United Arab Emirates art exhibit to bridge cultural gaps

The UK Visual Art Department is readying to welcome the “Past Forward: Contemporary Art from the Emirates,” exhibit, which will be in the Bolivar Gallery April 16 through May 13.

Rebecca Watters

[email protected]

The UK School of Art & Visual Studies will host “Past Forward: Contemporary Art from the Emirates” in the Bolivar Gallery from April 16 to May 13.

Lexington will be the exhibit’s last stop on an 18-month tour.

The art from the United Arab Emirates exhibit focuses on incorporating elements of Arabian traditions, something Robert Jensen, director of the School of Art & Visual Studies, said he believes the exhibit is timely and important in modern American society.

“The show is a lesson about a global phenomenon, and it addresses Arabic culture using a mix of traditional and modern art,” he said. “We live in a world with a fear of terrorism, and this cultural exchange of art will hopefully bring people together.”

Since the exhibit’s May 2014 premiere in the District of Columbia, it has travelled across the U.S. and visited cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles. During the exhibit’s time in Lexington, delegates such as Dana Al Marashi, head of the Heritage and Social Affairs Department at the Embassy of the United Arab Emirates, will lead workshops that incorporate the Lexington community.

“While we are in Kentucky, the Emirati artists will lead art workshops to local students, ranging from elementary school all the way through university, and discuss their artistic techniques and unique backgrounds,” Al Marashi said. “These cultural exchanges are a powerful tool for finding common ground, building lasting friendships and fostering respect between one another.”

According to a press release, the exhibit features different types of art, including paintings, photographs, sculptures, video installations and other media by 25 notable Emirati artists. According to Becky Alley, the gallery’s director, UK art students are lucky to receive the opportunity to hang this show and observe it.

“I think that the show is great because it gives students the opportunity to see artwork from halfway across the world,” Alley said. “We are really happy to have the show here, … and our goal is to represent every piece well and give this show the justice and respect it deserves.”

On April 14, Emirati artists and officials from the UAE will host a panel discussion, and the following day, there will be a VIP opening to celebrate the exhibit’s first day in Lexington. Following these events, the exhibit will be open to the public. The Bolivar Gallery is open Monday through Friday from 10:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 12-4 p.m.

For UAE artist Lamya Hussain Gargash, the biggest goal is to incorporate Lexington culture with her own.

“Art bridges cultures through creative expression,” Gargash said. “It is important that we expand our horizons, are exposed to a larger audience and teach them more about us and our backgrounds as they interact with the artworks. Art is an educational and creative platform that exceeds all boundaries.”