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  • An example of street art commissioned by Expo 2020 Dubai that could be showcased in a public space in Ras Al Khaimah.
From the streets to The World’s Greatest Show: UAE communities to celebrate Expo 2020 Dubai with public art
Expo 2020’s grassroots arts programme My Urban Freej is designed for everyone, Nationwide public installations will reflect the creativity and diversity of the UAE, Aspiring artists urged to register for workshops, chance to have artwork displayed

Vibrant art installations are set to decorate public places throughout the UAE as part of Expo 2020 Dubai’s new grassroots initiative to spotlight the nation’s unique identity, as it prepares to welcome thousands and thousands of people from throughout the world.

My Urban Freej is a programme of public art that encapsulates the innovative spirit, dynamic multiculturalism and sturdy feel of community in the UAE. Open to everyone in the UAE aged 18 and above, My Urban Freej will work in collaboration with university arts departments and youth centres throughout the nation.

A series of workshops will enable aspiring artists and those passionate about art to work with professionals, both local and international, to get new skills and collaborate with their peers. Focusing on graffiti, street art, calligraphy and 3D installations, the workshops will run until the end of April 2020. To register, visit https://www.expo2020dubai.com/myurbanfreej

A select number of workshop participants will then be provided a mentorship and invited to collaborate with professional artists to create wonderful public installations that rejoice their community’s journey to The World’s Greatest Show and replicate their ‘hayyakum’ (the Arabic word for ‘welcome’) spirit.

The ultimate 30 installations will be placed in public spaces in all seven emirates, forming a exciting art hunt for people of all ages to explore. During the six months of Expo 2020, designs will also appear on the 360-degree projection surface of Al Wasl Plaza, an architectural marvel at the heart of the Expo site.

Manal AlBayat, Chief Engagement Officer, Expo 2020 Dubai, said: “With less than nine months to go till our gates open to the world, we are continuing to have interaction with people throughout the country and providing interesting opportunities for them to be part of this excellent national project. Through My Urban Freej, public art installations will be created by the community, for the community, both local and international, reinforcing that the arts – and Expo 2020 – are for everyone to enjoy.

Throughout history, World Expos have been a show off and celebration of art and tradition from across the world. My Urban Freej will spotlight the talent of the UAE’s innovative community and enable them to emerge as part of the legacy of the first Expo to be held in the Arab World.”

The emphasis on community and inclusivity is reflected in the programme’s name – ‘freej’ means ‘neighbourhood’ in the colloquial Arabic of the Gulf region. Ten artists have been chosen to assist the workshops, which includes Emirati artist Maitha Demithan and Saudi calligraffiti artist Wafi Albakheet.

Maitha Demithan said: “We are working to create a powerful visual metaphor for ‘Connecting Minds, Creating the Future’, not only between us artists but also with the public, who will be invited to have interaction with the artworks.”

Wafi Albakheet said: “As a participant in this project, I’m delighted to have the chance to have interaction with residents of all backgrounds, which includes students and people of determination. Together, we will create something virtually meaningful.”

To register for a workshop, or for more information about My Urban Freej, along with the full list of artists, visit https://www.expo2020dubai.com/myurbanfreej.

Running from 20 October 2020 to 10 April 2021, Expo 2020 Dubai will bring together 192 countries and millions of visitors for a international celebration of culture and innovation. In addition to My Urban Freej, Expo 2020 has also launched a layout and crafts programme created to support and promote local brands and emerging talents, aligned with the UAE’s efforts to accelerate the creative economy.

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