We visit the newly opened Art Beat studio in Abu Dhabi, the brainchild of two sisters who hope to inspire a crop of creativity in the city
A spot that caters to creativity
With its mega-museums in the pipeline, Abu Dhabi will one day soon house the works of some of history's greatest artists.
In the meantime, the city still lacks the facilities for budding creatives who wish to emulate these masters.
But Samia and Amanda Shehadeh are determined to address this shortfall. The British-Palestinian sisters have just opened their small art studio, Art Beat, in the Mushrif area of Abu Dhabi.
Of course, there are already a handful of places in the city that offer formal art classes. Art Beat, however, aims to offer a less rigid experience.
Rather than sign up for a lesson, customers of all ages can just walk in, choose their medium to work in and get cracking on their handiwork, while the Shehadeh sisters look on to offer advice.
Among the art forms their patrons can partake in are decoupage (pasting small pieces of coloured paper onto objects) and painting designs on crockery, glass and other household items.
Samia envisioned her business around the time of her youngest son Laith's second birthday. She decided to create mugs decorated with a print of her child's palm on them as gifts for family members.
"Amanda was helping me out at the time, and we both thought 'this would be a great business idea'," she says.
"I was working as a management consultant back then, but the clients were in charge of my time and I wanted to be in charge of my time.
"My youngest son had just started going to school five days a week, so I thought I should get a better work-life balance," she says.
After months of searching for a venue and unravelling all the red tape associated with launching a business venture, they finally opened just before the new year.
As you walk into the studio, a rainbow of colours strikes your eyes: bright mats rest on all the tables, decoupage-covered papier mâché dinosaurs sit drying on sideboards and every wall is adorned with rows of finely painted plates.
Samia hopes these surroundings will offer inspiration to patrons, no matter how confident an artist they are.
"For those who are good at art, they can create these wonderful things," she says pointing at the finely finished pieces covering the walls.
"For those who aren't so good, at least they won't feel intimidated because they can still create wonderful things, just things that are easier to produce. But, basically, we wanted to provide a bright, welcoming space to allow people to create whatever they want."
And coming from a business background, Samia admits her talents are also somewhat limited.
"Amanda's a real artist," she says. "This gives me my legitimacy to open an art shop, that's why I dragged her into it. I can do the basics, but not much more.
"But having said that, it's not actually about us. It's about their creativity. We can offer guidance, but this place is about your individual agenda and what you want to create."
To try your hand at making your own masterpiece, all you have to do is show up and pay up for your materials.
"We want people to feel welcome and flexible and come and go as they please," says Samia.
"They can pick the colours that they want, then pick whatever materials they want. We're here to help out and oversee them, but it's up to them."
Only time will tell whether Art Beat inspires a crop of home-grown artists whose work will rival those that will soon hang on the walls of Abu Dhabi's Louvre and Guggenheim.
If not, at least the venue will have enabled families to spend some quality time together.
"A huge part of our ethos is to create a space for people to enjoy moments together," says Samia. "Not only have you a moment in time when you're creating something together, you also have something to take home at the end. You just can't do that in a shopping mall or a cinema."
• Art Beat is located on the corner of Muroor Road and 25th Street. Call 055 269 8011 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information