Get Creative

Uns Kattan, Head of Learning and Research at Jameel Arts Centre, and Antonia Carver, Director, Art Jameel, discuss the values of using art to cultivate wellbeing

‘Wellbeing’ is certainly a buzzword right now. In June, the UAE government announced 90 different initiatives under the banner of the National Wellbeing Strategy of 2031, with specific attention given to mental health, life skills, positive social impact, and embracing cultural diversity.

Equal care is going into the establishment, development, and support of arts and culture in the UAE. It’s now increasingly recognised that the two – creativity and wellbeing – go hand in hand. Until recently, the arts tended to be seen as a somewhat fluffy, optional add-ons to serious learning – but times are changing.

Arts and creativity not only provide inclusive and engaging platforms for innovative learning methodologies but also nurture openness and inspire connected future generations.

A Brookings Institute report published early this year analysed empirically for the first time how the arts can affect students’ wider development. To quote their findings: ”We find that a substantial increase in arts educational experiences has remarkable impacts on students’ academic, social, and emotional outcomes. [School students given access to arts education in the study] experienced a 3.6 per cent reduction in disciplinary infractions, an improvement of 13 per cent in standardised writing scores, and an increase of 8 per cent in their compassion for others.“

In other studies, arts education, and creative teaching practices in general are recognised as being uniquely placed to nurture the kinds of critical thinking and soft skills necessary for tomorrow’s complex, technology-driven reality. Add in the UAE’s focus on happiness, new technologies, and future-proofed education, and the arts become an even more vital tool
for individual and collective growth.

You could say we’re a little biased: we see daily how school children and youth spending time at Jameel Arts Centre transform creatively.
Education lies at the heart of our foundation, Art Jameel. Located in Jaddaf Waterfront, Dubai, the Jameel Arts Centre features a range of curated solo and group exhibitions, an arts-themed library, and a dynamic public programme that includes daily tours and specialised workshops for schools alongside weekend workshops for families.

Some of the works on show are just stunning in terms of the imagination and skills needed to produce them; the majority also inspire discussion and debate on social studies, the family, belonging, geo-politics, and more.

In November 2018, students from GEMS Modern Academy participated in guided exhibition tours followed by an artist-led workshop
In November 2018, students from GEMS Modern Academy participated in guided exhibition tours followed by an artist-led workshop

Top tips to embrace your own and your students’ creativity:

Collaborate with an artist
Attend an artist-led workshop, activity or talk for inspiration on creative, critical thinking; shed inhibitions and work on dynamic concepts and ideas. These conversations and situations often remind us that art is a means and not an end.

Keep a journal
Challenge yourself with keeping a journal to reflect and record thoughts. Find inspiration in the every day, in mundanity and
in simplicity.

Stay curious
Curiosity fuels creativity! Attempt something new, consider different perspectives and opinions on subjects of interest and in problem-solving. Curiosity should not (and must not!) stop when we become adults but should rather translate into research and original thinking — and inspiring the same in others.

Practice mindfulness
A relaxed mind is a catalyst for productive thinking and ideas.

Keep on keeping on!
Nurture courage; develop resilience against a natural fear of failure. Time allows for opportunities for discipline and delving deeper towards finding better resolutions.