What is an art centre?
JustHere sits down with Katara Artistic Director and Curator, Mayssa Fattouh, to understand just exactly what an art centre is all about.
Tucked into building number 5 at Katara Cultural Village is an eclectic and thriving art centre. In searching for the philosophy underpinning it, Mayssa explains the motives beneath the mission of this centre. “The Katara Art Centre (KAC) was created as a platform to showcase works by locally based artists as well as to give a push to creative industries by operating retail units and hence encouraging creatives to be self-sustainable.”
The retail units include the gift shop, fashion shop and bookshop—all present within the KAC premises in building 5. The fashion shops are rented by various Qatar-based designers to showcase their collections, and moving further it will be used to organise pop-up shops for regional designers. The bookshop houses books pertaining to art and design. In fact, every month experts from the field of art and design in Qatar and regionally are invited to curate a table. “We also have a special section for children’s books. Since we want to promote reading among kids, we organise reading activities for children with Maktaba,” she adds. KAC also has plans to start community reading for the various nationalities thriving in Qatar.
There was a shop selling traditional looking designs up until January of this year, but it is no longer operational as the centre’s current focus is towards promoting contemporary art and design. “We want to drive people towards contemporary art, to rethink traditional designs in a forward way of thinking. There’s currently a lot to offer in terms of technology, knowledge, know-how and exposure, and these are tools we need to use.”
KAC is now home to a concept space dedicated to contemporary art and design where one can get to see some unique and challenging pieces on display. KAC believes this is one way of pushing the boundaries and introducing people to new and modern design materials and concepts that are being used by some experimental designers based in Qatar.
“One of our objectives is it to showcase what is available in Qatar,” she says. “This empowers Qataris in many ways. When exposed to what is available here and the quality of people they can collaborate with, it fosters self-empowerment.”
As a step in that direction, KAC will soon be launching a lab space that will serve as temporary workspace units for budding entrepreneurs from the creative industry. “We realised that there are very few places here that offer rental spaces to freelancers for start-ups. These labs will provide the ideal context for them to work, bringing them closer to the creative environment.”
While contemporary art culture is the highlight of KAC, Mayssa makes it clear that the centre is “not turning its back to the older generation of Qatari artists”. “We are here to open a discussion among all artists and generations—traditional ones as well as those who are pushing the boundaries.”
And these discussions are not just limited to artists, but to the wider community as well. “Community engagement is one of our primary aims, we engage with different communities and encourage the public to ask questions and propose ideas. We want the Qataris and other nationalities to feel that they have ownership in this center.” True to their words, KAC has been busy organising a variety of workshops, exhibitions and events that are open to the public. Themes range from art and design to music, photography and storytelling.
“We are in no competition with anyone. We are not here for eye candy; we are here for engaging with the people. KAC is crucial to the survival of the cultural scene here. This is where the buzz starts.”
Photography Courses with artist Jaber AlAzmeh
Feb 16, 23, 5 – 7 PM
QAR 250 per course, which includes two sessions each. RSVP Required
Storytelling and Crafts with Maktaba Children’s Library
Feb 19, 7 PM
Contemporary Perspectives on Middle Eastern Crafts by Carwan Gallery Conference by Design Days Dubai.
Feb 20, 7 PM