DUBAI: As the world reopens after months of closure due to the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) continues with its mission to support local talent. It has recently launched its second annual open call for emerging Saudi and Saudi-based artists. As part of the initiative, 10 shortlisted artists will be provided with the opportunity to undertake five days of training from experts.
The 10 selected finalists will participate in a five-day virtual training program led by experts in the field, including the 2019 Open Call winner, Saudi artist Aziz Jamal. Jamal was chosen from Ithra’s open call for contemporary artists in the Eastern province. Out of approximately 600 applicants, 14 were selected, from which Jamal was then chosen to exhibit his work in the Zamakan exhibition at the Ithra Museum. Jamal also displayed his work at the 21,39 Jeddah Arts initiative in June of last year.
“It’s incredibly humbling to see this from the other side,” Jamal told Arab News. “So much of what I learned as a working artist came as a result of winning the open call, so it feels incredible to be able to share knowledge with the next batch of artists. I remember being confused and not knowing how to navigate my way through the art word because the hardest part is simply getting into the room. So, I’m happy to have a small role in opening the door to others.”
Included in the virtual program will be discussions about the state of contemporary art in Saudi Arabia and around the world, professional best practices and portfolio critiques.
“Going through the open call process truly made it easier for me to navigate conversations with other creatives and people involved in the arts,” added Jamal. “In the beginning, I had a lot of anxiety concerning my own voice as an artist and what my role is in the grand scheme of things, but it’s through constant practice and staying in conversation with other artists and curators that you gain more insight into yourself. So, I’ve been mostly working on strengthening my own voice and maintaining my curiosity.”
Empowering Saudi Arabia’s creatives is a core mission not limited just to Ithra but also aligning with Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. “Our Culture, Our Identity: Vision 2030,” a document issued by the Saudi Ministry of Culture in March 2019, set out the framework that will guide the activity of the Kingdom’s first Ministry of Culture and its vision to achieve “a flourishing of arts and culture across Saudi Arabia that enriches lives, celebrates national identity and builds understanding between people.” The mission of the ministry, it continued, is “to support and enable a vibrant Saudi Arabian culture that is true to its past and looks to the future by cherishing heritage and unleashing new and inspiring forms of expression for all.”
In support of such aims, Laila Al-Faddagh, head of the Ithra Museum, noted: “One of our main pillars at Ithra is to support local talent, and now more than ever this kind of support is necessary. The world is going through a challenging time with the current crisis, and just like everyone else, artists and the cultural industry have been impacted by this pandemic.
This is why we have decided to move forward with the open call to show our support to artists but to also create opportunities for new talent.”
Why is this open call so important to young Saudi artists and the development of the Saudi art scene?
“It’s important because there are few avenues for emerging artists [in the Kingdom],” Jamal told Arab News. “It provides an opportunity not only for the artists themselves but for the general art scene in Saudi Arabia to venture outside their comfort zones.”
In order to be eligible for Ithra’s second annual open call, applicants must be Saudi nationals or have lived in the Kingdom for a minimum of 10 years and must be at least 18 years old. Applicants can apply as individual artists or as members of a collective. All submissions must be made online. The open call is free to enter, and the winner will be announced in December 2020.
The application deadline for the open call is midnight, August 31, 2020. Interested artists can find full eligibility criteria and instructions on how to apply at www.ithra.com/en/artist-open-call.