In 2014, Art Reach Bahrain started as an artists’ collective, with a group of independent artists engaging the community in public art projects to beautify Bahrain. Their aim: to add interest and colour to roads, parks and coastal areas, and to establish creative landmarks throughout Bahrain that could ultimately be explored as a public art trail.
By 2017, founding members Lena Dajani, Rula Al Chorbachi and Bodour Yacoub established Art Reach as a not-for-profit company in Harbour Gate with studio space sponsored by Bahrain Financial Harbour. Art Reach members are Bahraini and non-Bahraini, who volunteer their time and skills and come from different professional backgrounds: architecture, jewellry design, visual arts, project management and more. As mothers of teenagers and young adults, the members were keenly aware that youth in Bahrain were looking for opportunities for community service. By combining artistic creativity with community service, volunteers from high schools, universities, and the wider community join together with a common purpose: giving back to Bahrain while establishing a lasting connection with the place. Community art projects have a special role to play in societies across the world. Olivia Gude, an American public artist and educator said: “Material prosperity in a society doesn’t guarantee a sense of well being. Many people long for a sense of belonging and connectedness.”
To date, Art Reach has completed 5 mosaic art installations in Budaiya Avenue, Saar Road, Adliya, Riffa Walk Park and most recently a spiral maze in Manama (see images below). The maze, Art Reach’s most ambitious project so far, includes approximately 140 individually designed mosaic art pieces created over a 3-year period by approximately 200 volunteers.
Artistic contributions to the maze come from a diverse group of people who bring their unique experiences and interpretations to the mosaic art form. Karine Hird created a panel with African motifs, drawing on her childhood in the Ivory Coast and the country where she later met her husband. Najwa Ashehabi who has a holiday home in Turkey, brings the Iznik ceramic tradition into her mosaic design. Shaima Al Qarooni and Zainab Najeeb who worked together on a large 4-part panel were inspired by a field of sunflowers. Khalid, a Bangladeshi caretaker at Al Shakhoorah Youth Center, worked quietly and diligently during workshops held there in 2015 to create a beautiful mosaic with Arabesque influences. Other abstract patterns combine colour and shape to create unique, varied and lasting designs. The beauty of mosaic tile is their bright colour and durability, plus the added texture and form they create. The abstract format allows volunteers to create their own designs within a loose frame work while at the same time work towards one unified art piece.
Mosaic art is ideal for community art initiatives in that it allows volunteers to work together as a team to create a public art installation. One project can take months or years to complete, starting with a concept design. Once approved, extensive coordination and follow-up is required in order to: identify funding, get approval for a location, identify project requirements, re-work concept designs, coordinate plans with multiple partners, monitor site preparation, contact volunteers, organize art workshops, inventory and prepare completed artworks, install artwork on site, and finally generate publicity to recognize all the partners and contributions made.
This entire process would not be possible without the determination of Art Reach members and the support and contribution from multiple partners and sponsors in the government and private sectors. The spiral maze project, for example, was made possible with support from: Harbour Gate for studio space; the Capital Municipal Council as a strategic partner; NIAD (National Initiative for Agricultural Development) for support at ArtBAB; and sponsors Al Moayyed Contracting Group for building works and Al Hilal Stonework for the tiling. In recognition of Art Reach’s efforts, the Capital Municipal Council awarded them in a special ceremony held in the Diplomat Hotel in September 2018.
In October 2018, in partnership with VIVA Bahrain, Art Reach has started a new community art initiative: the redesign and refurbishment of a children’s garden in the grounds of the Psychiatric Hospital, Manama. Mosaic workshops are being held weekly throughout October and November. Going forward, Art Reach is always looking for partners and sponsors to promote public art projects in Bahrain.
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Art Reach Bahrain