Design proposal for the courtyard of the Doha Fire Station, a 30-year-old facility which will be transformed into a hub for local and international artists. Courtesy the Qatar Museums Authority, Doha.

Mar 07 2014

QMA Launches Artist Residency Program

by Isabella E Hughes

On March 5, the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA) unveiled its plans to transform the 30-year-old Doha Fire Station into a new artist residency program. Fire Station: Artists in Residence is set to open to the public in November, by which time it will already have welcomed its first guests.

Aimed initially towards local Qatari artists, as well as international artists based in Qatar, the program will eventually welcome applications from throughout the region. Weekly mentoring will be offered and artists will have full access to QMA’s museums, special exhibitions and lectures, as well as privileged access to museum curators.

Offering nine-month residencies on a rolling basis, the Fire Station aims to have welcomed roughly 20 artists by November this year with all participants chosen by an independent jury.

The residency program will culminate with an exhibition at Garage Gallery, a new space to open in conjunction with Fire Station, which will be housed in the former fire truck garage. In addition to the work of artists-in-residence, Garage Gallery will host an ongoing program throughout the year. Speaking with ArtAsiaPacific, Hala al-Khalifa, head of Artists in Residence Program, explained: “We want to have a curator each year to also be in residence. Having a curator around will add another dimension to this residency program, benefiting the participating emerging artists.”

Doha is already home to a few residencies, but the situation of Fire Station makes this an important initiative. “This building is a landmark in the city [of Doha] and of great importance to the community,” al-Khalifa affirmed. She hopes that the residency will complement other projects in the region, providing a network for artists such as herself.

“We are trying to give emerging artists an opportunity to grow,” she said. “As an artist from the region as well, I am very happy to be part of this, there was nothing like this when I was growing up and developing my own practice. There are many talents that need to be nurtured.”

Open studio visits will be an integral part of the program, encouraging artists’ interaction with the public. In the project’s second phase, which will commence in 2015, an annex building parallel to the Fire Station will be constructed, which will house cafes, restaurants, an art supply store and a book shop, as well as a cinema which will host weekly film screenings.

Built in 1982, the Doha Fire Station previously served as a civil defense building. In late 2012, it was handed over by the fire brigade to QMA for preservation and conservation. The building will be repurposed under the direction of noted Qatari architect Ibrahim Jaidah, whose Barzan Tower and Al Shaqab Institute for Girls were nominated for the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004 and 2001, respectively. In his design, Jaidah has retained much of the original building, adding a programmable LED lighting function to its tower, which will be available for artists to use.

Isabella E. Hughes is the United Arab Emirates desk editor for ArtAsiaPacific.