Ithra & UNESCO virtual debate explores the new world of art and culture post-COVID-19

Dystopia to Utopia: Our Changing Cultural Landscape


As cultural communities across the globe emerge from COVID-19 lockdowns into a world vastly different from what we knew only months ago, many are questioning what this new reality means for the livelihoods, the institutions and the future of the arts and culture sector.

To help these communities better understand and navigate the post-COVID world, the King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture (Ithra) is partnering with UNESCO to host a virtual ResiliArt discussion and debate focused on the challenges and opportunities confronting all who have a stake in our cultural and creative industries within Saudi Arabia and the Arab World.

The debate takes place on June 18, 2020 at 8 p.m. Arabian Standard Time. Details regarding the debate can be found on Ithra’s social media accounts.

Entitled Dystopia to Utopia: Our Changing Cultural Landscape, the debate will bring together five of the world’s foremost art and culture professionals to explore the far-reaching impact of the pandemic on the culture sector, given the importance of cultural and creative industries on developing economies, and in promoting social cohesion.:

  • Sheikha Hala bint Mohammed Al Khalifa, Director General, Culture and Arts at Bahrain Authority for Culture and Antiquities
  • Ahmed Mater, Artist (Saudi)
  • Linda Komaroff, Department Head of Arts of the Middle East, Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)
  • Akram Zaatari, Artist (Lebanon)
  • Nada Shabout, Associate Professor of Art History and the Director of the Contemporary Arab and Muslim Studies Institute (CAMCSI) at the University of North Texas.

The 90-minute program, moderated by Dubai-based writer and curator Laura Egerton, will address with the panelists topics such as how COVID-19 has affected the consumption, production and distribution of culture, and the current and future roles of institutions, governments and the private sector in supporting the creative economy.

“Ithra is in the business of inspiring creativity, imagination and innovation,” explains Ithra’s Director, Hussain Hanbazazah. “It has always been our goal to grow and transform the cultural landscape and to champion key issues challenging our industry. More than ever, this is a time for action, and we believe that Ithra and Saudi Arabia have a role to play in shaping the landscape by fostering dialogue and paving the way to find solutions, collectively.”

Launched by UNESCO on World Art Day, April 15, 2020, ResiliArt is a global movement that began with a virtual debate about the far-reaching impact of COVID-19 on the cultural sector and aims at supporting artists during and following the crisis. The inaugural debate addressed the social and economic impact on culture professionals and their rights, including copyright protection, the effect of digitization of content, and freedom of expression. Since hundreds of Cultural industry professionals joined the movement and replicated the ResiliArt series in their respective regions and thematic focus.

As a partner in the organization of this debate, the UNESCO Office’s for GGC and Yemen Director, Ms Anna Paolini, said: “People need culture. Culture makes us resilient and gives us hope. We’re delighted that an important cultural institution as Ithra has joined the ResiliArt movement, as part of a global  effort to shed light on the current state of the creative industries amidst Covid-19 crisis, that adversely impacted the entire culture value chain and will have a long-lasting impact on the creative economy, and to explore better ways to support artists during and following the crisis .”

To join the debate

Individuals wishing to join Dystopia to Utopia: Our Changing Cultural Landscape’s online audience must preregister at Attendees will be able to submit comments and questions.

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