x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Street Night Art in Dubai

Street Night Art will bring artists and musicians together for a night of free entertainment and creativity on a street in Al Quoz.

Matt Ryder, a Dubai-based artist who specialises in murals and street art, is one of 50 artists taking part in the night of street art in Al Quoz on Friday. Courtesy Matt Ryder
Matt Ryder, a Dubai-based artist who specialises in murals and street art, is one of 50 artists taking part in the night of street art in Al Quoz on Friday. Courtesy Matt Ryder

This weekend, the road that runs behind Times Square Mall will be closed to traffic so it can play host to a night of street art and entertainment, the first of its kind in Dubai. At Street Night Art, 50 artists will work live throughout the evening, accompanied by music, drumming and ad hoc performances on an open mic stage.

Beautifying the area

This is the first event organised by an initiative called the All Quoz Project, named to reflect the fact that the project belonged to everyone in the community. The founder, the Dubai-based Uruguayan Maria Urrutia, says she did it because she wanted to bring the art out of the gallery walls and into the dusty streets of Al Quoz to brighten things up.

“It all began about a year ago when one of my best friends used to live in Al Quoz and we would always get lost when we came here,” she says. “I felt sorry for the people who live there, that the streets were dusty and ugly, so we wanted to paint the buildings in colour and fill it with beauty — that’s when we founded the beautification project.”

Urrutia began knocking on doors, and says it was difficult at first.

“We had to find the landlord of every single warehouse and it was nearly impossible,” she says. “Then we decided to do this event to attract people’s attention. In the future, we want to paint the walls directly.”

Pulling it off

Organising this event was a monumental task for Urrutia, who was working full-time at a bank and had to give up all her weekends and evenings to make any sort of progress.

She began contacting artists and musicians, asking them to volunteer their time. The biggest problem she had was getting permission to close the road.

Finally, with only a month to go before her proposed date, Dubai Events helped her get the permit. Street Night Art will be presented by Arabtec Holding, which is providing all the street “furniture” — buses to block the entrance to the street, flatbed lorries that will double as stages, and plastic barricades. It is also listed as an official event on the Dubai Shopping Festival programme and is supported by Middle East Film & Comic Con, The Fridge Dubai and the youth network, GYEM.

“I thought about giving up many times but now it is all worth it,” says Urrutia. “This is not my project, it is everyone’s project.”

Community spirit

Urrutia has full-time help from a team of volunteers. A key member of this team is Alexandre Teodoresco, who has been helping to coordinate all aspects of the event.

“The whole idea is to have a sustainable event and a high-level of community involvement,” he says. “We are all volunteers here and have come together with a lot of goodwill. We are a bunch of passionate people who just want to do something for the community. We are hoping it will become a recurring event.”

There are 50 artists involved in the project, who will be performing in different ways. Gary Yong, who is also known as Enforce One, is a street artist from New Zealand who will be spray-painting one of the buses at the entrance.

The installation artist Elise Vazelakis will be working with labourers on a mural project, and Start, a charity for under-privileged children, will be working on another of the buses.

Live music

James De Valera, a DJ known as Break DJ Lobito, will be on one of the music stages where six DJs, a funk band and a troupe of breakdancers will perform. “I met Maria some time ago when she started the All Quoz initiative and I could tell she was really selfless and passionate about the art, so I pledged my support and offered to help in any way I could. It’s good to see the artists express themselves freely and without boundaries, which is what this kind of art is about.”

• Street Night Art 2014 will take place in Al Quoz, Dubai, along 4B Street from Times Square to 15th Street, on Friday from 6pm to midnight. Entrance is free. Visit facebook.com/QuozProject

aseaman@thenational.ae