The Free Arts Atelier. This is where my dad took me and my brother in the 70s to look at sculptures. It’s one of the earliest influences on me as an artist. It still stands today, a few studios open to artists. But I’m not completely happy with the way it’s run. And not only would I like a studio here, all to myself, but I would like the neighboring studios to be occupied by some of the artists I’m with this morning.
The weather could not have been more pleasant for our 11 o’clock meeting. From left to right: Amira Behbehani, Reham Alsamerai, Thuraya Al-Baqsami, Deena Machina Qabazard and Zahra Al-Mahdi.
In Thuraya’s jointly-occupied studio (she really should have her own space), she and Reham discuss one of her paintings.
Meanwhile, Deena Machina and I sit on a ministry-issue vinyl chair. It breaks my heart that as beautiful as the architecture is, the interior decor is, to quote one of my morning companions, ‘kitsch’. And not in a good way. Photo by Zahra Al-Mahdi.
The place is a mixture of charm and pastiche. It’s confusing and gets increasingly disheartening as our little tour progresses.
Vincent and me. Photo by Deena Machina.
In the diwaniya, thoughtful plasterwork intermingles with chintzy gewgaws. In this room, time has stopped at 4:10.
Meanwhile, outside is pristine. This is where the real beauty of the building lies unblemished. Selfish me wants this to be my home. Patriot me wants to share it with society. But shared properly with rules and regulations, because that’s pragmatist me.
We move from courtyard to courtyard. Can you imagine this place at night?
Two benches, one colorful and one not, two girls and a ladder.
I want to make laser sounds.
Zahra sits guard by the main entrance. Will she keep the monsters out?
Hide and go seek.
Thuraya says not to go upstairs.
So we don’t.
The world’s most photographed beetle this morning.