UAE: How local artists are painting walls of 'hope'
Do you think the walls making up a ‘space’ speaks of the individuals who inhabit, visit or create it? I think so, and hence each time I come across walls that are adorned with posters, arts, words, and more, I make sure to stop and stare. During a recent walk in Al Quoz, Dubai, I made a stopover at RAW Coffee Company, to know more about how this coffee place was supporting arts and artists. A lot can happen over coffee and art, right? The coffee place, once a warehouse, is industrial, grungy and unpretentious. It is filled with plants, mismatched furniture and a large espresso bar underneath suspended disco lights, but what caught my attention was the art wall on the mezzanine floor. Called the RAW Gallery Wall, I learnt it opened in March 2021.
Intrigued as to what got the place to invest in art and artists? Well, the team behind the place claims to love art and the community. “Art is a form of communication and what better way to express the ideas, values and emotions of a community, than through art. After the challenging year we have had collectively, we decided that we wanted to add a bit more colour, creativity and hope to our walls,” shares Kim Thompson, co-owner and managing director, RAW Coffee Company. They’ve been supporting local artists by providing them with a space to exhibit their work free of charge for many years, beginning as early as 2010 “when we had a community event to recycle and paint coffee sacs in our old roastery and hang the chosen works on the wall”. “However, we were always tight with space. Moving into our new roastery home in 2020 meant that we had access to a larger space and larger walls to splash some colour onto,” adds Kim.
Interestingly, they choose multicultural, diverse artworks in style and subject matter, from local artists of all ages. The first exhibition saw submissions from hobby artists as young as 16, to professional adult artists with a career behind them. “It is rare to exhibit artwork in Dubai free of charge. However, it was an important decision for us as this project is a fun way to give back to our community and encourage more likeminded people through our doors to get a coffee and browse some awesome local artwork at reasonable prices,” says Kim.
Each curated exhibition runs for two months, with a chosen theme, Sustainable Material: Paper and Origin: Mixed Media. The artwork is suspended on metal chains making it flexible to adjust the hooks according to the artwork sizes and numbers. Names of the few local artists and their art medium whose works have adorned the walls include Alexander Robertson (Charcoal on Paper), Lucy Miller (Acrylic on Japanese Paper), Nikita Berry (Mixed Media on Paper), and Tilika D’souza (Watercolour on Paper). An interactive QR code allows art buyers to scan and learn about the artist and their details to contact regarding a purchase. Their next exhibition will be announced in September 2021, and it would be an open call for the artists to take part. Watch out!