A new art center has opened in Qatar this month that combines creative expression with lessons about the nation’s culture and heritage.
The Discover Arabia Performing and Visual Art Center is located near Landmark Mall and offers classes in art, pottery and music for kids and adults.
It is the brainchild of Sveta Rhodes, a professional music and art teacher and longtime Doha resident.
Speaking to Doha News recently, Rhodes said she’s been dreaming of opening the center for years.
“I’ve been living in Doha for 10 years now, and there was never a place for adults and children to express themselves in an artistic way. We want to inspire everyone to find their love for the arts, no matter what age they are.”
Discover Arabia has a unique mandate in that it integrates art classes with lessons on Qatari culture and preserving the environment.
For example, before pottery lessons are given, children can collect clay from the beaches near Al Thakhira. The material is akin to the clay that was used to make Qatari pottery for centuries.
Sometimes, plants and reeds from around the country are also incorporated into the finished pieces.
During classes, students can make coasters, plates and magnets inspired by Doha’s skyline, or sculpt their own masterpieces by hand.
The center is also equipped with electric pottery wheels and a large kiln for firing the finished artwork.
Many classes at the center are taught by certified professionals from the Ukraine and Russia.
Among the instruments used are string, woodwind, piano and African drums.
Speaking to Doha News, parent Denise West praised the guitar and saxophone classes that her 10-year-old has been taking:
“Sveta’s talented troupe has given her the confidence to perform solo in front of a large crowd at school. I asked my daughter what she thought of the evening and she said, ‘I felt alive.’”
Eventually, Discover Arabia hopes to create an ensemble orchestra with students of all ages.
The orchestra would then perform weekly “Thursday Night Concerts” to give the community an opportunity to listen to live music for free.
Currently, the concerts are performed by professionals at the center from 5 to 7pm each Thursday, and entry is QR40/person.
The art center is also expanding its reach through partnerships. It has tied up with outdoor adventure company Entalek, which is run by Sveta Rhodes’ husband, Steve Rhodes.
So far, the center has taken groups of school children outdoors for kayaking and learning about mangrove preservation.
Other tie-ups include one with the Museum of Islamic Art (MIA).
The art center will soon set up a permanent base on the museum grounds, with the idea of linking current exhibitions at the MIA museum to teaching pottery and sculpture.
This will be supervised and directed by the center’s visual art professional teachers, who will teach school children in the mornings and offer private courses for children and families in the afternoons.
Opening a professional music and art center has not been an easy endeavor.
According to Rhodes, the biggest challenges has been finding a large, well-lit venue that would be conducive to teaching children.
Another obstacle was getting the government to approve the center, which was a long and tiring process.
Lastly, the staff has had to find a balance between the cost of lessons and paying the rent for the center itself.
Currently, four sessions of pottery classes cost QR200, while four music sessions at QR150. Prices go down per session is the classes are taken for longer.
But for Rhodes, the challenges were worth overcoming to bring a love of creative expression to people in Qatar.
“Anything is possible and it’s never to late to appreciate music and art.”
The Discover Arabia Art Center is open Monday to Saturday from 9am to 8 pm. It is closed on Sundays. More information about it can be found here.