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 Musée 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.