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Arts & Culture: Enriching Experiences and Engagement in Ras Al Khaimah

Al Qasimi Foundation
September 25, 2017

Given the success and momentum created from its annual Ras Al Kahimah Fine Arts Festival, the Al Qasimi Foundation has officially announced Arts & Culture as its fourth priority area. The new priority area joins Education, Health & Well-being, and Urban Planning & Community Development as a primary focus for the organization.

“Much of our arts and culture efforts have been piecemeal until now, but the cumulative intent has been developing artist networks, supporting emergent talent, and serving as an anchor for institutional support of the Northern Emirates’ nascent arts sector,” says Dr. Natasha Ridge, Executive Director of the Al Qasimi Foundation.

The new priority area serves as an umbrella for the Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival and the Foundation’s other arts-based initiatives, including documentary film grants for young directors and arts education activities with local schools. Formally naming Arts & Culture as a theme recognizes the arts’ growing visibility in Ras Al Khaimah and creates more opportunities for promoting creativity and artistic dialogue beyond the two-week festival.

To support the new priority area and provide a home for year-round programming, the Foundation launched a new Studio & Gallery earlier this year. The community space is the first of its kind in Ras Al Khaimah and will host regular exhibitions and workshops.

“There is a gap in access to arts programming and events in Ras Al Khaimah, with no public space for artists to engage with each other or the public,” says Suqrat bin Bisher, Director of the Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival and Events Manager at the Al Qasimi Foundation. “There is an artist community in Ras Al Khaimah, but unfortunately there are not many opportunities to engage with them. The Studio & Gallery is here to change that, to be known as a place in Ras Al Khaimah for people to create and exhibit their works.”

The Studio & Gallery will host bimonthly exhibitions, have regular community workshops, and special arts programming for students. The schedule will also include open hours for local artists to come work in the space. In addition the Gallery will host local and international visiting artists and will launch an Artist in Residence program in 2018.

“We learned about this beautiful studio, and when the Foundation invited us [to exhibit] it took us three seconds to say yes,” says Rudiger Hoffman, who recently shared modern works from his private collection in the new Studio & Gallery. “In the future, I would love to have a gallery in Ras Al Khaimah, similar to this gallery, to meet with artists, art lovers, friends, and expatriates…to have an exchange of experiences together with a cup of coffee.”

There are many positive social, cultural, and economic impacts associated with vibrant arts scenes. In Ras Al Khaimah, the arts have fostered more interaction between the local and expatriate communities and led to shared learning.

“For Emiratis, art allows us to fully engage with our history and culture, as well as the history and culture of other places. It helps us to better represent our culture, creating a dialogue. It also helps us be open to learn from other people, places, and perspectives,” says bin Bisher.

“The Foundation’s challenge now is making sure the arts are enriching the culture, enriching people’s experiences and engagement with Ras Al Khaimah, its natural beauty, its history and traditions, and its people.”

Students in particular benefit from exposure to the arts, as it has been shown to improve student achievement, engagement, and soft skills development. Students trained in the arts are able to visualize, think critically (and outside the box), self-regulate, reflect, and adapt from failure—all essential skills in the Emirates’ changing economy. The Foundation has witnessed these positive impacts of arts education first-hand through several informal projects associated with its Hands on Learning Program, a pilot initiative seeking to reengage boys at risk of dropping out of school.

“Working with their hands or creating art gives the students space to think and reinterpret the world. They imagine and visualize what they are doing; they connect with themselves, their body. They are in control and are able to express themselves constructively” says bin Bisher. “We hope to provide wider access for students to have personal experience with the arts since opportunities in government schools are limited.”

In addition to the planned year-round student programming associated with the new Studio & Gallery, the 2018 Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival will feature stronger engagement with schools. This includes promoting submission opportunities in the Student and Recycled Art categories, as well as live artist demonstrations during school visits to the visual arts exhibition.

“The new Arts & Culture theme positions the Foundation to contribute in new ways to the development of Ras Al Khaimah,” says Dr. Ridge. “We are excited to work with the community to discover and unlock its creativity.”

Submissions for the 2018 Ras Al Khaimah Fine Arts Festival are currently being accepted. More information can be found on the Festival’s website: http://www.rakfinearts.ae

Additional information on Studio & Gallery programming can be found by visiting the Foundation’s event calendar http://www.alqasimifoundation.com/en/events-calendar or contacting the Events Department: events@alqasimifoundation.rak.ae.