Saudi Arabia is actively promoting a dynamic creative economy as it shifts away from relying on hydrocarbon resources, with a strong emphasis on engaging its youthful population in creative endeavors.
The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra), generously backed by Saudi Aramco, epitomizes this vision. "Ithra" in Arabic means enrichment, aligning with its goal of promoting cultural enrichment, social advancement through education, and cross-cultural interchange.
In 2008, during Saudi Aramco's 75th anniversary, the late King Abdulaziz envisioned a world-class institution promoting arts, culture, science, and technology to spark creativity and transition the nation into a knowledge-based economy. His son, King Abdullah, later turned this vision into reality.
Ithra, situated in Dhahran on Saudi Arabia's first oil field, opened in 2016. Supported by Saudi Aramco, it fosters creative thinking among young artists in Saudi Arabia and the Arab world through exhibitions, recently focusing on sustainability and the environment.
The "From Earth" exhibition, opening on September 26, features emerging and established Saudi artists' diverse works, including paintings, digital and sound art, and installations, incorporating elements from Saudi Arabia's natural landscape. Jointly organized with the Dammam Culture and Arts Association, it enhances the Kingdom's art sector diversification and growth.
Farah Abushullaih, Head of Museums at Ithra, emphasizes that the center not only serves as a platform for artistic production but also as a hub for nurturing talent, building bridges with artists, and fostering partnerships that advance the entire art sector.
Parallel to "From Earth," the "Net Zero" exhibition, running since September 16, features works by two Saudi and 17 international artists, all centered around the theme of sustainability. These exhibitions collectively reflect a profound connection between Saudi artists and their natural heritage, echoing their love for the land from various concrete and abstract angles.
For instance, Moath Al-Hazmi's "The Sound of the Earth" captures diverse Saudi landscapes' auditory essence, allowing visitors to hear these unique sounds via labeled boxes. Bader Al-Essa uses various media to document the historical importance of mihrabs in Saudi Arabia, his work "Maqam" delving into the spiritual connections between communities and their environment.
Moreover, artists Mohammed Al-Faraj and Zahra Al-Gamdi, participating in "Net Zero," emphasize Saudi nature and heritage to raise environmental awareness.
The Kingdom has experienced a creative and cultural renaissance thanks in large part to Ithra's dedication to supporting the next generation of artists, bridging the gap between emerging and established talents, and promoting community development and education through exhibitions.