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JEDDAH: The “Art Residency Al-Balad” has concluded its third edition with an open studio featuring the works of its residents at the premises in Rubat Al-Khunji Al-Saghir in Al-Balad in Jeddah on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

Organized by the Saudi Ministry of Culture and operated by Hafez Projects, the public was invited to visit the studios of the resident artists, learn about their projects and experiences, and discuss their artistic aspirations.

The program offered six-week residencies to national and international emerging and mid-career artists, curators and researchers. 

The participating artists — Ahmed Ben Taleb from Morocco, Andrea Alkalay from Argentina, Ashwag Kojah from Jeddah, Asmaa Alfageeh from Al-Qunfudhah, Eligatou from Riyadh, Fernando Martín Velazco from Mexico, Kawthar Smaren from Riyadh, Khalid Alangari from Dawadmi and Mahmud Manning from Britain — presented their artworks and interacted with the public.  

Fernando Martín Velazco. (Supplied)

Mohamed Ali Ghomriani, managing director of Hafez Projects, said: “As an organization which has been active in Jeddah’s artistic scene in the last eight years, we are extremely grateful to the Ministry of Culture to have been given the opportunity to operate the Art Residency Program Al-Balad. The Open Studio was a chance to share with the public the results of the work carried out by the residents over the last six weeks.”

He added: “It was also a chance to witness, once again, the interest and enthusiasm of all the guests who visited the art residency during the event. This confirms the importance of continuing to support arts initiatives and the artists towards the establishment of a flourishing and living cultural life in our city of Jeddah.”

Ghomriani said that the Open Studio is a space to share knowledge and experiences about arts, culture and the local heritage. He added that it also provides an opportunity to discover new perspectives on Al-Balad and the city of Jeddah. 

He said that such a dialogue is necessary to feed creativity and knowledge within and beyond the arts sector.

Khalid Alangari’s sculpture. (Supplied)

Alfageeh, an academic researcher, said: “I am glad to be a part of such an immense residency program that reflected on the place of the artist and the way they can integrate their insights and perspectives to the art culture. This helped me to enhance my skills to conduct research on topics that haven’t been covered before in Saudi Arabia.”

Alfageeh’s research interests include arts, literary texts, TV shows and films that discuss issues related to Muslim identity, multiculturalism, Islamophobia, radicalization and terrorism in Western and Arab contexts. 

“During the residency programs, I have conducted several interviews required for research purposes related to the art scene. I have learned that there has been a significant shift in the art culture and the encouragement from the government helped many artists to flourish and document the Saudi culture in the form of different arts. I believe art is important for (a) country’s manifestation.”

Asmaa Alfageeh. (Supplied) 

Smaren, the Riyadh-based artist in the residency, had pursued art as a hobby before embarking on studies, where she learned the basics of her craft, different styles, periods, schools, and modern trends. 

“My work aimed at giving a tribute to Al-Balad architectural beauty and the historical importance that it holds in the country. The residency encouraged the artists to experience and develop their practices by engaging in site visits of Al-Balad, workshops, and opportunities for dialogue between different artists.”

Kawthar Smaren. (Supplied)

Participating for the first time, the international artists considered the event an excellent opportunity to be a part of this initiative that fosters local, regional and international development in contemporary art.

Part of the Ministry of Culture’s “Advancing Cultural Entrepreneurship” initiative, the Art Residency Al-Balad is sponsored by Saudi Vision 2030’s Quality of Life Program, which reflects the Kingdom’s support for nurturing creativing between Saudi and international practitioners

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