DUBAI: Saudi Arabia is undergoing a well-documented cultural progression, part of which is championing up-and-coming artists. Contemporary and traditional designers now have a new creative space in Jeddah, thanks to Art Jameel — the Saudi foundation that has patronized artistic and educational initiatives in the Arab world since 2003.
Project Space Art Jameel, nestled in the heart of Jeddah’s historic Al-Balad district, is a dedicated workshop where artists can connect and collaborate. It provides traditional arts activities, houses a makerspace and will host a broader contemporary arts program of workshops, exhibitions, talks and events curated by Art Jameel and its partners.
Fatima Mazeh, programs manager at Art Jameel Jeddah, told Arab News that Project Space Art Jameel will focus on traditional arts and contemporary projects.
“The area is deprived of workshops that can help artists in making their projects,” explained Mazeh. “This maker space will make it easier for them to execute their projects.”
Mazeh expects Project Space to be busy. “Saudi Arabia’s art scene is growing and opening up more and more thanks to the support of the Ministry of Culture,” she said.
While the creative hub officially launches on April 29, Project Space is currently open to Art Jameel students. Many of them are already utilizing the workshops to create their artistic offerings, with a particular focus on woodwork and ceramics.
Located on the ground floor of a contemporary building next to the famous Jamjoom House, and a stone’s throw from fellow Art Jameel venue Jameel House of Traditional Arts / Jeddah, Project Space underwent a six-month renovation and fit-out with machinery and equipment for makers and craftspeople.
“We do a lot of traditional art at our center and part of the teaching of creative skills is to learn woodwork and ceramics,” said Mazeh. “Project Space gives artists a new space to use their mediums and a dedicated space solely for woodwork to allow them to work on their own in a traditional space without disturbing other classes we have going on in the center. The space has a really relaxed feel and is also a place to bond.
“Artists want — and need — new spaces to do arts and our location in the heart of Al-Balad is a very creatively inspiring area, because it is surrounded by old houses. It’s a traditional setting,” she continued. “It really is an ideal space for any artists who want a place — and a fresh location — to do their work.”
Project Space, like other Art Jameel activities across the Gulf, will feature regular exhibitions from local, emerging and established artists. Mazeh stressed that artists are welcome to approach Art Jameel personally about using any of the organization’s venues, including Project Space and the Jameel House of Traditional Arts.
Project Space had a ‘trial run’ in the UAE in 2018, before the opening of the Jameel Arts Center in Dubai. A temporary Project Space was set up in the city’s artistic hub, Alserkal Avenue, with a wide-ranging program of art exhibitions, studios, workshops and events. While some shows featured works from the Jameel Art Collection, others were developed in collaboration with partner institutions; research studios and educational initiatives aiming to bring together creative communities of all ages and nurture experimentation, dialogue and a discursive approach to art and art-making.
And Mazeh hopes that the first permanent Project Space in Jeddah will lead to the establishment of similar centers. “I would like to see Art Jameel centers like this all around the Kingdom,” she said. “Right now, this is just based in Jeddah but we would like this to be for people in all parts of Saudi.”
Project Space complements the Jameel House of Traditional Arts / Jeddah — a key pillar of Art Jameel’s pioneering work to preserve cultural heritage. The center for artisanship, architectural discourse and heritage preservation was established in 2015, in cooperation with the Saudi Arabian Society for Culture and the Arts and with a one-year craft and design program designed and delivered by the Prince’s Foundation School of Traditional Arts.
Craft modules from that program, including gypsum-carving and woodworking, will now take place in Project Space and constitute its core activities.
As well as Project Space and the Jameel House of Traditional Arts, other major Art Jameel activities in Jeddah are the Jeddah Sculpture Museum, and the upcoming Hayy: Creative Hub, a new 17,000-square- meter development. Located in a mixed-use area in the north of Jeddah, Hayy — derived from the Arabic word for neighborhood, thus reflecting the community oriented nature of the complex and the ways in which the partner organizations, which include art galleries, digital entrepreneurs, comedy clubs, cafés and more, are working together to present the full diversity of the arts — is currently under construction and is due to open some time next year.
The three-story contemporary development, which will bring together and nurture Saudi artists, playwrights, photographers, filmmakers, entrepreneurs and others, will act as a major new destination for Jeddah, bringing together a range of cultural experiences in one neighborhood. Programming will include exhibitions of modern and contemporary works from local and international artists; a digital hub for upcoming Saudi producers and directors; a professional theater plus performance spaces; and a rolling program of educational events for all ages.
Mazeh said these latest offerings in Saudi’s burgeoning art movement are testament to the Kingdom’s growing creative, entertainment and culture scenes.
“Everyone in the arts scene in Saudi is very excited about all the changes that are going on and happening around us. We call it a ’new Saudi’ now,” she said. “For example, I had never attended a concert anywhere in the world until two months ago in Saudi Arabia, when I went to a Sean Paul concert. All the changes that are happening around us... it is very exciting in terms of arts and culture.”