x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Return of shelter for art workspace in old neighbourhood

The arts work space Shelter is scheduled to reopen next month in Al Quoz.

DUBAI // An arts work space missed by the city's creative community since it closed earlier this year is scheduled to reopen in new premises next month in its old home of Al Quoz.

The original Shelter operated from a warehouse in the industrial area and offered start-up entrepreneurs a base where they could develop their businesses while networking. It had facilities such as personal desks and communal work areas.

The centre was launched in 2009 by Rashid and Ahmed bin Shabib, the Emirati twins behind the Brownbook arts magazine and other cultural ventures. But due to licensing complications, the brothers had to close Shelter in April.

There had been talk of a new Shelter opening at Dubai Media City, but now work is under way on creating the art hub in a warehouse in Al Serkal Avenue, which is home to many of Dubai's galleries.

Inside the warehouse a house-shaped structure made of recycled wood is being built and will contain offices and hot desks, which are provided for anyone's use. There will be space around the structure, and artwork and other material will be displayed on the walls. "Unfortunately there were many issues with the old Shelter," said Rashid. "We reached a situation where it was no longer the best space for us to operate in, though it was very successful and there were a lot of successful events.

"We were one of the first art operations at Al Quoz and policies hadn't been set; there were a lot of challenges concerning industrial and commercial use. The trade licences were not synched, but now they have been so we've moved to Al Serkal."

He said the new centre would have 185 square metres of space and construction would be completed by July 20. It is scheduled to open on July 30. The first event to be held there will be the GeekFest technology showcase, and a further eight programmes are planned for the remainder of the year.

"This time round we're keeping the offices free. We don't want to rent them out any more, we don't want people to be exclusively at their desks," Rashid said. "The biggest challenge was to take ownership of the desks from people, they were anchored to their desks. What we want to do with Shelter 0.2 is to keep it very open with a free flow of people who come in, work for the day and then leave. They'll have lockers where they can put their stuff."

Shelter will be welcomed back by many of those who built up their business at the old centre - among them Hammad Sheikh, an advertising agency art director.

"This is definitely good news," he said. "We've found an office in Media City, but this is definitely something young businesses will look to.

"We benefited a lot from Shelter, and we still miss it."

Rashid added: "Hopefully a second shelter will open at Media City by the end of the year. We never thought of leaving Al Quoz. Al Quoz has been very important to us."