Syrian Artists Create was a creative commissioning programme supporting displaced Syrian artists to create new work and develop professional connections in their new surroundings. The programme ran from 2015 to 2018 and supported 19 artists.
Since 2011, more than 5 million Syrians have left the country with the vast majority initially traveling to the neighbouring countries of Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan. Among these 5 million were a significant number of artists and creatives who had been playing a major role in shaping Syria’s rich cultural life. After their displacement, these artists were often facing precarious existences. Alongside the challenges of food, shelter, legal residency and earning a living in a new country, artists also required space and time to create, maintain networks and contacts with peers to inform practice and meet new audiences to witness their work.
In response to this challenge, The British Council in partnership with The Space launched And (wa) - a scheme to support displaced artists to utilise digital technologies to create and disseminate new work. The first phase of this commissioning programme was completed in summer 2015.
From Autumn 2015, The British Council worked with Shubbak to develop the second phase of the project. In recognition of the fact that many Syrian artists were moving to third countries beyond Turkey, Lebanon, and Jordan, the scheme was expanded to work with Syrian artists wherever they may be based. We also decided to embrace all art forms.
OUR AIMS & PROCESS
In total, the programme commissioned 19 artists to create new work, ranging from theatre and dance performances to music albums; from paintings to films, from new writing to translation of poetry. All artists supported through the programme were chosen through a nomination process based on three key criteria. Their participation in the programme should:
Lead to the creation of a new piece of artistic work to a high standard.
Equip the artist to operate better in their new circumstances.
Enable the artist to reach a new audience.
At time of commissioning, nine of the 19 selected artists were living in Europe and nine in countries bordering Syria. One artist was not settled. By the end of the project, six further artists had moved to Europe. Many artists moved to new locations more than once during the period of the commissions.
OUTCOMES & AUDIENCES
To date 17 of the 19 artists supported have completed new works with the support of the scheme. The portfolio of completed work includes 5 films, 4 theatre productions, 4 exhibitions, 3 music compositions, 2 new written works, 1 dance production.
These works have been shown in over 60 locations to date and over 50 new partnerships have been created over the course of these commissions. We estimate that a total live audience of over 40,000 have engaged with the supported work, including 10,000 people in the UK.
For more information on the programme and the supported artists download the full report.