The UAE fully understands the value of cultural spaces for the development of cultural talent, cultural products and businesses, and the communal benefits of culture. Many impactful cultural spaces exist in the UAE, and they range from galleries, centers, to creative clusters. Some of the notable spaces in the UAE include the following:
* Alserkal Avenue: Alserkal Avenue is a renowned cultural district of contemporary art galleries, non-profit organizations, and homegrown businesses in the Emirate of Dubai. Alserkal Avenue is a vibrant community of visual and performing arts organizations, designers, and artisanal spaces that have become an essential platform for the development of the creative industries in the United Arab Emirates. Alserkal develops year-round programming dedicated to fostering arts and culture education and engagement. The annual program is thematically developed to focus on a particular issue, bringing artists and professionals from different fields together to examine a concept through talks, screenings, workshops, Quoz Arts Fest, Art Week at Alserkal Avenue, Social Saturdays, November in Alserkal Avenue, Ramadan at Alserkal Avenue and Road Trips.
* Manarat Al Saadiyat: Manarat Al Saadiyat is a modern art space in Abu Dhabi. It introduces people to the transformative power of the arts by providing casual, drop-in spaces for the community to work alongside a team of talented teaching artists. Art Studio, based at Manarat Al Saadiyat, has dedicated spaces for all ages to work both collaboratively and individually. Art Studio also offers arts education programs which continually adapt and respond to the needs of the community as well as dedicated outreach programs such as helping teenagers develop their art portfolios or proposing hands-on classes for people of determination (persons with disabilities) to continue to thrive. Furthermore, Photography Studio, launched in 2018 in Manarat Al Saadiyat, is committed to developing and enhancing the professional growth of talent. The Studio encourages the participation of local, regional, and international photographers through its community-driven exhibitions. It also develops and promotes a year-round calendar of activities and programs hosting specialized workshops and courses conducted by professional photographers.
* The Cultural Foundation: In Abu Dhabi, the Cultural Foundation launched a cutting-edge visual arts program of exhibitions that focus on contemporary and modern art from the United Arab Emirates, the region and internationally. As part of the Foundation's mission to foster and promote creativity, spaces have been dedicated to host community exhibitions, children exhibitions and art residencies. The Cultural Foundation launched a world-class, contemporary and home-grown performing arts program in its newly renovated 900-seat theatre. It has transformed its library to become the Abu Dhabi Children's Library. This state-of-art facility offers innovative hands-on learning programs for children and families. Educational platforms at the Cultural Foundation include:
o Al Marsam Al Hor offers a dynamic variety of classes and workshops that focus on a wide array of artistic disciplines. The studio welcomes teens and adults of all skill levels to drop in and use the space or register for a weekly art class.
o Bait Al Khatt is a new space within the Cultural Foundation dedicated to the intricate art of traditional Arabic calligraphy and is led by renowned artist and calligrapher Mohammed Mandi. It offers an ongoing program that takes both a theoretical and practical approach, with a view towards enhancing the development of Arabic calligraphy within the United Arab Emirates.
o Art Residency is part a dedicated studio spaces for a comprehensive art residency program to support and advance professional artists, who are nationals or residents of the United Arab Emirates to produce and exhibit work with unparalleled visibility and endorsement.
o Performing Arts Program: The program is a contemporary, popular, and home-grown program that includes music, dance and theatre. It has hosted an artistic program dedicated to families and young people, with a mix of classical and contemporary productions featuring local, regional, and international artists in its new theatre and outdoor amphitheater in the heart of the city. It has also dedicated the second Tuesday of every month to present Emirati theatre productions as part of its ongoing mission to support artists from the United Arab Emirates.
* Warehouse421: A unique arts and cultural space in Abu Dhabi designed to meet the growing demand for more creative community spaces for people to meet, work, collaborate with others, and participate in social and cultural events. Warehouse421 is a home-grown arts and design center dedicated to showcasing and nurturing creative production from across the region. Working in collaboration with local, regional and international entities, Warehouse421 seeks to aid the development of the UAE's creative ecosystem through learning, research and commissions. Warehouse421 hosts a range of public programs and learning opportunities that support creative practices, artistic exchange and stimulate critical discourse. These include short courses, events, exhibitions, and workshops which provide opportunities for children, students, educators, artists and creative professionals to develop their creative practices and inspire innovation. Among its programs are: Online programing: featuring a series of video lessons, podcasts, book readings, community talks and curatorial tours, enabling audiences to remotely engage with regional narratives in art and design.
* Jameel Art Centre: In 2018, the UAE welcomed Jameel Arts Center, an independent arts institution dedication to engaging communities through its exhibitions and programming. Learning is at the heart of its initiatives and central to the organization's thinking and collaborations. A diverse spectrum of engaging opportunities is dedicated and adapted for children, students, educators, and professionals, including creative workshops, talks, pilot projects and tailor-made resources.
* Jameel Library: The Library is part of Art Jameel Center and is an open contemporary arts research center dedicated to cultural histories of the Gulf and its neighboring regions. The arts library's collection focuses on making accessible the knowledge of arts and culture; enabling the construction of multiple narratives; and making visible the fluidity of these ideas. Key content subjects include: exhibition histories; pedagogy and alternative arts education projects; contemporary discourse and theory from and about the region; plus selected artists' monographs and mapped journeys of practice and influence. The library is an active and dynamic learning platform, home to public programs, reading groups, curated bibliographies, symposia, and interventions, free and open to all. The Library also supports homegrown research and promotes knowledge exchange; provides spaces to less established practitioners and develops emerging practitioners' practices and nurtures them.
* In5: Launched in 2017, in5, a design innovation center supports the design and fashion talent landscape, offering students, entrepreneurs, and startups an opportunity to transform their disruptive ideas into commercial successes. In addition to industry specialized training and workshops, in5 also provides members with dynamic co-working spaces, offices and community areas that are designed to inspire creativity. It is open to everyone from the fields of visual art, fashion, architecture, and product design.
* Tashkeel: An arts facility established in Dubai, provides a nurturing environment for the growth of contemporary art and design practice rooted in the UAE. Through multi-disciplinary studios, workspaces, and galleries, it enables creative practice, experimentation and dialogue among practitioners and the wider community. Operating on an open membership model, Tashkeel's annual program of training, residencies, workshops, talks, exhibitions, international collaborations, and publications aims to further practitioner development, public engagement, lifelong learning and the creative and cultural industries.
* Makers Space: The makerspace is an open-access and do-it-yourself workshop/fabrication studio. It is a community-based space where creative entrepreneurs, artists, makers, teachers, and students come together to learn and work. The workshop provides access to a set of high-quality machines and tools, and provides all the training required to use the equipment and build new skills. The Makerspace provides access to both professional equipment and software. It includes laser cutters, plastics and electronics labs, a machines shop, a wood shop, a metalworking shop, textiles department, welding stations and much more. Members of the makerspace have open access to design software, featuring the Autodesk Design Suite. Big project areas with large worktables are available for completing projects and working with others. The community of members and staff provide inspiration and support for creating projects. Comprehensive instruction and coaching are provided by expert staff members.
* NYUAD Arts Center: Showcasing music, theater, dance, film, poetry, family programs, and interdisciplinary performances that defy definition, The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi presents distinguished professional artists from around the world alongside student, faculty, and community productions. As a place that both presents and develops work, The Arts Center is a vibrant laboratory for performance that fosters a dynamic relationship between the arts, scholarship, and the community. Located on the NYU Abu Dhabi campus, The Arts Center presents the University with compelling programming that connects to the curriculum, using the arts to illuminate and enliven the scholarly pursuits of students and faculty. The Arts Center creates a dynamic space for research and investigation, encouraging the active pursuit of knowledge for audiences as well as visiting artists. Excellence, collaboration, creativity, accessibility, innovation, respect, and understanding are The Arts Center's core values, striving to be a beacon on the international arts landscape, firmly rooted in the region but with a global reach.
* Cinema Akil: Cinema Akil is an independent cinema platform opened in 2018 that brings quality films from across the world to the audiences in the UAE. Showcasing directors and filmmakers across the decades, Cinema Akil aims to create awareness and interest in film and the cinematic arts.
* Louvre Abu Dhabi: Created by an exceptional agreement between the governments of Abu Dhabi and France signed in 2007, Louvre Abu Dhabi was designed by Jean Nouvel and opened on Saadiyat Island in November 2017. Louvre Abu Dhabi galleries tell a chronological history of human creativity that explores the shared ideas and issues that have defined our common humanity from pre-history to the present. Featuring a global selection of around 600 masterpieces drawn from its growing permanent collection, Louvre Abu Dhabi displays are also regularly updated with a rolling roster world-class loans from their international partners. Louvre Abu Dhabi also presented a variety of cultural programming, from musical performances to creative workshops, as well as film screenings, curatorial conferences, and panel discussions. All programming aims to complement the works on show in the permanent display and temporary exhibitions and serve to entertain and educate the museum's visitors as well as the wider Abu Dhabi community. Louvre Abu Dhabi is supported by the expertise of Agence France-Museums, and 16 prestigious partner French institutions in addition to the Musee du Louvre, which has committed to sharing its name and values with Abu Dhabi through this remarkable and innovative project.
* Sharjah Art Foundation: Located in Sharjah's historic Art and Heritage Areas, Sharjah Art Foundation activities and events take place throughout the year and include exhibitions featuring the work of Arab and international artists, performances, music, film screenings and artist talks as well as extensive art education programs for children, adults and families. The Foundation hosts the annual March Meeting and every two years presents the Sharjah Biennial.
* Al Jazirah Al Hamra: Al Jazirah Al Hamra is the last authentic and traditional town still standing in the United Arab Emirates. Once a small island, its inhabitants subsisted on maritime and pearl trading before they abandoned their houses in the middle of the 20th century, when the rush to modernize started. Al Jazirah Al Hamra presents an undisturbed picture of life before the discovery of oil and is a unique area for Ras Al Khaimah and the whole country. Al Jazirah Al Hamra has all the elements of a traditional town, including a fortress for defense purposes, a small market, several mosques and a variety of houses ranging from simple buildings to ornate houses with courtyards which belonged to rich pearl merchants. Al Jazirah Al Hamra is one of the best places to study traditional coral-stone architecture which was used along the coast of the UAE.
Bastakiya: The traditional style of life that was prevalent in Dubai from the mid 19th century till the 1970s is reflected at Al-Fahidi Historical Neighborhood (commonly referred to as Bastakiya), where buildings with high air towers (Barajeel), built with traditional building materials such as stone, gypsum, teak, sandal wood, fronds and palm wood are aligned side by side, separated by alleys, pathways and public squares, which give the district a natural and beautiful diversity. The buildings of the district are currently used in incubating a number of varied cultural and artistic activities (both public and private) ranging from art exhibits, specialized museums, cultural and artistic societies, ateliers to cultural centers (such as Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Center for Cultural Understanding). The district also hosts a number of seasonal cultural and artistic events such as Sikka Art Fair, Artists-in-Residence Program, Heritage Week, National Day Events and religious celebrations.
* Dubai Design District (D3): D3 is a design cluster in Dubai developed through careful consultation with the design community in order to provide a creative ecosystem to engage, inspire and enable emerging talent, and educate the next generation about the power and importance of all forms of design. D3 offers work permits, hosts offices of cultural businesses and serves as a space for innovative cultural festivals and fairs that allow artists and companies to showcase their latest products and inventions and allows cultural businesses to find customers and investors. As a sincere gesture of support for the creative community, the Ministry of Culture and Youth has relocated its Dubai offices to D3 to ensure continuous dialogue and support to the creative community.
* India Social and Cultural Center: Since its founding, the UAE is home to a large Indian expatriate community contributing to the full breadth of the UAE's socioeconomic environment. The India Social and Cultural Center (ISC) in Abu Dhabi is a socio-cultural organization serving as a venue for a wide range of social, cultural, literary, educational and recreational activities. Its establishment can be traced back to 1967, when a group of pioneering Indians established a club for social and cultural activities, to serve as a link to their cultural roots and homeland. The Unity Club was transformed to the India Social and Cultural Center and serves the Indian community in Abu Dhabi.
Many of the spaces in the UAE have brought about positive change and growth to the cultural and creative sector in the UAE. Each of the institutions individually contribute to the creation of a vibrant creative ecosystem, and their impact collectively has been even greater, reshaping a more active and effective narrative for the UAE's creative sector. Below we highlight some statistics, as follows:
* Jameel Library has since November 2018, put: 6 installations/research exhibits, 7 collaborations, 5 public talks, and 2 commissions.
* Ramadan Arcade event at Manarat Al Saadiyat: Number of visitors was 7,844 in 2018; 5,178 in 2019; and 11,000 in 2020 (virtual).
* MAS MASH event at Manarat Al Saadiyat: Number of visitors was 1,570 in 2017; 2,322 in 2018; 2,080 in 2019; 7,070 in 2020 (virtual).
* Attendees at NYUAD Arts Centre performances between 2015 and 2019 were as follows: 2015-2016 - 14,896; 2016-2017 - 21,200; 2017-2018 - 19,196; 2018-2019 - 20,743.
* Since opening in 2017 and as of November 2019, Louvre Abu Dhabi has welcomed over two million visitors from around the world who have come to enjoy the museum's rich cross-cultural collection, eight ground-breaking international exhibitions and a range of cultural programmes for people of all ages and backgrounds.
* In 2019 the Cultural Foundation had 25,000+ students enrolled in art classes, 12,834 attendees at 27 performances, 31,319 school children on tours and programming, in addition to its total of 197,000 visitors.
* Manarat Al Saadiyat hosted over 176,000 visitors in 2019.
* Makerspace offers 70 classes per month. Its annual membership: 412 in 2016, 580 in 2017, 621 in 2018, 640 in 2019, 271 in 2020. The decrease in memberships in 2020 is a function of the COVID pandemic and the inability for users to access the facility.
* Through its Tanween design program launched in 2013 Tashkeel has provided training to 22 designers and manufactured 36 limited-edition furniture and lighting designed pieces, many of which are featured in The Tanween Collection and are available for purchase.
Over the years, the UAE has also seen inspiring anecdotes of growth due to the support of cultural institutions, some of the notable examples are as follows:
* Jameel Library: After Rand Abdul Jabbar, the first Library Circles collaborator, presented her research on conservation and archaeology in Iraq, her research was developed into an installation that was part of 'Phantom Limb,' an Art Jameel-curated exhibition that explores the theme of material heritage.
* Al Serkal Avenue: Exhibition Syria: Into the Light, on view from 9 March until 3 April 2017 was the Atassi Foundation's largest-ever exhibition and its first in the MENA region. The show also marked Alserkal Avenue's inauguration of Concrete, a multi-disciplinary, multi-purpose event venue designed by the Office for Metropolitan Architecture (OMA), founded by Rem Koolhaas. Curated by Mouna Atassi, Founder of Atassi Foundation, in collaboration with writer and curator Rasha Salti, the show was based on the theme of 'Portraits and Figures' and included more than 60 works by over 40 artists illustrating the landscape of Syrian art from 1924 up to 2016. Through this theme, the exhibition highlighted the trajectories and shifts of art movements in Syria and its socio-cultural histories, from the early 20th century until the present day, representing different movements, techniques, and mediums.
* Al Serkal Avenue: Literaturhaus 2017 Literaturhaus at Nadi set out to reinvent and revive the 19th-century salon, where contemporary questions were debated alongside an array of literary, artistic, and cultural initiatives, inspiring audiences with new perspectives. International and regional authors, poets, critics, curators, publishers, translators, and musicians gathered to share their ideas through readings, discussions, and performances. The program covered all aspects of contemporary culture and became a forum to spark thoughtful exchange. The appetite for literature-focused programs led to the program being extended through the fall of 2017. The regular programming allowed for audience-building that branched into book sales and longer-term collaborations with an independent book fair.
* Al Serkal Avenue and Cinema Akil: Curated with a wide range of audiences in mind, NOWPLAYING captured the developing story of bringing an arthouse cinema to the heart of Dubai. NOWPLAYING was a season of film that harnessed the creation of a cinema-going culture in Dubai, showcasing arthouse, independent, repertory, and alternative cinema at Warehouse 68 every night from July to September 2017. The diverse film list included titles from Europe, the GCC, and beyond, celebrating talent from different geographies and creating a common discourse for cinema-goers. By building audiences through pop-up screening programs, Cinema Akil opened their permanent space in partnership with Alserkal Avenue in 2018, making it the first independent cinema in the Gulf region. Launched in 2014 as a nomadic cinema, Cinema Akil has held over 60 pop-up cinemas attracting over 35,000 attendees in Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah.
* The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi: The Arts Center's outreach programs (Off the Stage programs) play an important role in shaping the local arts scene of Abu Dhabi and the UAE. These initiatives are committed to the educational development of youth, building artistic skills and knowledge, and addressing important civic conversations such as environmental awareness, gender issues, cultural heritage, learning disabilities, technology, and innovation. By definition, Off the Stage events are created as intimate events with small capacities, in order to maximize impact. From 2016-2019 The Arts Center has had more than 15,000 participants in its Off the Stage events.
Cultural spaces and institutions in the UAE have worked diligently to promote awareness of modern art in our region and from the Middle East, producing public programs to educate the public on the importance of art, increased audiences to art exhibitions and appreciation for the arts.
The establishment of a lot of the major cultural spaces in the UAE is relatively new when compared to other countries. These spaces have already started developing a new culture and ecosystem of support for the arts and culture and businesses in the creative sector. What is required next is to elevate the ecosystem to ensure that it leads to real careers and sustainable businesses in cultural fields. Plans have been developed and are still being developed to ensure that existing spaces become effective and create real professional options for people in the UAE.