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Arts + Culture: The Syrian Woman Mobilizing the Middle East Art Community

When Syri-Arts started in Beirut three months ago, its chairwoman, Nora Jumblatt, didn’t think she’d get such a big response.

Written by Karen Leigh Published on Read time Approx. 2 minutes

On Oct. 30, the initiative has its official opening, featuring the work of 145 regionally and internationally known artists from 25 galleries across Syria and the region.[![*dia7][2]][2]Each piece will be auctioned off to support Syrian refugee children in Lebanon, some with a market price of as much as $90,000. 

The day before the opening, the Damascus-born Jumblatt, gallery owner and president of Lebanon’s Beiteddine Art Festival, discussed the unexpected mobilization of contemporary artists throughout Syria and the region in supporting the program.

I’m Syrian. I studied in Paris and have an art gallery in Lebanon. And I’m very concerned by Syrian refugee children, mainly those in Lebanon. This initiative started in Paris in January 2013, and it was put together by two French journalists who are friends of mine. We created an NGO that is in charge of Syri-Arts Beirut. Its main aim is to help refugee children survive and regain hope, especially the ones here.

[![‘Aleppo on the Frontline’ – Ammar Abd Rabbo][3]][3]The galleries and mainly the artists are donating their work to us. The online auction for the pieces started on Oct. 21, and the exhibition opens tonight in Beirut, with all proceeds going directly to refugee children in Lebanon. Syri-Arts Beirut is partnered with UNICEF and other NGOs, including those working in the field.

We only had about three months to put this together. A lot of artists got their brushes and did work especially for this exhibition. We generally had a choice of two or three paintings as per artists and galleries. Contemporary art in the Middle East always has several themes that are apparent. Nowadays it is the shifting notions of identity, and the other side of that is the reclaiming of a culture through traditional patterns and motives.

[![Untitled by nabilnahas][4]][4]Art is the perfect medium for this. More than any other area of material culture, it is able to bridge cultures. It’s a universal language. We’ve tried to mobilize some of the best artists in the Arab world for this cause, and we’ve been able to mobilize more than 145 artists and 25 galleries. Some are internationally acclaimed and they’re from Syria, of course, and Lebanon, Iraq, Palestine, Egypt, Morocco and even Iran. And the Syrian diaspora.

It was overwhelming. The number of artists is staggering. We had more offers, but had to limit it. We are talking about artists whose work sells in the $80-90,000 range, and then there are new artists. The art community in the Arab world has mobilized. It’s a first for that community, especially looking at the number of artists and galleries that have participated.

I would hope that the response of the Arab world and Syrians would be as good as that of our artists and galleries. We really cannot allow a generation of Syrians to grow up in despair, without a future. The international community has failed in its responsibilities to Syrian children.

[]: http://beta.syriadeeply.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/dia7.jpg []: http://beta.syriadeeply.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Aleppo-on-the-Frontline-Ammar-Abd-Rabbo.jpg []: http://beta.syriadeeply.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/11/Untitled-by-nabilnahas.jpg

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