City of Faith

Religion, Activism, and Urban Space

November 18, 2022 - October 22, 2023

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A crowd of people stand around a table with food containers. The man in the center is opening a case of water bottles to distribute.

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City of Faith: Religion, Activism, and Urban Space looks under the surface of New York’s image as a secular city and maps the complex and often surprising relationships that connect religion to public space. The exhibition focuses our attention on how religion engages the city at a public level—in “secular” streets and sidewalks, waterfronts, and other liminal spaces. Focusing on South Asian American and other communities who have faced religious profiling and surveillance—particularly after 9/11—the exhibition critically examines the nature of secularism in the city, how it has historically favored Protestantism while rendering other communities hyper-visible, and how these latter communities assert their right to the city through transformative art and collective action.  

Photo by Ryan Christopher Jones. 'The Sikh Center of New York distributes meals to those protesting the killing of George Floyd and other Black Americans by the police.' (June 4, 2020.) The New York Times/Redux.

Get a Glimpse of the Exhibition

Installation Views

Featured Artists

Divya Victor and Aaron Cohick, Amit Amin and Naroop Jhooti, Vivek Vellanki, Amarnath Ravva, Joseph Heathcott, Margaret Olin, Utsa Hazarika, Chiraag Bhakta (*Pardon My Hindi), Chitra Ganesh and Mariam Ghani, Azra Akšamija, Tanaïs, Jaishri Abichandani, Rebecca Solnit and Joshua Jelly-Schapiro, Hillel Robles, Greg Miller, Saks Afridi, MIPSTERZ, Nancy Chuang, and Andil Gosine.

Project Team

Curator: Azra Dawood, Andrew W. Mellon Post-Doctoral Curatorial Fellow

Exhibition Design: Isometric Studio 

MCNY Exhibition Team: Sarah M. Henry, Robert A. and Elizabeth Rohn Jeffe Chief Curator and Deputy Director; Leela Outcalt, Director of Collections; Sheryl McMahan, Registrar; Shaun Carmichael-Ramos, Assistant Registrar; Todd Ludlam, Director of Exhibitions Installation; Tracy McFarlan, Associate Director of Curatorial Projects; Elizabeth Indek, Curatorial Projects Associate; Rane Stark-Buhl, Curatorial Intern 

Consultants: South Side Design & Building; Williams Brothers; Avi Dobkin (lighting); Full Point Graphics; Creative Graphic Services; Digital Data Depot; Thane Lund; Object Mounts; Lee Berman, Nancy Nicholson, Paul Gross (art handlers); Sandy Guberti Ng 

Special Thanks

Advisory Committee:  

Nandini Bagchee, Associate Professor and Director of MS Architecture Program the City College of New York's The Bernard & Anne Spitzer School of Architecture;  

Courtney Bender, Associate Professor in Columbia University's Department of Religion;  

Asad Dandia, Community Program Coordinator at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, New York (CAIR-NY);  

Matthew Engelke, Director of Columbia University's Institute for Religion, Culture and Public Life;  

R. Scott Hanson, Lecturer in History and Director of the University of Pennsylvania's Social Justice Research Academy;  

Margaret Olin, Senior Research Scholar in Yale University's Divinity School, the Department of Religious Studies, the Program in Judaic Studies, and the Department of the History of Art;  

Hussein Rashid, Independent Scholar;  

Divya Victor, Author and Associate Professor of English at Michigan State University 


Community Partners: Desis Rising Up and Moving (DRUM); Sikh Coalition; and others. 


City of Faith is made possible in part by the Henry Luce Foundation and the Charles and Mildred Schnurmacher Foundation.  

The Museum gratefully acknowledges the Mellon Foundation’s support for exhibition curator Dr. Azra Dawood’s fellowship. City of Faith: Religion, Activism, and Urban Space is her capstone project.  

Logo for the Henry Luce Foundation, left; Logo for the Mellon Foundation, right
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