x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

'Art for All' is a picture of success

Programme brings art to the masses. Sheikha Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation initiative 'important for normal people' artists say.

A panel discussion 'Art For All: Between Private and Public
A panel discussion 'Art For All: Between Private and Public". From the left: Haitham Zamzam, the moderator, Alia Lootah, Hamdan Al Shamsi and Dana al Mazrouei.

ABU DHABI // Mention Art and Abu Dhabi in the same sentence and most people would conjure up images of the Abu Dhabi Louvre and Guggenheim and exclusive invite-only galleries.

But yesterday at same location of those future grand museums - Saadiyat Island - a completely different art initiative ended its first annual event.

"Art for All", an arts programme launched by the Sheikha Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, aimed to not only promote emerging Emirati artist but engage the Emirati public in art while increasing their art awareness and interest.

"Art for All is the result of our wish to inspire the community at a grassroots level and raise their interest in the arts by making it more accessible," said Sheikha Salama.

Starting at the beginning of October, the programme took art on buses across the Abu Dhabi emirate.

An "Art for All Community Week" was also held last month at Khalifa Park where workshops with renowned local and international artists were set up to help create public interest.

Budding Emirati artists also had a chance to showcase their works in public spaces such as the Abu Dhabi Mall, Al Bawadi Mall, around the city and Al Gharbiya Mall in Abu Dhabi's Western Region.

"People who come to galleries are usually invited and part of the art circles and galleries display to sell," said Dana Al Mazrouei, 26, one of the five up-and-coming artist whose work was displayed.

"But having my art displayed in a mall makes it more accessible and puts its in a different context."

Alia Lootah, 33, whose work was also showcased in the exhibitions, said that as artists they had a responsibility to spread art all over the UAE.

A teacher of fine arts at the University of Sharjah, Ms Lootah felt it was just as important to spread awareness about art as it was to create it. "The field is relatively new here and sometimes it is too commercial and gets disconnected from the community," she said. "It is important to have down-to-earth events such as Art for All."

Through the initiative, Ms Lootah believed that many talented artists in the UAE would find an outlet and encouragement to pursue their talents.

The annual exhibition aimed to stimulate members of community to reflect on the creations of art and express their views about what is offered by artists.

Hamdan Al Shamsi, 31, incorporated his artistic talent in his classes when he was an English teacher at an Al Ain public school. "I would tell my students to act out short stories or elaborate on them through pictures, using methods of art to inspire their creativity," he said.

Noting the number of young artists in the Emirates was on the increase, Mr Al Shamsi believed it was essential to have good platforms for them to be expressive.

"It is important to bring galleries to normal people because you are providing knowledge to the public," he said.

Now a human resources analyst, Mr Al Shamsi created his work in his spare time, but hoped one day to be a full-time artist.

"At night I am a vampire artist. It's not easy to be an artist, you need income, but I encourage all students to pursue it as long as they are keen," he said.

When the programme ended, Hessa Al Hameli, programme manager for the Art Culture and Heritage of the Sheikha Salama Bint Hamdan Al Nahyan Foundation, looked back on the event as a success.

"We have had so much positive response - from the public and artists alike," she said.

Ms Al Hameli added that the involvement of the public in art was key to the peoples' development.

"As a society grows, art is an amazing and powerful way to convey messages, to think without words, and bring its people together," she said.

Thinking ahead to the emerging museums such as the Louvre and Guggenheim Ms Al Hameli believed the initiative would only strengthen them. "Involving the public at this time will create artistic pioneers who will be the future of these establishments, they will be running and supporting them and we will have a great audience for all of them," Ms Al Hameli said.