 7 p.m. Feb. 17 in the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. Sponsored by the IU Bloomington chapter of the American Association of University Professors and private donors, the event will be free but require a ticket.
Halaby’s abstract art exhibition, which had been in the works for three years, was set to open Feb. 10 in the Eskenazi Museum of Art. IU canceled the show Dec. 20, citing security concerns. In an address to the Bloomington Faculty Council Jan. 16, Provost Rahul Shrivastav said he could not say whether IU had received specific credible threats — instead calling the exhibition a “potential lightning rod” that could invite protests.
Elizabeth Housworth, an AAUP member and mathematics professor at IU, said the event will likely be posted on the Buskirk’s website this week. The idea for the event originated with Housworth, who planned the event and later secured the AAUP as a sponsor.
Founded in 1919, Bloomington’s AAUP chapter has an overarching mission of protecting academic freedom and shared governance. The chapter advocated for the formation of the Bloomington Faculty Council in 1947 and circulates a newsletter roughly once a semester. In a Spring 2024 edition of Bloomington’s AAUP newsletter, the chapter condemned IU’s interpretation of university policy in suspending tenured professor Abdulkader Sinno and the cancelation of Halaby’s exhibition.
The report criticized the university for “corporatization” by attempting to minimize the risks of potentially controversial speech and accused the university of losing touch with its mission.
“We see no purpose in treating the administration’s vague and unexplained ‘security concerns’ as anything other than a pretext to avoid subjecting to scrutiny the real reasons for its actions,” the newsletter read regarding Halaby.
Housworth said the Buskirk-Chumley event will include Halaby’s kinetic paintings programmed on a Commodore Amiga 1000, which is a computer released in 1985. Additionally, the show will feature YouTube videos about her life, including a video by award-winning cinematographer Bill Winters, and a unique video created by Halaby’s grandniece, Madison Gordon. Housworth also said Winters will come to the event and may speak.
“This is the event for people who actually want to understand what was canceled, who want to understand the art of Samia Halaby, her life and her history,” she said.