Ras Masqa Artists in Residence took contemporary art beyond the confines of Lebanon’s capital this spring, with a public programme focused on the theme of art education

Lebanon’s art scene is growing all the time, but it remains almost totally centralised. Galleries, fairs and the majority of the country’s temporary exhibitions are all held within the confines of the capital, but the Association for the Promotion and Exhibition of the Arts in Lebanon (APEAL) and Temporary Art Platform (T.A.P.) are on a mission to change that. This spring, the two organisations teamed up to organise Ras Masqa Artists in Residence, a month-long residency for six artists in the northern village of Ras Masqa, close to Tripoli.

The residency programme, which ran from March 18 to April 18, was organised in collaboration with the municipality of Ras Masqa, along with the Lebanese University’s Faculty of Fine Art (North Branch), the Saint Joseph University and the Lebanese International University. Six artists were selected by a jury after an open call attracted more than 40 proposals on the theme of art education. Ali El-Darsa, Youmna Geday, Raymond Gemayel, Ieva Saudargaité, Petra Serhal and Myriam Boulos all took part in the programme, spanning media including fine arts, photography, writing, film direction and music.

“Ras Masqa is actually a village that is a suburb of Tripoli, but at the same time it has all the rural characteristics,” explained the programme’s artistic coordinator Amanda Abi Khalil. “It’s a very interesting place because it has one of the biggest concentrations of academies, schools and universities in Lebanon, and since the theme of our artists’ residency was art education we chose this place.”

The residency programme allowed the six artists to immerse themselves in the day-today life of Ras Masqa, conducting research over the course of the month and realising their individual proposals while living in the village. The aim of project was not only to provide space and opportunity for the six artists to work, but to allow the local community to engage with contemporary art outside the urban context. A public programme of lectures, events, workshops and film screenings at the Faculty of Fine Arts was designed to serve the needs of the artists in residence and local university students, creating educational bridges between them.

The projects realised by the artists were extremely diverse, from a site-specific series of reciprocal portraits by Boulos, to Saudergaité’s series of installations and videos exploring the nature of the smart phone, to Geday’s sculpture made up of letters written by the inhabitants of the village, to Gemayel’s sound installation in a darkened basketball court.
The residency followed on from T.A.P.’s 2014 artist-in-residence programme, which took place in the village of Meziara and was themed around the environment. “Decentralisation is usually one thread of cultural policy and we’re really collaborating under the patronage of the Ministry of Culture, because we cannot restrict contemporary art to the city and to small groups of people,” explains Abi Khalil. “We are interested in the ways in which we can reach out to other types of audiences, especially those who cannot attend or be part of the cultural and artistic scene of Beirut.”

A version of this article appeared in print in Selections, The Creative Issue #36, on page 39.