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Educational and Sustainable Contemporary Visual Arts Programmes

Several educational programmes in the visual arts field have recently launched, including the BA in contemporary visual arts programme at Birzeit University—founded in 2018 and constantly improved and developed—and the art restoration track at Dar al-Kalima University College—the first programme of its kind in Palestine, established in September 2020.

This report introduces some of the features of these programmes. It also highlights some of the educational and interactive interventions of the public programmes and workshops organised by the Palestinian Museum parallel to its diverse exhibitions. During its first two cycles, the “Visual Arts: A Flourishing Field” project implemented by the A.M. Qattan Foundation supported these programmes as part of its future vision towards enriching the contemporary art scene for youth and children.

 

New Knowledge in Palestine

The art restoration track at Dar al-Kalima University College aims to provide Palestine with artists specialised in art restoration and preservation—thus, reducing the need for foreign expertise to restore artwork. The college offers the courses in a specialised track as part of its bachelor’s programme in contemporary art and in consultation with local and international specialists.

Four modules of nine have been realised so far. The first, an introductory course, “Conserving, Restoring and Preserving Public Art,” was co-lectured by professors from various universities: namely, Dr. Enrico Bonadio (City, University of London; specialist in intellectual property law); Dr. Andrea Baldini (Nanjing University; specialist in philosophy); Dr. Rita Amor (conservator-restorer and researcher, Plowden & Smith Institute, London); and Dr. Anit Ortiz (Chicago University; specialist in scientific research).

The second module entitled “History and Theory of Restoration” was led by Susanna Sarmati, an Italian conservator and researcher who was part of the team who preserved and restored the Nativity Church. The third module, “Conserving and Restoring Artworks and Cultural Heritage in Palestine,” was led and supervised by researcher George al-Ama. The last course, “Materials Science and Technology and Structures of Artworks,” was taught at Bethlehem University by Dr. Michele Hanania, Dean of Science and Chairperson of Chemistry, with Tannas Khouri. Bethlehem University designed the labs and developed the curriculum and educational resources in collaboration with Professor Georgios Tavlaridis.

Equipping the educational

conservation and restoration labs included acquiring new equipment and material usually unavailable in Palestine. The aim is to train the students to use them and to make them available to graduates. The college will also designate three workshops within the facility to accommodate equipment use: a chemistry lab for examination, research and conservation; a studio dedicated to painting and restoring icons; and a workshop to refurbish murals.

In a parallel effort, Dar al-Kalima University College was able to archive, photograph and document its art collection. It also commissioned texts historicising the artwork—some of which will be published in a book in English and Arabic.

Similarly, the faculty of the art, music and design department at Birzeit University resumed the work it started during the first cycle of the grant. They equipped a multi-technology printing lab with digital printers as well as with advanced laser and 3D printers. In the second round of the grant, the faculty organised five workshops, instructing technical and teaching staff in digital, laser and 3D printing techniques. Students also received similar training, in addition to two workshops in drawing methods, colours and etching.

Birzeit University adopted artist residencies as an interactive approach to enrich its educational programmes and expose art students to the practices, research and preoccupations of international artists. Three artists took part in the residency programme, during which they created sound and land art workshops and introduced different definitions of space, place and topography. Participating students produced audio-visual artworks and wood, stone and clay installations. The faculty students also took part in 24 educational seminars and artist talks by local and international artists including Jumana Manna, Nour Abu Arafeh, Nida Sinnokrot and Larissa Sansour, among others. These talks were attended by approximately 63 students and 129 visitors.

The faculty is constantly communicating with high schools, using online educational platforms to introduce the faculty, its majors and the future of arts education to youth.

 

The Museum as an Educational Platform

In the past two years, the Palestinian Museum (PM) focussed its efforts on developing educational resources, expertise and manuals to implement its public programme in parallel with annual exhibitions. This is part of the PM’s vision to encourage children and students to reflect on and interact with the artwork and art collections and to use art as a medium for production and imagination. These interventions included organising exhibition tours and educational and entertainment workshops for children, such as the “Graphic Printing” and “My Imaginary Friend Actually Exists” workshops, part of the “Printed in Jerusalem” exhibition. The PM also organised the online workshops “How Does My Family Look at 6 a.m.?,” “O Genie, Give Me Everything!” and “Letters off the Lines.” The PM also organised a series of composition workshops entitled “Songwriting with Kids;” 10 children participated from different cities across Palestine and the Arab world, including Egypt and Bahrain, and concluded with the children composing and producing a song about Jerusalem. In parallel with the exhibition, the Museum also published a collection of illustrated stories entitled “Way Out There in the Faraway Colour,” an educational booklet to be used during Glass Gallery tours at the PM and written by Hana Irshaid, Sarah Zahran and Samar Kirresh.

The Palestinian Museum, in collaboration with various writers and artists, also published six stories for children: “Cypress by Cypress” written by Anas Abu Rahmeh and illustrated by Yara Bamieh; “A Little Flaw in the World” by Argentinean author Isol; “I’m the Painter Who Did Not Fall in the Net,” a poem written by Wasim Kurdi and illustrated by Abdullah Qawariq (composed by the Story and Song Duo, who introduced it to the children); “The Soap who Defeated the King,” written by Anastasia Qarwani and illustrated by Syrian artist Haya Halaw; “Have You Ever Tried to Catch a Bird?,” written by Anas Abu Rahmeh and illustrated by Egyptian artist Walid Taher; and “Mr. Mimo Is a Karateka 2021,” written by Ahlam Bsharat and illustrated by Egyptian artist Israa Haidari.

Additionally, the PM organised capacity building training for teachers, providing them with educational tools and manuals inspired by the exhibitions that can be applied to schools. For example, the training held in parallel with the “A People by the Sea” exhibition focussed on advancing the teachers’ initiatives and developing conceptual and methodological artistic social interventions. It also encouraged artistic initiatives with teachers and students in collaboration with a group of artists in four schools across various cities.

These contributions made by the PM—whether through its exhibitions, its interactive events,  or its educational resources that are then widely available to the public—are part of its institutional mission to build knowledge within the community.