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Royal Commission announces launch of first art residency program in AlUla
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 03 - 12 - 2021

The French Agency for AlUla Development (Afalula) revealed on Friday the launch of the first art residency program in AlUla, a unique cultural landscape of north-western Saudi Arabia which has, for centuries, been a consistent and ever evolving culture and trade hub.
The 11-week residency program fosters dialogue, exchange and collaboration between the artists in residence and the community of experts working on the ground in AlUla, as well as local practitioners and other members of the local community.
Through these collaborations, embedded within varied technical teams from geology, to archaeology to botany, to architecture, AlUla will truly become "a destination built by artists". The rebirth of the oasis is the theme of this inaugural edition, during which artists' research and work focuses on the oasis, one of AlUla's most prominent landscapes where a regeneration program is underway, in an effort to give it a new breath of life.
The program encourages invited residents to reflect on the place of the artist in such vast development programs and the way they can integrate their insights and perspectives in the research undertaken by the community of experts. In addition to providing support to develop the artists' research and production projects to be implemented in AlUla, a dynamic public program is organized in collaboration with the artists, the experts, and the local community on a weekly basis. It includes open studios, workshops, and meetings between the public and the artists about their work in progress at different stages of the residency.
The first edition is based in Mabiti AlUla, a palm-grove and a guest-house in the heart of AlUla's oasis. It will subsequently be established in Madrasat AdDeera, an arts and design center. Artists in residence already started building collaborations with local artisans through the programs held at Madrasat AdDeera while delving deeper and focusing their research on the local materials of AlUla, its craft and cultural practices. Madrasat AdDeera would be a key anchor asset of the future Arts District of AlUla, a dynamic cluster of programs, education and production that will form an active and vibrant arts destination for communities, students, artists and visitors.
Shortlisted amongst more than fifty profiles, six artists are currently part of the residency which started last November 1, 2021, and will last until January 14, 2022: Rashed Al-Shashai, Saudi conceptual artist and arts educator; Sara Favriau, French multidisciplinary artist; Talin Hazbar, architect and a visual artist based in Sharjah; Laura Sellies and Sofiane Si Merabet, French multimedia artists; Muhannad Shono, Saudi multidisciplinary artist.
"This artist residency is a new milestone in AlUla's cultural development. Our goal is not only to provide unique cultural experiences for visitors but also to contribute to creating a flourishing cultural ecosystem with a vibrant Arts District and space for artists and creatives in AlUla. The art residency program unveiled today will lay solid grounds for such ambition. We envision a campus for arts, engagement, inspiration and creation which will draw artists and creative minds from around the world to live, work and take part in shaping the next chapter in our ever-evolving legacy", Nora Al-Dabal, RCU Arts and Culture Programming Director said.
"The originality of this very first art residency program developed in partnership between the Royal Commission for AlUla and the French Agency for AlUla Development relies on the cooperation between international artists with the impressive array of scientific experts currently working in the oasis, from archaeologists, anthropologists, agriculture experts and botanists, and many more. It is an unprecedented experiment to associate at this level artistic vision and scientific approaches in the writing of the narratives and the reimagination of a destination. This will undoubtedly contribute to further mark the originality of AlUla as a cultural destination of a new kind", Jean-François Charnier, Afalula Scientific Director and Arnaud Morand, Head of Creation and Innovation stated. — SPA

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