Virginia Commonwealth University in Qatar’s project titled The Art Souq, a plan for developing an artists’ studio complex in Qatar, has been awarded a US $350,000 National Priorities Research Program (NPRP) grant by Qatar National Research Fund (QNRF).

Left to right: Rhys Himsworth, Johan Granberg and Byrad Yyelland

A one year project, The Art Souq will investigate the creation of an arts facility designed to support Qatar’s art and culture sector by providing work space, specialised equipment, and training in specialised skills for artists from Qatar, from the Gulf region, as well as visiting international artists from around the globe. The project is led by Rhys Himsworth, director of Painting and Printmaking; Byrad Yyelland, director of Liberal Arts & Sciences and Johan Granberg, assistant professor of Interior Design at VCUQatar. ‘The outcome of the research will be a plan for building an artists’ studio complex – a social place, a place of production – that truly embodies the context of Qatar,’ says Granberg.

VCUQatar’s Painting and Printmaking program, the first fine art program in Qatar, triggered the idea for the Art Souq. Himsworth says, ‘We start graduating students soon; there is a need to create a physical structure for them to interact with local and regional artists.’ This desire, together with the Qatar government’s policy of expanding artistic institutions and collections, demonstrated an opportunity to research, plan and implement a strategy for developing an artistic community within Doha, for Qatari artists, regional artists, resident artists and graduates.

The research project, which began this January, takes the form of visiting similar projects internationally, market research into the needs of local artists and Qatari institutions and researching environmentally sustainable structures. Technical as well as societal aspects and conditions for the project will be investigated as well. Examples of this may include commissioning surveyors, architects and engineers to assist in researching costs, material quantities, and project timelines. ‘A project plan like this takes intensive period of research, planning,’ says Yyelland, ‘and our backgrounds are integral to bringing all of the different aspects of the project together.’