The Doha Fire Station will soon become an artists’ hub supporting the local art community in Qatar through various programmes and exchanges organised by the Qatar Museums Authority (QMA).
Under the nine-month “Fire Station: Artists in Residence” programme, Qatari and non-Qatari artists in the country will have the opportunity to meet with curators from various parts of the world.
The head of Artists in Residence Programme, Hala al-Khalifa, said one of their goals is to support artists in Qatar and “provide a platform for creative exchange”.
She said artists from Europe, Asia, the US and other parts of the world will also be invited to join the programme.
Renowned Qatari architect Ibrahim al-Jaidah, who leads the renovation of the Doha Fire Station building, echoed the statements of al-Khalifa and said such exchanges between local and artists from outside Qatar encourage artistic dialogues.
“We see in our day-to-day life things that we are used to, but when you get somebody from outside the country they see things with a fresh eye in their own perspective and they see these things differently,” said al-Jaidah, also the CEO and the chief architect at Arab Engineering Bureau.
Qataris and residents in the country can submit their application online through the QMA website. It will be open later to other regional artists.
Besides a curatorial residency slot, at least 20 residencies will be available, each for a period of nine months.
QMA officials have also announced that fire station artists will be given the chance to access all museum special exhibitions, have interactions with curators and join lectures.
Some areas of the fire station will also be open to the public, including a bookshop, an art supply shop, a cinematheque, restaurant and a café. Visitors will also be allowed to view the artworks at the gallery.
The first phase of the Doha Fire Station renovation will be completed by November this year. It will house 24 studios, a room for art exhibitions and an area for community interaction.
Reiterating the importance of preserving the identity of an iconic building such as the fire station, al-Jaidah has retained most of the architectural design of the original building. He believes it is also important to keep its outer beauty, a trait that is deeply rooted in the minds and consciousness of the Qatari people. “We also want to have studios for artists to exchange their artistic creations,” he said. “What is the point of renovating the building and not using it at the same time?”
Built in 1982 as a Civil Defence building, the fire station was taken by the fire brigade until late 2012, when the QMA spearheaded its preservation and conservation.
Al-Khalifa said the building is undergoing a sort of “recycling” to continue serving the community through the Artists in Residence Programme, complementing existing projects and activities in the artistic arena in Qatar.
She also stressed that the building is not a museum but “a residence for artists”.
About 700sqm, the current fire engine garage will be converted into an exhibition space to promote local and regional artists. The existing tower will be covered in a programmable LED lighting woven into stainless steel mesh to be used for a rotating display of works of arts, projected images, installations and announcements to the public.
QMA officials noted that the fire station will be the next cultural hub in the country, “a place where a lot of integration can take place”.