A Solidarity Fund by Culture Resource and AFAC to Support Artists and Cultural Organizations in Lebanon

This is the first time that the two regional cultural organizations have proposed a joint initiative to support the cultural sector hit hard by public health and economic crises. Scholarships can be up to $80,000 per recipient. Sixteen active organizations based in Lebanon will benefit. Helena Nassif and Rima Mismar, the respective directors of al-Mawred al-Thaqafy (Culture Resource) and the Arab fund for Art and Culture (AFAC), draw up a rather bleak picture of the sector as they answer together questions by OLJ. But hope and resilience are not dead.

A Solidarity Fund by Culture Resource and AFAC to Support Artists and Cultural Organizations in Lebanon

"A ticket to Atlantis" (Liban - 2019) : a performance by Lina Issa et Mayar Alexan, financed by AFAC and al-Mawared.

Today, al-Mawred al-Thaqafy and AFAC are joining forces for the first time to launch a sol-idarity fund for Lebanese artists and cultural institutions. How was this collaboration born?

Both organizations are specifically dedicated to supporting artists and artistic and cultural or-ganizations in the Arab world through a multitude of programs providing financial support but also assistance for skills development and training sessions. Our respective missions are meant to meet the needs of the sector and fill in the gaps. It was therefore natural for our two organi-zations to share the desire and responsibility to help organizations and artists in these difficult times.

How much is the amount of aid provided by this solidarity fund and how can one apply for it?

It should first be noted that this solidarity fund is supported in large part by the Open Society Foundation and the Ford Foundation, long-time partners of al-Mawred and AFAC. Assistance can be as high as $80,000 per organization. Sixteen active organizations based in Lebanon will benefit. Applicants must submit a letter of interest with supporting documentation. The deadline for ap-plications was June 15, 2020. For details, please visit:

What do you hope to accomplish with this initiative?

We feel a responsibility for the urgent and changing needs of the sector in Lebanon. We want to help as many people or organizations as possible and allow them to take time to reinvent themselves and prepare new creations.

Who are the potential beneficiaries? Who did you encourage to apply?

The fund is open to all organizations working in the arts and culture, in all disciplines, and which have been in existence for more than two years. We encourage those whose professional sur-vival is at risk and those who face new challenges to question their mission, practices and commitment to communities.

Can you provide an overview of the cultural sector in Lebanon today? How have things changed in the last five and 10 years?

If this question was asked before October 2019 and before the pandemic, we would have ap-plauded the dynamic proliferation of the arts and culture sector, especially in Beirut but also increasingly in the regions. Through all disciplines – film, music, theatre, dance, visual arts, photography, writing, research in the arts – the sector has been built by passionate and ambi-tious individuals and collectives.

Throughout the year, several festivals and events brought together young and old people around rich artistic events that tackled topics with social, aesthetic and imaginary significance. Every day we had a generous range of options. In the last five years alone, at AFAC and al-Mawred, we received 2,000 proposals from artists or institutions in Lebanon and supported more than 250.

Today, with economic paralysis of this magnitude, this momentum is in jeopardy and small ac-tive initiatives can no longer survive on their own.

We are going through an intense and tense period and the impact on the arts and culture sec-tor will be clearer in one or two years. We will also be able to witness a flood of creativity ac-cumulated over the past 10 years over a short period of time. That is why it is difficult to ana-lyze the state of the sector when we are in the middle of a “storm.”

However, we can analyze the new realities and rely on certain facts. An economic crisis has hit the country hard and all sectors are affected. Being largely dependent on non-governmental support, the cultural sector is uniquely affected: lack of public support, absence of incentive programs, fragile infrastructure, non-existence of cultural policy.

In other words, it is a sector that has always suffered from vulnerability and precariousness which, in times of crisis, are magnified and multiplied.

With the economic collapse, and more recently the coronavirus epidemic and confinement measures, artists and cultural and artistic organizations have been hit hard by their inability to perform or continue to operate. In addition, in light of these new realities, many of these or-ganizations and collectives are grappling with crucial and internal issues and reflecting on the value and scope of their respective work vis-à-vis their communities.

Much has been said that this crisis can be an opportunity for us to come together and reflect together, to rethink the economies of cultural production, the functioning of organizations and the mode of financing in a way that reflects new local realities.

This discourse reflects a level of maturity and the urgency to act, but we must not forget that any collective strategic thinking requires time, resources and a favorable environment.

In your opinion, as directors of cultural associations, how bad is the situation of Lebanese artists?

Artists in Lebanon cannot be placed in a single category. An artist’s situation varies according to their gender, their years of experience, the network to which they are affiliated, etc. But we can generalize by saying that the economic crisis and the pandemic put enormous pressure on artists who make a living from their art. Most, if not all, artists work in the informal sector and are dependent on highly unstable sources of income, making their situation very precarious.

Are you planning other initiatives to support small enterprises in the months or years ahead?

Artistic and cultural organizations in the region are coordinating their efforts to support cultur-al, individual and collective actors.

Regional organizations such as al-Mawred and AFAC will announce new initiatives to support artists in response to the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic. Al-Mawred has announced a new element in its Stand for Art program to help artists, technicians and cultural actors who need help most during the pandemic period. AFAC will also launch an artist residency grant to enable beneficiaries to pursue their projects, develop new ideas or find new ways to dissemi-nate their work, for example through technological solutions. Other regional funding mecha-nisms will also be announced soon and artists living in Lebanon will of course be able to apply.

In the absence of a policy of government assistance and support to the cultural sector, Lebanese artists relied on foreign aid or local sponsors, including banks. It goes without saying that they will no longer be able to rely on most Lebanese banks today...What means of survival for artists exist in the post-Covid-19 era?

Aid for the cultural sector is dwindling around the world. It is also taking other forms. The cur-rent crisis is magnifying this reality and we are unable to predict possible aid in the future. We have to wait and see if the global health crisis will be reflected on the funds allocated to the cultural sector.

Despite all the challenges, artists will continue to create. We are confident. We are also sure that there will always be generous local philanthropists who will respond to the circumstances and offer their support.

After all, the Arab world has been grappling with political, social and economic challenges for more than 50 years. The art that emerged during these years is the result of the work of the artists who react to crises and manage them as much as they can. Their resilience has proven its worth over the years: they know better than anyone to transcend all kinds of restrictions.

Call for Applications for a Master’s Degree in Cultural Management

Al-Mawred al-Thaqafy (Culture Resource) and the Faculty of Arts and Humanities at Hassan II University in Ben M’sik, Casablanca, Morocco, are calling for applications for a scholarship for a master’s degree in cultural policy and management for the years 2020/2022.

This master’s degree was founded two years ago by al-Mawred in partnership with Hassan II University in Morocco and Hildesheim University in Germany, alongside the latter’s UNESCO Chair in Cultural Policy for the Arts in Development. The program, the only one of its kind in the Arab region, is offered in Arabic and English over a total of two years.

The initiative for this master’s degree aims to train senior managers in the fields of cultural management and governance in the Arab world. The program offers a partial scholarship and a fund to support the end-of-cycle project, as well as participation in the summer academy orga-nized in collaboration with the University of Hildesheim. The program also offers logistical as-sistance and facilities for obtaining a visa and residence permit for non-Moroccans.

Applicants must have a bachelor’s degree and three years of experience in the cultural sector. They must also have a good level in Arabic and English. The deadline for applications is July 10, 2020 at 4 pm Beirut time. For more information: [email protected]

(This article was originally published in French in L'Orient-Le Jour on the 3rd of June)

Today, al-Mawred al-Thaqafy and AFAC are joining forces for the first time to launch a sol-idarity fund for Lebanese artists and cultural institutions. How was this collaboration born?Both organizations are specifically dedicated to supporting artists and artistic and cultural or-ganizations in the Arab world through a multitude of programs providing financial support but also assistance for...