QAA Articles

Contemporary Art for Children in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, Melisa Sue Valle, Ph.D.

Updated: May 17, 2020

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture in collaboration with the Centre Pompidou brought the first European contemporary art exhibit, Pure Colors, to Dhahran, Saudi Arabia from October 2013 through November 2013.

The objective of the exhibit was to provide an introduction to art in an accessible manner for a variety of audiences. It was especially designed for people who are not familiar with contemporary and modern art. Visitors experience involved direct contact with original art works through engaging hands-on art activities.

The specific aim of the contemporary art exhibit was to provide a playful and sensory route for children. The three tours were designed with an educational approach to understand art through multisensory stimulation via tool kits throughout the tour. Overall, the programs of the museums and exhibits of the King Abdulaziz Center World Culture primary goal is to promote cross-cultural engagement, creativity, learning, culture and heritage awareness, and community engagement.

The Pure Colors exhibit engaged visitors with a cultural exchange, multisensory experience, and educational, experience. There were four primary objectives for the Pure Colors exhibit.

(1) For the students to explore the museum and artists through a particular theme of color, (2) develop capacities for observation and narration, (3) acquire a visual vocabulary and appreciation of art, and (4) stimulate a desire to continue exploring color and art.

In addition, the art exhibition promoted community engagement through school trips and family visits. Visitors, for example, were given an opportunity to view original artwork, acquire a visual vocabulary, develop an appreciation of art, and stimulate their desires to continue an exploration of color and art.

Teachers stated the art exhibit was participatory, informative, relevant, entertaining, transformative, beneficial for school curriculum, and educational. It was also accessible and education for visitors more familiar with Middle Eastern and Islamic art and/or cultural heritage. For example, the majority of the teachers and students attention and interest was engaged with the art piece Pittura pura luce by Claudio Parmiggiani, because it resembled the souk (market or spice market) of spices.

A six-year old girl best described the overall visitor experience when she was asked if she enjoyed the art exhibit tour and her response was “I am jealous.” Various responses were recorded that ranged from boring to excited to sad to interested. However, jealously was not among the expected responses. How can an art exhibit make a child feel jealous? The child further explained she was jealous because she did not have access to art or museums. The art exhibit was succeeding in its mission to increase art awareness through community engagement!

The King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture brought a positive art experience for students, teacher, and various stakeholders to the community of Saudi Arabia. When asked, the students Hand to Hand, Association of Children Museum Journal Submission April 22, 2014responded that they (a) liked the art exhibit, (b) would recommend the art exhibit, and (c) would come again with family and friends.

The teachers and students wanted to further engage in different tours and activities. Thus, they asked for the tour duration to be extended and to be able to participate in all the art activities available for the exhibit. Embracing the first experience of a contemporary art exhibit in correlation with art activities increased the community’s accessibility and regardless of demographics, everyone in the community had the opportunity to tour the art exhibit. As we continue to engage the community and increase awareness and an appreciation of art, we are developing children’s interest as well as cognitive, physical, and psychosocial development.

Melisa S. Valle, Ph.D., Research Coordinator

Hand to Hand, Association of Children Museum Journal Submission April 22, 2014