The Power of Community

28 July 2020

The Power of Community: Over 50 Alserkal Avenue organisations unite in the face of the COVID-19 crisis through the Alserkal Pay It Forward Programme, generating a value of more than AED 2 million in kind

The Power of Community: Over 50 Alserkal Avenue organisations unite in the face of the COVID-19 crisis through the Alserkal Pay It Forward Programme, generating a value of more than AED 2 million in kind

Launched by the Alserkal family in April, the Programme waived three months’ rent to encourage business owners to develop initiatives to support various communities

As part of the Programme, over 22,000 meals and thousands of masks were delivered to frontline health workers and vulnerable communities

Dubai, UAE ­– Over 50 Alserkal Avenue organisations joined forces through the Alserkal Pay It Forward Programme to support each other - and the wider Dubai community - in the face of the unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. This powerful community collaboration saw the businesses generate AED 2 million in kind in just two months.

Launched by Alserkal Founder Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal and the Alserkal family in April 2020, the Programme invited community members to apply for a subsidy for their lease commitment for three months - in return for ‘paying it forward’ to their neighbours. The Programme was created to enable organisations to navigate a difficult economic landscape.

“The power of community is unparalleled," says Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, Founder of Alserkal, reflecting on the programme thus far. "The generosity of people does not surprise me, but it continues to humble me. Through the Alserkal Pay It Forward Programme, the Alserkal community has risen to the challenge of supporting each other through difficult times, and demonstrated true strength and resilience. Community has always been the bedrock of our organisation, and we will always keep this essential value at the heart of everything we do”.

Over half of the AED 2 million value offered has directly supported Alserkal Avenue community businesses through the exchange of goods, services, and expertise, including design, videography, brand building, media resources, website design, and transportation support.

“Our Alserkal Pay It Forward initiative, and those of our counterparts elsewhere, are reminders that cultural precincts can be deeply embedded, and invested, in their local communities, challenging some of the reductive rhetoric that suggests that cultural precincts are synonymous only with the built environment,” says Alserkal Director Vilma Jurkute. “Shared values, nimbleness, and a commitment to the local community are common denominators in formulating responses to change, linking the arts to social transformation.”

Initiatives created for the Alserkal Pay It Forward Programme:

Food for thought

Culinary concept INKED, founded by Patrick and Kenza Jarjour, turned their space into a community kitchen, cooking and delivering 22,290 meals to frontline health workers and vulnerable communities in collaboration with Dubai Health Authority, and the UAE Food Bank. “The past 3 months have led us towards an unexpected, rewarding, and fulfilling journey through our community kitchen initiative,” said Patrick and Kenza Jarjour. “With the help of Alserkal Avenue, our artist community, and some of Dubai’s incredible chefs and suppliers, we were able to help and feed so many people in need in Dubai, and we couldn’t think of a better way to use our space and skills during these challenging times.”

Hundreds of people donated to the INKED initiative, and concepts in Alserkal Avenue also rallied to raise funds to purchase the AED25 meals, raising AED 162,000 in total: Green Art Gallery, Lawrie Shabibi, eL Seed Studio, Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde, Ayyam Gallery, Leila Heller Gallery, KAVE, Wisdom Warehouse, The Good Life, The Flip Side, and Ame all contributed 6,488 meals to the scheme through their sales, while CHI-KA, Italian Shoe Factory, The Happy Studio, and Blssd joined in by manufacturing masks that were delivered with the meals. INKED head chef Hadrien Villedieu collaborated with some of the UAE's top chefs to create well-balanced meals, including Izu Ani, Hatem Mattar, Colin Clague, Reif Othman, Mo Orfali, Sahar Al Awadhi, Khaled Al Saadi, and Urosh Mitrasinovic and Stasha Toncev.

Masks for all

Family-business Italian Shoe Factory produced 500 masks for the UAE Deaf Association. “There is power in community, and that’s what the Alserkal Pay It Forward Programme was all about,” says Moin Virani, Director of Italian Shoe Factory. “Makers from around the Avenue came together to manufacture masks and deliver food to communities and the first responders who worked tirelessly to keep us safe during this pandemic. We want to thank the Alserkal family and Alserkal team for their generous support with the rent waiver, which was truly a relief for us”.

Pop art community space The Happy Studio produced 5,000 masks, which were included in INKED meal deliveries.

Kave created safety boxes that included Kayani masks and handmade soaps by Indigo Soap Works; for every box sold, a meal was donated to the INKED community kitchen programme.

Artist support
Gulf Photo Plus (GPP) launched an open call for images to be included as part of a COVID-19 Artist Relief Print Sale, with over 300 artists submitting to the call. 145 prints were sold, with 70% of the proceeds of each sale going directly to the artist, supporting and celebrating the local freelancing creative community. “There has always been a community spirit amongst the spaces within the Avenue, and that collective resolve was heightened and activated as a result of this crisis,” says Mohamed Somji, Director of GPP. “This togetherness stems from Alserkal’s unwavering support for all of us, and the rent waiver was a shining example of that: it was a shot in the arm for us not only financially, but also kept our spirits up”.

Inter-community support

Boutique agency electriclimefilms offered post-production services to all Alserkal Avenue community members. "Alserkal brought forth this amazing Pay It Forward initiative, and it shows how strongly they believe in supporting the arts and creative industries,” says Michael Ahmadzadeh, Executive Producer at electriclimefilms.“They helped us in a way that other markets we are also based in did not - by providing a sense of community and solidarity through this difficult time. Being able to offer our creative services in return - and stay together despite being apart - to our neighbouring businesses kept us grounded.

Unisex salon Chalk, founded by Anas Bukhash, gifted every organisation in Alserkal Avenue vouchers offering Chalk services, encouraging people to get pampered.

Celebrity & Digital Marketing Consultancy Bukhash Brothers offered their studio space for a full day for free to each community member in Alserkal Avenue, as well social media support.

Appetite café in A4 Space provided F&B vouchers to all businesses in Alserkal Avenue.

Careem Bike offered 250 free annual subscriptions to low income earners, supporting them with their mobility across the city.

Society Motors have lent two of their Apes vehicles to transport people around Alserkal Avenue during the summer.


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Editor’s Notes

About Alserkal Arts Foundation
The Alserkal Arts Foundation is a non-profit that extends Alserkal’s mission to support cultural production. The Foundation offers opportunities for research and artistic production to cultural practitioners and researchers with strong regional or contemporary relevance who challenge conventional disciplinary boundaries. Through its initiatives, which include support for artistic projects, research grants, alternative learning, and artist residencies at purpose-built studios located in the heart of Alserkal Avenue, the Foundation seeks to incubate creative thinking that contributes to the region’s cultural sphere, leading to new forms of knowledge. Alserkal Arts Foundation is supported by Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, Ahmad Bin Eisa Alserkal and the Alserkal family.

About Alserkal
Alserkal is a socially responsible and forward-thinking cultural enterprise dedicated to developing sustainable models for homegrown initiatives and to supporting narratives and research emerging from the Global South. Founded in 2007 by Emirati businessman and patron Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, Alserkal is renowned for its ground-breaking artistic productions, experimental approach and for the creation of culturally meaningful spaces that inspire and shape communities. Alserkal has three primary areas of activity: cultivating a creative economy in Dubai and building a collaborative network of civic cultural institutions through its renowned cultural district, Alserkal Avenue; providing advisory services to public and private sector entities; and, supporting public artist commissions, residencies, research grants and educational programmes through its non-profit, Alserkal Arts Foundation.

Alserkal has transformed the cultural landscape of Dubai and the UAE through the creation of a thriving, region-specific community of over 70 contemporary art galleries, visual and performing arts organisations, designers and entrepreneur-led businesses at Alserkal Avenue, providing an essential platform for the development of creative industries in the region.

Alserkal utilizes its collective expertise in arts initiatives and cultural production, heritage creation, community building and engagement, as well as urbanism and planning for creative industries, to guide public and private sector entities in developing sustainable and responsive business models.

About Alserkal Avenue
Alserkal Avenue is a vibrant cultural district in the Al Quoz industrial area of Dubai, and is home to a community of over 70 contemporary art galleries, visual and performing arts organisations, designers, home-grown and entrepreneur-led businesses, and community spaces across 500,000sqft and 90 warehouses. Alserkal Avenue provides an essential platform for the development of the creative industries in the United Arab Emirates. As one of the region’s foremost destinations for contemporary art, and home to Dubai’s risk-takers, makers and wide-ranging creative communities, Alserkal Avenue provides cultural experiences for local, regional and international audiences through its extensive year-round programming. Alserkal Avenue is home to Concrete, a multi-disciplinary exhibitions space conceptualised and programmed by Alserkal, as well as the artist residency program of Alserkal’s non-profit, Alserkal Arts Foundation. Alserkal Avenue was established in 2007 by Alserkal following the visionary thinking of its founder, Emirati businessman and cultural patron Abdelmonem Bin Eisa Alserkal, who sought to cultivate a vibrant creative community and support cultural production in Dubai.