Meet the artists who set up fiery art displays in Qatar

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At the heart of Doha is a vibrant system full of creativity and innovation. Formerly a fire station, this iconic building has undergone an extraordinary transformation to become a center for the arts in Qatar. Filled with creative workspaces, a gallery, a cinema, an art supply shop and a cafe, this unique space is also a highly regarded destination. Artist-in-Residence Program.

Artists

Saida al-Qulaifi Artist-in-Residence Project Manager at the Fire Station. He says the program provides a creative workspace for budding artists to develop their skills and launch their artistic careers.

“Every year, we receive 150 to 250 applications, but only 15 artists win for each residency period,” explains Saida.

One of the artists in this year’s panel is British mixed media artist Simon Mortimer. Simon is currently working on a project on Qatar’s popular culture. His work juxtaposes traditional art mediums such as oil paint with modern mediums such as spray paint and marker pens. Simon says the project enables him to create art that he has never had the opportunity to create before.

„Thanks to the artists-in-residence, I have the freedom to explore anything I want. I play with material and processes. I expand my visual vocabulary,” he says.

Hind Al Obaidli is a Qatari painter and fellow artist. His current art project focuses on underwater human figures and portraits. She says she is happy to be a part of the show and it encourages her to be more ambitious in her art. „I think it came at the right time to do large-scale paintings, which is something I’ve always wanted to do,” Hind explains.

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The Artist-in-Residence Program provides traditional and non-traditional artists with recognition and support for their craft. Yusuf Fakhroo specializes in audio art. She says the show has fueled her creativity and gained invaluable feedback from other artists. „The art of audio is definitely underrated. I’m blessed to have been given this opportunity.” Yusuf narrates the scenes.

building

The artworks of Simon, Hind, and Youssef differ markedly, and they all share a love for the building they inhabit. „As an architect and an artist using this building, I can see how everything is well thought out,” says Hind.

Simon visits the building every day and says Qatar’s culture inspires him. He credits the fire station for the opportunities it offers artists. „We have this wonderful store. Yesterday I ran out of spray paint, so I went to the store and they were really helpful,” she says.

He often uses the fire station’s workshop to create custom stencils using its advanced laser cutter system. „Having everything in one building is really handy. It allows me to focus completely on creating my art,” he says.

The fire station was built in 1982 and served as the home of the Civil Defense Commission until late 2012. The original building has been preserved to reveal architectural features from the 80s, says Saida. It was later rebranded and revamped as the 'Adaptive Reuse Project’ in 2014.

The honeycomb exterior and fireman’s pole were retained as a tribute to the building’s past, but new features were needed. „It has been renovated for a contemporary touch and amenities have been added to make it more useful,” Saida tells Views.

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End of Residency Exhibition

After nine months of hard work, the artists showcase their work in a residency exhibition. As one of the first audio artists selected for the program, Youssef feels fortunate to have had the opportunity to showcase his art in Qatar. „Exhibiting audio art in the country is not very common,” he says.

He describes his art as a multisensory experience with a focus on audio. „I’ve seen people go to my sound installations and leave looking different, feeling different. It really resonates with people,” he says.

Yusef’s interest in broadcasting as a medium and tool in art is contagious. He hopes that his exhibited work will inspire people, provoke thoughts and generate discussions. “I am very happy to have this opportunity to express my works and my messages and my thoughts through my audio art to the community in Qatar and beyond,” he says. „An exhibition is a great opportunity because you get a big exposure. It helps many young artists to start their artistic career,” says Hind.

At its core, the Fire Station’s artists-in-residence program facilitates, encourages and inspires artists in Qatar. The building’s unique architecture and history feed into the architecture of the residency program, serving as a source of creativity and wonder. For those lucky enough to participate, the show is often an important step in their artistic journey.

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