Designing arts-based channels for communities to develop their own power. 

Community Engagement – Storytelling – Developing Diverse Leaders


Photos from the Muslim Women's Story Lab info session. Oct. 2015 at the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture.
Photos: Argenis Apolinario


Fall-winter 2015/16 - Muslim Women's story lab

I am pleased to announce the launch of the The Muslim Women’s Story Lab!

The Muslim Women’s Story Lab is a collaboration between Kayhan Irani, Gail Burton and Women in Islam, Inc. to engage Muslim women as creators and keepers of their own stories. The Lab builds participants’ capacity to lead creative, culturally resonant community engagement projects within the Muslim community using strategies that harness and reclaim Islam's empowerment of women.

Starting in October, and going until February, 15 female leaders will meet in bi-weekly workshops in NYC to nurture seeds of projects that will take root in their greater communities.  A culminating exhibition at the end of the program will display the process and products of the Story Lab and invite broader conversation.

The Muslim Women's Story Lab is a sponsored project of Fractured Atlas, a non-profit arts service organization.  Donate Today!

For more information please contact me, or email or visit:

The Lab received generous support from the Asian Women's Giving Circle.


march 2014 - Muslim women's story circles

Linked to Women in Islam’s ongoing initiative for women and mosque equity, Kayhan Irani and Gail Burton facilitated a day-long event bringing Muslims together to learn about and discuss issues of gender equity within the faith.  The event brought together members of the community, scholars, activists, and artists for discussion on the opportunities and challenges women face in accessing mosques. Honorable Kadriye Avci Erdemli, Former Deputy Mufti, Istanbul, Turkey, was the keynote speaker and shared her groundbreaking work in Turkey to address improving mosque access in her country.  Burton and Irani then engaged participants in Story Circles to share personal experiences and develop strategies for change.

Burton and Irani, with Women in Islam, are developing a Muslim Women’s Story Lab.  The Lab aims to deepen Muslim women’s engagement in one of three issue areas: women and mosque inclusion, women’s perspectives on Islamaphobia, and women’s community leadership, through a structured series of art-making workshops. These workshops offer access to, exposure in storytelling tools which amplify concealed voices, document and facilitate the telling of moving narratives, and construct culturally relevant, aesthetic approaches towards local Muslim women’s movement building.


Storytelling – Community Engagement – Problem Solving

As part of Kayhan's work around her Emmy-award winning series We Are New York, she structured a volunteer-led community conversation initiative to expand ESOL services to immigrant adults and to build opportunities for community conversation on important issues. Kayhan created a facilitator methodology, handbook and training program for volunteer facilitators and piloted the first cohort of community conversation groups which soon ballooned to include thousands of immigrants participants and hundreds of community facilitators. Conversations took place at churches, temples, parks and recreation centers, community based organizations and in social service offices.

The comic book she created was a further tool for community problem solving, translated into five languages (Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Russian and Spanish) and handed out in public hospitals, community centers, courts, and local libraries.

Click here to view a PDF sample of the We Are New York comic book in Spanish.

Click here to view a PDF of the We Are New York Viewing Guide.

NYC Department of Records and Information Services

Community Outreach and Education – Diversity – History

I helped the NYC Municipal Archives to create an outreach strategy to engage diverse communities in the five boroughs of New York City. I also organized discussions and public programs linking historical and present-day social issues to center the archives as a space for dialogue and debate. I helped to re-imagine the creative use of historical material and artifacts to reflect the histories of all New Yorkers.


Storytelling – Community Engagement – Problem Solving

One Village, One Thousand Voices is an Afghan radio drama with a focus on youth and justice.  Supported by the U.S. Institute of Peace and their Afghan media partner, Equal Access, Kayhan helped to create a storytelling for social justice framework to build episodes around and edited scripts  She also helped structure post-show audience dialogues between callers at home and issue experts in the studio.