Art to Combat Stressful Times
Qatar Museums is committed to ensuring that people in Qatar have access to art and culture even when the museum facilities are closed in lockdown.
Aisha Al Khater,
SCALE talks to Aisha Al Khater, the Deputy CEO of Qatar Museums who tells us about the Museum authorities’ mission to keep the population in touch with art and to use it as therapy during such trying times when the numbers of people affected by Covid19 keeps rising even when the country is under lockdown.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted our normal lives in so many ways, including how we work, how we interact and connect with each other and how we spend our spare time. The art industry – like every other industry – has had to adapt to manage this change. At Qatar Museums, we remain committed to ensuring that people in Qatar have access to art and culture to provide sources of inspiration, entertainment, and education, despite not being able to visit our museums and galleries,” she says.
SCALE: How is QM making it easier for children and adults to be in touch with art when they are confined indoors?
Culture enthusiasts can now discover collections from the Museum of Islamic Art, Mathaf: Arab Museum of Modern Art and the National Museum of Qatar from the comfort and safety of their homes, thanks to brilliant initiatives such as Google Arts and Culture. This platform allows audiences to have virtual tours and inspect art pieces through their phones or laptops. This technology is ensuring that access to art is not, and should not be, limited by geographic location, financial resources or in this situation, a global pandemic.
At the same time, the education department at MIA has been working hard to develop interesting and interactive online materials that families and their children can use, whilst having to stay at home. From weaving to drawing astrolabes, the activities are all designed to encourage the discovery of our collection, special exhibitions, and Islamic Art.
A third initiative is #SketchatQM which encourages artists and members of the community to draw iconic buildings from the outside world from memory, using them as a source of inspiration and creativity. The artworks people share are then published on our social media channels.
And at Mathaf, we continue to provide access to a bilingual, peer-reviewed online encyclopedia which contains free in-depth information on modern and contemporary artists from the Arab world.
SCALE: What do you think of the influence of art even during such times?
Art can provide comfort, hope, and strength to carry on. Some of the world’s most iconic pieces of art, poetry, and literature were created during or were inspired by difficult times. I think it is humanity’s defiance in the face of challenges – creating or enjoying something interesting or beautiful under challenging conditions can be a testament to our resilience. I truly believe that we will come out of this stronger and more inspired to create and to share our experiences with each other using the language of art.
SCALE: Which are the collections that will be in view with Google Culture?
Several pieces from our collections can be found on Google Culture, all in stunning detail. For the National Museum of Qatar, the exhibit includes pieces that represent the evolving nature of Qatar’s relationship with the outside world across time including countries such as Iran and the Netherlands. For the Museum of Islamic Art, in addition to accessing one of the world’s greatest collections of Islamic Art, audiences can have a virtual tour of this iconic building. And at Mathaf – the first institution of its kind in the region – we are presenting several works by important regional artists including Dia Azzawi, Kamal Boullata, Adham Wanly and others.
SCALE: Do you plan to include more educational programmes through social media for the children to be in connect with art?
From April 1, the Qatar Children’s Museum, being developed by Qatar Museums has started hosting workshops at 3pm on its Instagram account (@ChildrensMuseum.QA) from Sundays to Thursdays. The sessions invite families in Qatar to incorporate playing and learning in their daily weekday routine and engage with the museum’s staff who will be present to facilitate the sessions live. The content is suitable for both Arabic and English-speaking audiences and is being launched before the museum even begins construction, to aid families that are sheltering at home during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.