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Transformative Artistic Residency at Bait Shouaib: Nurturing Creativity and Cultural Exchange

The Athr Foundation has introduced the first open studio at Bait Shouaib, a residency program for artists located right in the center of Al-Balad. Nestled in the heart of a thriving cultural district, Bait Shouaib offers a supportive setting that fosters artistic collaboration and exploration within the diverse cultural milieu. Artists explored the complexities of the Al-Balad district through the eyes of its residents throughout their stay, culminating in particular installations and studio presentations.

One participant, Badr Ali, related stories of his early years spent in Al-Balad, colored by his mother's warnings about the area's untamed and potentially dangerous character. Originally from Germany, he took a break from his artistic endeavors and welcomed the residency in search of inspiration. He was struck by the district's uniformity and the presence of antiquated toys, prompting him to investigate their origins and relevance in contemporary society. Through his artwork, he contrasts the decline of mass-produced toys with the district's ongoing gentrification, employing glitter and adornments to underscore the difference between inherent defects and superficial appeal.

Abdulla Bahiji adopted a creative method to envision the urban scenery of Jeddah and the Hejaz region by converting concrete blocks into eco-friendly incense burners infused with indigenous aromas. Bahiji, upon exploring Al-Balad, was fascinated by its rich sensory experience, which vividly depicted the city's history and evolution. He discovered the resilience of local businesses as they adapted to changing demands, reflecting the enduring spirit of the city.

For Tamara Kalo, the residency proved to be a wellspring of inspiration, albeit with the realization that time is often insufficient to pursue all aspirations. Her artwork delves into the realm of the subconscious, employing the theme of a bedroom to represent the interaction between dreams and reality. Employing green screen material and video overlay techniques, Kalo blurs the boundaries between the tangible and intangible, exploring the intrusion of the virtual realm into our private sanctuaries.

Curator Alana Alireza orchestrated a collaborative environment at the open studio, encouraging dialogue and creative cooperation among artists and researchers. This collaborative spirit culminated in a reflective essay exploring themes of scent and nostalgia, inspired by Alireza's immersion in Al-Balad.

Bait Shouaib, under the auspices of the Athr Foundation, offers a transformative residency experience for artists worldwide. It offers fully furnished studio spaces and encourages artistic growth, heritage research, and cross-cultural discussion throughout a four-week program.

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