American University of Beirut

​Art Education in the Middle East: An Open Format/Work in Progress


Multi-Participant Convention of Regional Art Educators

AUB Art Galleries (Fall 2021-Spring 2022)



This project brings into discussion the state of art education in the Middle East, a question that is particularly relevant today as the pandemic has posed multiple challenges to the education of young artists. Distance learning and the adoption of screen technologies have been some of the main difficulties in cultivating what for many centuries has amounted primarily to manual or bodily dexterity and artistic skill. These challenges, however, can also be seen as a point of departure toward new forms of artistic learning. Art Education in the Middle East will pose questions and throw light on the nature, the histories, and the pedagogical models of art education encountered throughout the region. While some capitals in the Middle East have established art schools or academies since very early in the twentieth century (as is the case of Cairo's Madrasat al-Funun al-Jamila al-Misriyya, also known as the École Égyptienne des Beaux-Arts, established in 1908, or Beirut's Ecole des Arts et Métiers set up in the 1930s) in other countries, artist schools, art academies, or departments of art have been a more recent phenomenon. In some capitals art departments and schools emerge in the 1970s, and some art schools appear in the twenty-first century. The project invites various traditions of art education (from Cairo's Madrasat al-Funun al-Jamila al-Misriyya, to New York University Abu Dhabi, to Ramallah's International Academy of Art) into a dialogue.​​

Art Education in the Middle East unfolds in the open format of a work in progress, comprising seven chapters. For each of these chapters we invite representatives of different art schools or art departments, researches, artists, scholars to make themselves present in AUB's two art galleries, via direct participation, exhibition, screening, public talk, or/and via online events The format of the event is conceived in terms of overlapping “plateaus," where works by students and faculty from different schools, as well as material pertaining to their curricula, education, or the history of the school, will be on revolving and changing display. One distinctive aspect of this project, which is consistent with the scope of education, is that some of the plateaus have been produced and curated by the students enrolled in my curating course AHIS 285-325.


Octavian Esanu​


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