Jeddah Historical District will soon be home to Art Residency Albalad, a six-week-long programme for which seven participants have been sought out, marking the pilot of a five-cycle-long initiative announced by the Saudi Ministry of Culture. The final shortlist of applicants will be carved down to five artists, one writer and one curator.
The pilor comes as the first in a series of fully funded residencies that will give undivided time, opportunities for collaborations and an accommodating working environment for creative. It aims to provide a total of 42 artists and professionals, from Saudi and beyond, the tools needed to develop their skills.
According to a spokesperson of the Ministry of Culture, Abdulkarim Alhumaid, the programme has two main objectives. The first being to ‘create a knowledge exchange platform between the local arts community and the participants, building awareness of Saudi art and culture to regional and international audience’. The second objective is to ‘help (…) nurture and develop talent across the visual arts and cultural sectors, encouraging local production and driving growth of the cultural ecosystem within Saudi Arabia’. A focus of the programme is to promote cultural exchange and dialogue. Community outreach components will also be implemented into the programme in order to introduce Saudi audience to local and international discipline of art and expand the public’s understanding of contemporary art.
Jeddah has been forefront of the nation’s art scene and cultural transformation, while Albalad is recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due its prolific history and cultural significance within the region. Alhumaid adds. ‘it will provide an inspirational setting for participants as they work and learn from each other’. Specifically, a building called Rubat Al Khunji will host the programme. Built in 1813, the building was originally used as a guest house and was abandoned until it was recently refurbished.
As a nation with a rich history of art and culture and many years of harnessing creativity, it makes it a very important area in which artistic inventiveness should be nurtured. Facilitating cultural exchange and providing opportunities to all, as Alhumaid says, ‘By supporting and encouraging a vibrant Saudi culture that is true to its past and looks to the future’, is one of the reasons why nurturing artistic values in Saudi is so important. the development of Saudi’s cultural sector plays a role within the importance of the initiative. Developing the sector further could result in the creation of ‘meaningful and rewarding’ jobs in both public and private sector of the industry. Such improvements will be able to fulfill crucial directives under Saudi’s Vision 2030 transformation plan.
Incipient creative and those midway through their careers were welcomed to apply for the residency. Applications were reviewed by cultural professionals from Saudi and other countries. The selection of artists will be announced 26 March 2020 with the first session of the residency set to take place six weeks after the announcement.
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