The Islamic Arts Society expects to see 6,000 visitors during the annual Islamic Arts Festival, now celebrating its ninth year.
The free two-day event is set for Dec. 10 and 11 at the Masjid Al-Salam in Spring.
This family-friendly festival will feature over 50 artists, live painting, retail art, art demonstrations, henna tattoos, kids’ activities, food trucks and much more. Guests will also be able to get guided tours of the mosque.
Looking back at when the festival first started, creator Khawaja Azimuddin couldn’t have imagined it would grow to be this big.
Azimuddin is the founder of the Islamic Arts Society who hosts the event, although he first started as just an artist.
In 2014, one of Azimuddin’s murals was installed at the mosque in Houston. Soon after, he decided to create a small show with a handful of artists in hopes of bringing the community together for a good time. It instantly had a good turnout according to Azimuddin.
Azimuddin continued to host the event annually, and he started to see more people each year.
In 2019, the Islamic Arts Festival saw a record number of people — a little over 5,000 – but due to COVID-19, it faced challenges the following year. Instead of canceling the event, Azimuddin said, he decided to make it virtual.
The Islamic Arts Festival saw 22,000 online visitors during the pandemic. The online festival included art classes, workshops and children’s activities. After resuming the event in-person in 2021, but scaling down due to social distancing, Azimuddin said he still saw over 5,000 people.
Azimuddin is pleased with the festival’s continued success and the committed individuals who make the event a reality.
“Extremely happy, but not for just myself but for the entire group of dedicated volunteers, board members and all our workers,” he said. “We are a volunteer-based organization and we feel very proud that this is something that we have been able to do through thick and thin, through COVID, and we are not just the largest festival of Islamic Arts in America but also the oldest. So, I think in Houston we have done something that’s not been done anywhere in America.”
Azimuddin said the main purpose of the festival is for people from every walk of life to come together and to build bridges between communities. He said that the Houston art scene has helped with its diversity and has brought more people together.
Mona Raja, an artist who specializes in jewelry design and tezhip (Taz’hib or illumination), has volunteered at the Islamic Arts Festival since the beginning and said the Islamic art scene in Houston has really evolved. She said there are people from many different backgrounds and that the diversity is what makes Houston’s Islamic art scene amazing.
“From where it started with the humble beginnings with four people who came together and created this and now it’s on a national level reach, and some of the contests they do at this level is international. I'm extremely happy to have this platform to showcase my craft and I'm extremely excited for the new year and new festival in December,” Raja said.