x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

Dubai's platform for creativity

q&a Hetal Pawani, co-owner of The Jam Jar, a gallery and artist's studio in Al Quoz, Dubai, discusses the burgeoning art scene in her hometown.

Hetal Pawani started the Jam Jar after studying for her postgraduate degree in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Hetal Pawani started the Jam Jar after studying for her postgraduate degree in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Hetal Pawani co-owns and runs The Jam Jar, a gallery and artist's studio in Al Quoz, Dubai. She lives in Dubai.

We opened in March 2005. I lived with a group of artists when I was studying for a post-grad in Philadelphia and that's when my desire to provide a platform for creative services began. I wanted to have a place that was accessible to everyone; to have a gallery to promote emerging artists where individuals could also come and paint. Lots of other countries, like Paris, have little art cafes, but there wasn't anything like that here, so I figured it was worth a shot.

No, but I don't see that as an advantage or disadvantage. I've had more practical experience. My artist friends taught me a little bit about art history and my curiosity grew from there.

I was born, brought up and educated here. My family has been in the Gulf for 135 years. We go back generations in Dubai.

We exist as a studio and gallery, but we also run corporate events, where companies can come and do team-building with painting. The idea was always to make art accessible to everyone. Then we have a small publishing division, which produces the region's only art map, as well as the Art Bus, which takes people between galleries and to major events, like Art Paris or the Picasso exhibition in Abu Dhabi. Finally, we have a consultancy division, which helps provide homes and businesses with work by local artists.

They exist within the same space, but are connected only through the audience, who have the luxury of being able to experience both.

It's very much focused towards adults, although we encourage families to come here, too. Most of the people who come in have never done it before, but they shock you with what they can do.

We feature lots of international artists, as well as student shows; we're very keen to promote emerging artists. We do anything from two to four shows a year for students. We have a very natural focus towards Asian art: Chinese, Indian and Pakistani. And we also work in collaboration with galleries abroad, although we don't just rent the space out; we really vet these things and ask ourselves whether we want to become involved with a particular project.

When we tie up with artists, it's important that they agree to have a community link. They participate in the workshops; it could be a lecture on their work or on the art form. Or they could actually be doing a hands-on workshop. We act like a missing link between the two.

Everyone's excited about what's happening in the arts here. People from all over the world want to exhibit their work in Dubai; the auction houses are here now and lots of art fairs. There is currently more focus on art from the Middle East than other countries, but the kind of stuff that galleries are starting to come up with means that new, young collectors have easier access to art from the region.

We're hoping to open Jam Jar cafes across the UAE. They're going to be smaller than this, but more of them, so we're bringing art to the communities. We're still going to have a few gallery walls, but showing all types of media. Then, we're going to have painting of course, but people will also be able to sit down at the cafe and have a sandwich. It will be like an interactive art cafe, with a small gallery promoting local and international artists. There's a lot of young talent here who we're looking to work with. We want to be at that street level that's easily accessible to people.
kboucher@thenational.ae