collaboration between UAE Ministry of Culture and The Arts Center at NYU Abu Dhabi
Following the signing last year of a Memorandum of Understanding between the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development and New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD), The Arts Center at NYUAD has been actively working with the Ministry to support Emirati artists and enhance the culture of artistic creation and performance across the UAE.
Recently, The Arts Center at NYUAD hosted five Emirati theater makers as part of a residency by Elevator Repair Service (ERS) – the team behind the world-renowned production recently performed at The Arts Center, Gatz. As part of The Arts Center’s “Off The Stage” capacity building and audience engagement program, this workshop enabled the Emirati participants to gain insight into ERS’s process for devising and creating new work.
In addition to attending the performance of GATZ, the local theater makers also toured the state of the art facilities of The Arts Center, met with technical and artistic staff, and participated in a fruitful conversation with ERS, The Arts Center’s staff, and members of NYUAD theater program faculty to better understand the history and context of theatre making in the UAE. This multiple day intensive was an outgrowth of previous meetings with the Emirati theater community by the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development about the needs of the sector, and was designed to bring the local University artists and designers closer together, as a step towards future collaborations. Currently in development is a program to share skills and experience between The Arts Center’s and the Ministry’s technical staff in order to improve support for artists and audience experiences throughout the country.
Her Excellency Noura Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development commented: “Our partnership with the Arts Center at NYUAD aims to develop the performance and theatrical arts scene in the UAE, as well as enhance the skills of our creative theater professionals. This helps in elevating the theater industry as a vital contributor to our National identity and to the social fabric of the country. Our collaboration also ensures our continued support to Emirati creatives to enable them to showcase their work at international theatres and festivals as well as offer them opportunities to exchange expertise with global counterparts at The Arts Center through active participation in various activities and events organized by the center.”
NYU Abu Dhabi Vice Chancellor Al Bloom said: “Her Excellency Noura Al Kaabi’s enthusiastic support for quality education and the arts, and her embrace of creativity and inclusion are an inspiration to all of us at NYU Abu Dhabi. This partnership with The Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development offers the University a remarkable opportunity to deepen our engagement within the community, and to contribute importantly to nurturing artistic talent and discovery across the Emirates. Developing this collaboration offers a powerful means for building connectivity and mutual understanding and appreciation among artistic communities in the UAE, and we are proud to play a central role in enriching the cultural life and shaping the cultural identity of this nation.”
Bill Bragin, Executive Artistic Director, added, “The goal of The Arts Center is to be a resource for the larger community of the UAE, as well as of NYUAD, through presenting world class artists, skills and capacity building workshops, and knowledge development through artist talks and Q&As. We also focus on The Arts Center as a hub for building community through artistic engagement. We’ve been honored that Her Excellency and the staff of the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development have become regular visitors to The Arts Center, and have chosen to leverage our work to support the Ministry’s initiatives. These meetings with the local theater artists were quite inspiring, as we all felt the palpable energy and possibility of the connection made by the Ministry. This initiative is a terrific complement for our current creative residency with Emirati poet Afra Atiq, who we have commissioned to create her first theater piece, working with NYUAD theater professor, director Joanna Settle.”
Following the partnership’s initial success, NYUAD and the Ministry of Culture and Knowledge Development are developing opportunities for future collaboration including possible faculty and research partnerships, greater student and theater maker interaction, and technical theater training sessions, all of which aim to contribute to the growing theater ecosystem within the UAE.
Responding to the meeting, Lindsay Hockaday, performer and education director of Elevator Repair Service Theater Company, remarked, “Meeting the Emirati Theater makers was truly inspiring, both as an artist and educator. Even in our brief time together, our conversation shifted to the largest issues theater artists consider, the relationship between text and performance, author, director, and audience. It felt like the beginning of what could be a rich exchange.”
NYUAD Associate Arts Professor Catherine Coray also remarked on the recent exchange: “I was exhilarated and deeply moved by our conversation with these distinguished Emirati colleagues—to discover our commonalities as theater artists and scholars, and to realize the potential for learning and collaboration among us.”
Theater director Abdalla Al Rumathy commented: “I was honored to participate in a successful residency during which gave me the opportunity to be in front of a successful American play experience. At the same time, I shared my experience in theater as a comprehensive Emirati artist. This residency opened horizons of knowledge and communication between us as Emirati theater makers and experts from in the same field and was a gate to acquire and exchange artistic and technical expertise in this area. I hope that such connection continues and expand in the UAE to all universities and colleges interested in the arts.”
NYUAD Associate Director of Drama Edward Ziter, added: “The conversation left us all hungry for opportunities to see each other’s work and, potentially, collaborate. The Emirati theater artists brought fascinating perspectives on a major piece of US experimental theater. I feel I learned as much about Gatz from their observations as from the self-reflections of ERS members.”