Designed to reflect a playful, stimulating environment with wide, open spaces, aesthetic use of colours, and plenty of natural light streaming in, the Al Jalila Cultural Centre for Children opens up a world of infinite possibilities that can be explored through the world of art and other creative pursuits.

Tucked away in a quiet corner on Al Wasl Road, the Centre fosters an environment of play and experimentation, and aims to encourage critical thinking and creativity in children. Targeting children between the ages of 7 and 18, several courses in various disciplines such as visual arts, performing arts, fashion designing, screen printing, etc are offered here. Professional artists in their respective fields instruct children on the basis of an academic curriculum but also mould them to express their individuality through their work.

According to Helen Karam, Head of the Painting Studio, ‘The Visual Arts department is one of the main pillars of the Al Jalila Cultural Centre. At our painting studio, we offer both children and adults the creative space and freedom to explore, experiment and discover their unique potential. Along with foundational art practices and skills, children are exposed to new sensory experiences and art mediums as well.’

Stretched across a long table in the centre of this studio is a vibrant artwork filled with portraits, landscapes, line drawings and pencil sketches that, says Helen, was just a blank white paper a few days ago. ‘This is our hands-on space for anyone — students, staff or guests at the Centre — to engage in the creative process,’ she says. ‘You can begin your journey of discovery or self-exploration right here.’

Kamal Al Zoubi helps kids express their creativity through pottery
Antonin Kelian Kallouche

The Al Jalila Cultural Centre places great emphasis on discovering and encouraging new talent, she adds. ‘We offer a range of courses both for beginners and talented students, and adults. This includes a family workshop where parents and kids can work together on one single art piece. In our art therapy course, art is used as a tool to unleash suppressed or hidden feelings. It is the psychological release, more than the artistic capability that is the focus in art therapy.’

Smell, sight, touch — all these senses come into play at the Pottery Studio where, under the guidance of Kamal Al Zoubi and Eman Al Hashemi, children are given the freedom to shape the clay to their will and express their creativity. ‘All children have a natural relationship with clay; it can nurture a child’s growth,’ says Eman. ‘The various courses we offer helps both children and adults explore different pottery and sculpting techniques such as coiling, hand building, slab building, etc.’

Perfection is not the goal here, she asserts. ‘Instead, we encourage them to express their imagination, explore new ideas, think about their actions as they work on their pieces, and also learn to communicate about what they are creating.’

The walls of this large studio are decked with the works of the students, including those who are preparing to exhibit their work soon. From human figures and animals to trees, toys and a range of pots, cups and plates, every finished product attests to the skills and competencies of each of the students.

The school uses art as a tool to unleash suppressed or hidden feelings
Antonin Kelian Kallouche

On the first floor of the Centre is the screenprinting studio where Muna Amareen teaches her students different techniques such as emphasis on paper stencil, filler and photo emulsion processes. While at the fashion studio, children learn the basic foundations of fashion design and textiles.

The Music Department at the Al Jalila Cultural Centre has much to cheer about after winning the Choir of the Year honour at the ChoirFest Middle East 2019 in March. According to music teacher Feras Rada, ‘Our students were selected from among more than 50 local and regional choir groups, and this honour is a testimony to some of the amazing talent we have here.’

The interactive curriculum the department is designed to develop a child’s musical skills and is delivered through a mix of individual, ensemble and group lessons. Currently, the department offers one-to-one training for violin, viola, cello, trumpet, trombone, guitar, piano, theory and aural training.

A bright, colourful library holds regular story telling sessions, and is packed with Arabic books and a small collection of English books. At the PearlFM radio station, children are given the opportunity to connect with the community and has a show hosted exclusively by kids, where they take the lead in discussing topics of their interest.

Visitors are welcome to view the premises of the Al Jalila Cultural Centre for Children from 9am to 8pm. The Centre is closed on Fridays.