By Kateryna Kadabashy
Students of American University of Sharjah are known, among other things, to be well-rounded people who are exposed to a variety of life experiences locally, regionally and internationally. As students studying at this prestigious university, we also benefit from the American liberal arts educational model, which requires students to take general education courses in areas outside their majors in order to introduce them to diverse disciplines.
Here at AUS you hear stories of engineering students who take performing arts as part of their general education requirements and end up falling in love with subjects such as music and theatre, and they end up adding a minor in those programs.
Whether planned or accidental, one of the things that is abundant at American University of Sharjah is the love for arts. Many times the conversation you hear or overhear around the AUS campus could be about art exhibitions or performances that people just attended or inquiring where is the next exhibition or performance.
I have attended quite a few of these and just in case you are new at AUS, Sharjah or the UAE, you need to know that there are several places to visit around Sharjah and Dubai if you enjoy arts, theatre, performances and exhibitions. This list combines various locations, types of art and fits different budgets. Here are my personal favorites.
Located in the heart of Sharjah’s historic Art and Heritage Areas, Sharjah Art Foundation brings art closer to the community through various activities and exhibitions.
The Foundation hosts exhibitions and performances by Arab and international artists, arranges movie screenings, and organizes free art classes for adults and children. Check their schedule here. SAF also organizes the world-renowned Sharjah Biennial, which features an exhibition of work by contemporary international artists and a slate of public programs.
SAF has programs for young artists to develop and display their work for the public. For example, the March Project offers young regional and international artists the chance to research and work with art curators.
The foundation buildings are a mixture of modern structures and traditional homes. The premises also have a community garden, which guests can use as venue.
Fen, which means art in Arabic, is a restaurant available at SAF. It is located inside a renovated old building, with outdoor and indoor seating.
Video project about the March Project by Kateryna Kadabashy
- Sharjah Art Museum
Located a short distance from the Sharjah Art Foundation in the Heart of Sharjah, the Sharjah Art Museum is another treasure. It features changing exhibitions from modern artists as well as a permanent collection of paintings and sculptures by some of the most famous artists in the Middle East. It also has an Art Library with more than 4,000 items in English, Arabic and other languages.
Admission to the museum is free and there is a parking area underneath the building. To learn more about its exhibitions and programs, visit the museum’s website.
Located amid factories and warehouses in the industrial area of Al Quoz is an oasis of art and culture. AlSerkal Avenue is a unique hub of galleries, cafes and the first private museum in Dubai. The art center supports regional artists by providing residency programs and gallery spaces, which provide artists with the chance to get international exposure.
The Salsali Private Museum is the first of its kind in the region. The owner, Ramin Salsali, said he created the museum to encourage art collectors and contemporary artists in the region.
The Junction, also hosted by AlSerkal Avenue, is a space where performing artists can showcase their talent and ideas to the public. They host events such as theatrical performances and more. For their schedule, click here.
Another space for performing artists at AlSerkal is The Fridge, which is a renowned talent agency in the region that offers artists a platform to perform shows and concerts. Their upcoming events can be found here.
AlSerkal also offers some interesting dining experiences. For example, A4 Space, which is a multipurpose venue. Part of the A4 Space is the “Leave a Note” library, where guests are encouraged to donate any book of their choice with a note inside it. The venue also includes a family-run restaurant called Appetite Café, which serves a variety of sandwiches and drinks.
AlSerkal Avenue by AlSerkal Avenue
Next to Burj Khalifa and Dubai Mall, Dubai Design District, or d3, offers designers a space to unleash their creative potential. It is designed to be like an artistic neighborhood, with its own restaurants, hotels, apartments, retailers and galleries. Visitors are invited to enjoy the numerous shows and exhibitions hosted by d3. For more information on the events and timings, click here.
d3 hosts some interesting initiatives, such as The Fatima bint Mohammed bin Zayed Initiative. It was launched by Sheikha Fatima bin Mohammed and Tanweer Investments to help women in Afghanistan. The shop sells handwoven carpets and handmade home décor and clothing items at a fair wage price, which provides over 3,000 women in Afghanistan with jobs and incomes to sustain their lives.
d3 also offers noteworthy dining experiences. For example, The Lighthouse is a high-end restaurant where you can enjoy a delicious meal and purchase handmade designs displayed around you. Otherwise, you could savor tasty Italian ice cream in the shape of a rose at Amorino.
Dubai Design District by d3
Dubai Opera will take you on a unique cultural journey. The venue’s design is inspired by the dhow, which reflects Dubai’s appreciation of its maritime heritage. The venue hosts various internationally acclaimed performances and events, such as theatre, concerts, fashion shows, live entertainment, conferences, galleries and art exhibitions. Some of the names the venue has hosted are Placido Domingo, Hussain Al Jassmi, and the Hamdan Bin Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum International Photography Awards ceremony. For a list of upcoming and current shows, click here.
Janus Rostock’s brilliant design of Dubai Opera makes it possible to turn the building into a concert hall, or even a banquet hall.
Sean Connolly, the famous New Zealander chef, recently launched his restaurant at Dubai Opera. The restaurant, Sean Connolly at Dubai Opera, is a modern brasserie that serves seafood and steak. The restaurant also includes a terrace that overlooks Burj Khalifa.
One thing to keep in mind before visiting Dubai Opera is that tickets and the restaurant prices are quite expensive for some university students.
Mozart Gala at Dubai Opera
Dubai and Sharjah are thriving with places that quench the thirst of many art lovers. Whatever type or style of art you prefer, there is certainly something that can interest you in these places.
And if you are interested to learn more and perhaps develop your own talent in any area of the arts, American University of Sharjah is the place to go. The AUS College of Arts and Sciences as well as the College of Architecture, Art and Design offer various programs in performing art such as music and theatre; programs in design such as multimedia design, design management, visual communication which includes skills such as illustration, printmaking, advanced photography and publication design for print and digital media as well as other skills such as film making and animation.