AlUla, nestled at the crossroads of history and innovation, is a captivating gem in Saudi Arabia’s cultural heritage. This ancient city has evolved into a hub of immense cultural significance, where the past and present converge to create captivating works of art. In recent years, AlUla has emerged as a canvas that invites artists and designers from around the globe to participate in its exciting Artist Residency Programmes. These initiatives elevate AlUla’s cultural standing and offer a platform for creative minds to contribute to its ever-evolving narrative.
AlUla Artist Residency Programmes: A Fusion of Creativity and Heritage
The AlUla Artist Residency Programmes, initiated in collaboration between Arts AlUla and the French Agency for AlUla Development (Afalula), have unveiled an exciting new season for 2023/2024. This season comprises six programmes, each offering a unique perspective on AlUla’s rich cultural tapestry.
AlUla Visual Art Residency: Bridging Art and Heritage
The AlUla Visual Art Residency, spanning from October 2023 to February 2024, features seven talented artists from diverse backgrounds, including Maitha Abdallah (United Arab Emirates), Reem Al Nasser (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), Hugo Servanin (France), Joel Spring (Australia), Marlon De Azambuja (Brazil), Bianca Bondi (South Africa), and Guillaume Bouisset (France). This residency explores the intersection of art, science, and local narratives, fostering collaborations between artists, scientific experts, and the local community. It focuses on research and production, drawing inspiration from AlUla’s ancient heritage and addressing intriguing themes such as interspecies connections, local folklore, and tales. Visitors can witness the artists’ creative processes and outcomes in an exhibition at the Arts Festival in February 2024.
AlUla Design Residency: Shaping AlUla’s Infrastructure
Running from October 2023 to February 2024, the AlUla Design Residency welcomes five designers, including the Bahraini Danish Collective (Bahrain/Denmark), Batool Al Shaikh, Maitham Al Mubarak, Christian Vennerstroem Jensen, Hall Haus Collective (France), Abdoulaye Niang, Sammy Bernoussi, Teddy Sanches, Zakari Boukhari, Studio Raw Material Collective (India), Dushyant Bansal, Priyanka Sharma, Leen Ajlan (Kingdom of Saudi Arabia), and Leo Orta (France). This five-year residency journey unites designers and experts, fostering exploration in multiple disciplines like infrastructure development, architectural design, urban furniture, sustainability, and local building materials. The findings, pieces, and prototypes crafted during this period will be showcased in an exhibition at the Arts Festival in February 2024.
Arts, Landscaping, Botany, and Agriculture Residency: Nurturing AlUla’s Green Legacy
Commencing in January 2024 and extending to May 2024, this residency brings together six internationally renowned artists to explore the fusion of art, landscaping, botany, and agriculture. It lays the foundation for AlUla’s future contemporary art museum, inspiring creatives to initiate research for public art commissions linked to the museum’s gardens. The residency celebrates AlUla’s rich botanical diversity, unveiling nature’s canvas through artistic endeavors.
AlUla Heritage and Innovation Residency: Where Past Meets Digital Future
Scheduled for May 2024 to June 2024, this programme delves into the synergy between art and digital technology in a land steeped in over 200,000 years of human history. Unlike other residencies, this one prioritizes research over production, offering artists a platform for reflection and exploring existing or future projects. It boasts an open studio concept instead of a formal exhibition, inviting creatives to draw inspiration from cultural artifacts and natural elements, weaving them into imaginative narratives that envision an extraordinary future.
Long-Term Residencies: The Gift of Time
Starting in December 2023, the Long-Term Residencies programme offers a select group of three artists a generous gift – time. These artists, hailing from various corners of the world, will call AlUla their home for over a year. They will delve into ambitious commissioned projects through field trips, research, creation, and production, enriching AlUla’s cultural assets and other creative ventures. Two of these artists will participate in the pre-opening programme of the contemporary art museum in AlUla. At the same time, the third will engage in a separate project tied to the signature ecolodge hotel, Dar Tantora, set to open in January 2024.
Alumni Circle for Artists: Nurturing Long-Term Relationships
In April 2024, the Royal Commission for AlUla (RCU) and Afalula will introduce the Alumni Circle for Artists. This initiative reflects their commitment to establishing lasting relationships with the artists they invite and monitoring the evolution of their projects. The annual symposium will bring together AlUla Artist Residency Programme alumni, fostering dialogue, collaboration, and growth among artists. This circle is a valuable platform for feedback and reflections on the residency’s impact and how to further embed arts within AlUla’s vibrant ecosystem.
The AlUla Artist Residency Programmes mark a significant step in building a thriving ecosystem for local, regional, and international artists within AlUla’s enchanting embrace. As the world witnesses the convergence of creativity and heritage, these programmes continue to offer artists access to exceptional curatorial support, artistic facilities, and the boundless inspiration of AlUla’s rich history. AlUla, the jewel of Saudi Arabia’s cultural heritage, welcomes artists to weave their stories into its timeless narrative, where the past and present coexist in a harmonious symphony of creativity.