Baghdad Better but Audiences Still Avoid Theaters

The American military, the Iraqi government and aid organizations are making efforts to renovate Baghdad's cultural arteries. The Baghdad Museum Project, a nonprofit organization working to establish a comprehensive online catalog of all cultural artifacts in the National Museum's collection, is spearheading fundraising efforts to help many locations.

Federal programs aimed at funding museum and theater renovations are slowly taking hold after months of legislative limbo. Artists who fled the country during Saddam's reign have pledged to return as better security takes hold. And to add beauty to blighted areas, the city hired two dozen Iraqi artists to paint colorful murals on blast walls, those 12-foot-high concrete slabs that snake along the city's streets and roads.

Still, some here are frustrated by the slow pace of progress.

"Iraqi politicians come from a culture of doing nothing so they move very slowly in helping," said Eskander. "They [are] not [accustomed] to investing in our cultural future so things will move slowly for a long time."

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