Prestige issue 269-270, Dec. 2015-Jan. 2016

Make Art Possible

The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (Afac) supports artists in many categories, like cinema, visual arts, music, photography, literature, research… Many projects supported by this arab granting institution were acclaimed internationally by winning awards.

Arab Fund for Art and Culture (AFAC) Gala, September 23, 2015, Ford Foundation NYC

What is AFAC? What makes it unique? AFAC is in the business of providing grants intelligently to a large community of artists from a wide range of disciplines; we do not produce art ourselves. Often, managing the arts is marred by personal bias and taste and can only benefit from a rigorous and systematic management approach from «outside the box». AFAC aims to enable a thriving Arab art and cultural scene, one that is confident in its expression, accessible to all and sustained locally by committed patrons. Two fundamental principles guide AFAC’s mode of work: transparency in the grant giving process and independence through a diversity of funding sources.

When was AFAC established and who is behind the conception of this institution? AFAC was established in 2007 led by a group of Arab philanthropists and entrepreneurs who felt the severe deficiency in supporting arts and culture in the Arab region.

Who are the board members? AFAC’s board members represent a geographical diversity and hail from a multitude of backgrounds, contributing a breadth of expertise to the initiative. AFAC was founded by Dr. Ghassan Salamé, the Chairman of the Board of Trustees, together with Dr. Nabil Qaddumi, the Vice Chairman and a group of cultural practitioners and prominent business men and women from across the region Dr. Suzanne Wettenschwiler,  Sawsan Al-Fahoum Jafar, Abbas Zuaiter, Hani Kalouti, Amr Ben Halim, Abla Lahoud and Olfat Al-Mutlaq Juffali. Convening twice a year, the board has supported AFAC’s reach in their own countries, cities and cultural communities.

You have grantees from Lebanon and the Arab region, what is the process of selection? Can anyone apply? Since its establishment, AFAC’s core activity has been to fund projects and initiatives through its General Grant, with an open call for project proposals issued in six categories: Cinema, Performing Arts, Visual Arts, Literature, Music, as well as Research, Training and Regional Events (RTR). For its General Grant, AFAC currently makes two annual calls for project proposals, each in three categories. Each call remains open for approximately three months. After the call closes, the evaluation and selection process takes another two months before grant winners are announced. In parallel with the general open calls for proposals, which ensure equal access for applicants and provide a continuous barometer for the state of arts and culture in the region, AFAC utilizes its accumulated experience in the region to design programs. Our current special programs are aimed to support Documentary film making, Arab Novel Writing and Documentary Photography.

How many artists have you helped until this day? Ely Dagher was one of your grantees, his movie won «La Palme d’Or» at the Cannes Festival… what do you have to say about this success story? AFAC had managed to become the preferred source of funding for artists of the region. Our funding is a seal of independence and quality and our clear and transparent grant-making process is accessible to hundreds of artists and institutions across the region and abroad. We have offered about 800 grants to date, with an average of 100 grants per year and annual budget of approximately $3 million dollars in grant-making, thus empowering artists to create works without restrictions and in true responsiveness to individual and community needs. AFAC was instrumental in allowing Ely Dagher to express his talent and we are proud of his success as well as the success of a number of our grantees.

What is this Gala dinner about? Are you going to highlight the work of your grantees? AFAC aims to mobilize local support for cultural initiatives by raising awareness on the importance of cultural philanthropy within the Arab region. While charitable giving is abundant, the recognition of arts and culture as a valid recipient of strategic philanthropic investment is still lacking and needs to be developed.  To that effect, we decided to work under the theme of Make Art Possible and target well-known international art patrons and philanthropists to channel support for arts and culture in the Arab region. We also use this event to highlight the work of some of our grantees through artistic installations, an exhibition.

Do you have anything to say to the readers? Given AFAC’s nature as an institution that is developing infrastructure for philanthropy in the region, we have managed to invest in talented young people who are determined to propel this region forward. Conducted by R.S.


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