By creating a space where traditional and contemporary visions collide, the Fez Art Lab hopes to nurture a community of global visionaries and local actors.
The Fez Art Lab, an event that seeks to promote art and support the artist community in Fez, is set to begin virtually this year on September 23.
The goal of the Fez Art Lab, according to organizer Omar Chennafi, is to assist the local artist community in Fez, particularly given the economic hardships incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Supporting the community by providing a diverse space for collaboration and innovation is at the forefront of this mission,” Chennafi explained in an interview with Morocco World News.
This mission is made possible with programming and projects that are designed to be accessible to all members of the public.
In consideration of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Fez Art Lab will take place online this year. Chennafi told MWN that the program has adapted its planned activities to focus on the current global crisis, its impact on the Fez community, and the role of cultural actors.
The Fez Art Lab also aims to inspire ideas for upcoming projects that support the changing role of art in the local community in a time of revolving social norms.
“The Fez Art Lab aims to provide the arts community with the tools and resources needed to support them,” Chennafi underlined.
Fez as the center of Moroccan art and intellect
The imperial city of Fez has always been the intellectual and artistic capital of Morocco.
Fez is home to Al Qarawiyyin, the oldest university in the world, built by Fatima al-Fihri in 859 A.D.
A UNESCO World Heritage site, Fez is also home to many great artists and art forms.
The city’s history of art and intellect has made it the perfect location for important annual festivals in Morocco, such as the Fez Festival of World Sacred Music and the Fez Festival of Sufi Culture.
Fez’s rich history and profound connection to the arts has also given rise to various art festivals. “Fez, with its colorful history and culture, is an excellent location for celebrating the unification of traditional and contemporary art,” Chennafi underlined.
Supporting local artists
Born and raised in Fez’s medina (old city), Chennafi began his creative journey through photography, contributing greatly to Fez’s cultural and creative spheres. Since then, Chennafi has invested locally in his community to create a sense of art and belonging with his independent initiatives including the Fez Gathering and the Fez Art Lab.
The Fez Art Lab event is essentially an extension of the Fez Gathering, which Chennafi established in 2016 to provide a space for local artists to showcase their art. The Fez Gathering, held annually in January, encourages dialogue and engagement with art through workshops, exhibitions, panels, and artist demonstrations.
The importance of the Fez Art Lab, according to Chennafi, lies in its goal to support a diverse community of social and cultural figures and artists with different backgrounds, creative visions, and unique skills essential in shaping the country’s future.
“By creating a space in which the traditional meets contemporary visions, the Fez Art Lab hopes to foster a community of both visionaries and actors in the local community and beyond,” Chennafi told MWN.
At the core of the event lies Chennafi’s aspiration to build a supportive network for artists of all specialties and nurture a diverse space for the community to come together.
The Fez Art Lab will host various programs such as festivals, events, and community gatherings. It will conduct projects and exhibitions that include members of the public and feature artists, such as the Mobile Open-Air art Exhibition, set to take place next month.
The initiative will also offer community services such as digital contact cards for artisans to promote their art and services.
Along with Omar Chennafi, the Fez Art Lab team includes other members that were brought together through a shared connection to Fez and a mutual vision to support the city’s art community.
Executive director Kristin Licciardello, creative director Ewa Potocka, and technical director Kamal Eghari all contribute to bringing the vision of the Fez Art Lab to life.
Adapting to COVID-19
The Fez Art Lab seeks to serve the community long past the COVID-19 global pandemic. However, the epidemic has caused challenges and difficulties, especially among members of the art community that now have limited ability to exchange ideas and engage with the public.
“Social distancing measures have limited communication and collaboration, particularly among the communities the Fez Art Lab aims to serve,” Chennafi explained.
Nonetheless, the Fez Art Lab is carefully responding and adapting to the current situation by designing projects that conform to social distancing guidelines, and simultaneously prompt innovative ideas that address the changes in the field of the arts.
“These projects aim to remind the community that times like these also provide opportunities to move forward and that great things can be created during challenging times,” Chennafi said hopefully.
The Fez Art Lab always seeks to collaborate with and support members of the community and welcomes anyone interested in participating. To contribute, you can simply reach out to the initiative by email or phone, and introduce yourself and how you would like to be involved.
Guest registration for the Fez Art Lab is free and available through the event’s official website, fezartlab.org.