JEDDAH: The 7th Floor, in Jeddah’s Sharafiah district, is described by its founder, Nayla, as a cross between an atelier and community space. Without any advertising, it has quickly grown in popularity as a creative artistic hub.
Its origins can be traced back to 2015 when Nayla, who has a degree in art and design with a focus on social innovation, returned to Saudi Arabia after studying in the US and decided that she wanted to create a community of like-minded individuals who share her passion for art.
Specifically, she wanted to connect with “people who support creative endeavors, culture, arts and well-being above all,” she told Arab News.
So she came up with the idea for the 7th Floor as a place where kindred spirits can inspire and teach each other and collaborate. The space it occupies was once a family home, and Nayla attempted to preserve the homely atmosphere as she transformed it into a place for artistic people to gather and expand their networks. It hosts professional meetings, workshops and intellectual discussions on subjects ranging from literature to history.
“We are a space that facilitates human capital and encourages people to come and make things,” Nayla said, adding that it is a “no-judgment zone” where people can learn and experiment and develop their skills.
Like many innovative ideas, the startup faced some early challenges. It struggled to attract the right mix of people and find the resources it needed as Nayla worked to build a unique community that encapsulates “Hijazi hospitality and the bittersweet culture of hard work and a big heart.”
She added: “It is about coexisting and respecting one another. Since it was once a home, it gives people that invited feeling of being safe.”
Nayla said she is thankful to her family and friends who believed in the idea and supported her.
“They would always show up when I held discussions and helped me raise the awareness that such a place exists through word of mouth, since I didn’t want to advertise,” she said.
“The biggest achievement is to see that people feel welcomed and gratified at the services and workshops. It puts a smile on my face when I see people leave happy, having learned something new and believing in their own ability to give back to the community.”
Looking to the future, Nayla said she takes things one day at a time but would like is to see the 7th Floor turn into something like a “hidden museum.”
“I want it to be something that people will randomly stumble upon and be fascinated about the rich culture that resides in my space,” she explained. “I would like to host more workshops on well-being and arts, in addition to art-based workshops that are already being conducted.”
For more about the 7th Floor, check out @the7thfloor_ksa on Instagram.