Finding Art Zone is not as easy as it may seem.
Surprisingly, building 35 on Misr Helwan Agriculture Road in Maadi – Art Zone’s official address – is located two steps from building 59. The only explanation is that it is April Fools' day, and also the day of the inauguration of an exhibition of student’s work at Art Zone.
On Friday two rooms of this dynamic art centre were turned into a gallery, which will remain open to the public until 15 April. The opening of the exhibition was attended by Emad Abou-Ghazi, the new Minister of Culture, teachers and art students with their families and friends. The exhibition presents chosen art works created by Art Zone students.
Established three years ago by artist Saleh Abdel Sabour, Art Zone helps its students to “discover their artistic self.” For the second consecutive year a team of professional artists have given courses in a variety of fields.
Classes are divided into abstract painting, oil painting, an introductory course to drawing and painting, printmaking, sculpture, as well as photography and studio lighting.
Abdel Sabour, a graduate of the Faculty of Fine Arts at Helwan University in Zamalek spent many years working in graphic design. Throughout this time, he kept meeting people who were passionate about arts but did not necessarily have any educational artistic background.
“There are many talents interested in art, and some try to develop their skills through a variety of courses offered by art institutions,” Abdel Sabour tells Ahram Online. “The main mission of Art Zone is to gather people who love art and help them explore their talents”.
Abdel Sabour stresses the importance of finding a formula which allows the students to develop quickly, while they enjoy making progress in art and self-discovery. Courses take place in the Art Zone’s premises and include field trips and gatherings outside the centre. “We are not only an art school. We are a community which interacts together,” he says.
The centre also holds one-day activities and meetings with experienced artists. Courses take a few weeks and are repeated throughout the year. Many students move on to different courses, gaining experience in more than one art field.
This is the second consecutive year that Art Zone has organised an exhibition, presenting selected works by its students, which testify to the progress made by their creators.
The room holding drawings and paintings presented a variety of themes, as well as techniques. Daring colours in abstract oils, compositions in water colours and pencil, portrait studies and still-life are among the exhibited works.
“We are happy to help develop those artists, giving them an opportunity to exhibit their work,” explains Abdel Sabour adding that the artwork can be purchased.
Photography shows a thematic multiplicity. ‘Footsteps at the seashore’ (Basem Raouf), ‘Bird series’ (Seif Salama, Manal Mahmoud, Ahmad Soliman, Doaa El Mosalamy, Renad Mostafa, Mohamed El-Husseiny), ‘Baskets at the fish market’(Abeer Maadawy), and Architecture (Al-Said Ashour) are among the tens of works exhibited by the artists.
Abeer Maadawy is a student of advanced photography and studio-lighting and this is her second time to exhibit at Art Zone. She believes that the centre allowed her skills to finally surface.
The centre attracts people from all walks of life and many of them work in other areas than the field of art. For Basem Raouf, in market research, it is his first year at Art Zone. “I am taking my hobby to another level,” says Raouf and explains to Ahram Online how the basic photography course at the centre helped him understand the techniques and implement them in his passion for this art.
Al-Said Ashour, working as an HR manager in a corporate company, presents photography with architectural elements. “The courses allowed me to return to my education which is in architecture, and grasp the concept of artistic composition in photography,” he declares.
Many students testify to their strong bond with the centre. “Art Zone becomes their second home,” Sara Mostafa who teaches photography told Ahram Online.
The opening of the exhibition brought many of the artists’ relatives and friends. Small groups stop for a while in front of each work. Mahmoud Abdu Abdel Al, a retired electrical engineer, points at the photography which attracted his attention. He calls a black and white shot of a man standing in a boat (by Mohamed Yousry) “a beautiful son of the Nile.”
The exhibition is an important event for all participating artists, who are being professionally directed and as such express their energies through art. The Art Zone initiative is also applauded by Minister of Culture Emad Abou-Ghazi, who attended the opening evening.
“I am very pleased to witness this whole experiment. We can see the different generations of people who wish to express themselves through art, as well as take their skills to another level,” Abou-Ghazi told Ahram Online.
He also stressed the importance of the exhibition itself as a culmination of the efforts exerted by the amateur artists. “It is very encouraging for all of the students who can see how their hobby and passion has turned into valuable artistic propositions; how they can reach a higher level; and how their creativity is then presented to a wider audience.”
Abou-Ghazi pointed out the urgent need to increase the number of art workshops, to support those already existing in Cairo and other cities.
The Art Zone exhibition is open to the public until 15 April at 35 Misr Helwan Agriculture Road, Maadi. (close to building 59, in front of the restaurant Creperie des Arts)