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In September 2007, the International Academy of Art Palestine opened its doors to the first class of twelve students in the first four-year programme of its kind in Palestine. The programme leads to a bachelor of arts degree in contemporary visual arts. Such a unique project is an effort to support institution and capacity building during these difficult times in the Occupied Territories. The leading artists of Palestine consider this event a significant cultural achievement that aims to establish the Academy as a distinctive higher-education institution.
The Academy project seeks accreditation from the Ministry of Higher Education, but negotiations are under way to ensure that degrees be granted by the partner institute, the Oslo National Academy of Arts (KHIO), which collaborated with the Palestinian Association for Contemporary Art (PACA) to establish this unique art institution. The project’s sole funding source is the Royal Norwegian Foreign Ministry, which agreed to provide support for only three years - beginning in June 2006. This ambitious project is being carried out amidst the harsh daily Palestinian reality and promotes art as a tool to resist injustice and oppression.
Applicants and their portfolios were evaluated by a steering committee of local and international artists in April, during what will become the Annual Spring Encounter to recruit incoming talent. Over fifty student applications were received from all over Palestine and twenty-five applicants were specifically invited for a week of evaluation at the Academy. Twelve of them were selected to be the first academic class that is set to graduate in 2011.
Teachers for the first semester include artists Hannan Abu Hussein, Emily Jacir, and Rula Halawani; graphic designer, Lena Sobeh; librarian, Mutassem Afaneh; dean of the cultural studies program at Birzeit University, Abdul Karim Barghouti; and professor and former dean of the Malmo Art Academy, Professor Gertrud Sandqvist; in addition to artistic director, Khaled Hourani; academic director, Reem Fadda; and project advisor on behalf of Olso, Henrik Placht. Among the international and local artists to be invited during the semester are Ayreen Anastas, Rene Gabri, Sandi Hilal, Alessandro Petti, and curator and theorist, Nina Montmann.
The Academy aspires to have an independent campus dedicated solely to the arts that will guarantee the technical needs for a better education. To do so, land must be located and funds raised for a new building that encompasses state-of-the-art facilities, including a modern and specialized library, digital art labs, large exhibition halls, auditoriums, workshop spaces, and studios as well as all administrative and technical facilities. Sammy Bandak, originally from Bethlehem, has been inspired to help create an endowment fund to help sustain the Academy for future generations.
The International Academy of Art Palestine intends to offer the local population and the international community new images of Palestine and Palestinians. Contemporary visual arts will be used as a means to help maintain the collective Palestinian memory, history, and identity. Suleiman Mansour, a leading Palestinian artist says, “The Academy will facilitate communication between the local and international art scenes and will provide for a new and innovative openness to the world.”
Maria C. Khoury, Ed. D. and Reem Fadda, Academic Director, International Academy of Art Palestine
This Week in Palestine