Age no bar: when everyone painted at Business Bay

Anita Lyer

The temperature is nearing 40 degrees celsius on this hot Sunday afternoon, and the waterfront at Bay Square is studded with people seated on colourful bean bags, unfettered by the heat. They gather on Saturday morning for their art sessions. Called the Art Square, the sessions have run in the cooler months for two years. FB: Artsquareat baysquare.
At inception, the idea was to make art accessible. Enthusiasts join the three-hour sessions without a second thought as they don’t have to shell out a penny. Sherif Abaza, managing partner at Sphere Events and the brains behind Art Square says the idea stemmed from the fact that art programmes are expensive. “At Art Square, we provide proper classes with verified teachers, the materials are provided and the workshop is absolutely free,” he says. When we visit, four simultaneous sessions are on.
In the left corner, Benjie is explaining the techniques of painting, Ramy Elzaghawy is introducing the enthusiasts to graffiti and spray painting, while Kelly’s table is making dream boards. Around the low table in the dream board session are five adults busy browsing through magazines, cutting out pictures and pasting them on to boards. The idea is to fill the board with images of who they want to be and a vision for their future. Sonia Smith looks at ease, being a regular at the Art Square. Her dream board is filled with cuttings of healthy food, the words ‘feeling good,’ sunsets and holidays.
Clearly, she is an explorer at heart. Her home now has a special corner stacked with all the art pieces she had made over the course of a few Saturdays. Dubai Properties is the force behind Art Square, providing the space and bearing the cost of material and funding the community-run project. Says Juma bin Darwish, senior executive director for Retail and Hotel Asset Management at DP, “We look for ways to further the conversation on community integration and togetherness. Art is a universal platform that allows people of all ages, cultures, and nationalities to come together to celebrate their individualism, as well as inclusivity.”
Benjie Apostol, one of the mentors, has seen the interest in Art Square grow and walk-ins don’t surprise him any more. His sessions are attended by a mix of people, from a six-year-old to a 62-year-old lady. Creative skills are not dependent on age after all and this place is a testament to it we think, looking at an oil painting by a seven-year-old that looks distinctly avant-garde. Instead of spending time window shopping at malls, a handful come to try their hand here without spending a dirham. You don’t have to bother about buying paints or brushes, canvas or stencils – just come in and start exploring.
Kelly says, “Being creative is about not about following rules but seeing things differently.” Exactly what we need: a moment to halt, breathe, live before going back to the grind. But hosting free sessions comes at a cost and raises the moot question – Are many corporates willing to invest in the art scene? Can’t there be spaces in the city where people can explore their imagination?- Anita likes the Garamond font and zones out trying to figure songs in her head.
— Courtesy: Khaleej Times

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