Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo on Art Amid Covid: 'The arts will prevail in spite of the pandemic'

A long-standing patron of the arts, Alkhamis-Kanoo talks about creating a platform for artists to discuss the impact of Covid-19 on their practices

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The pandemic has raised new questions for various professions and industries, including the arts. How can artists produce and exhibit their works in a socially distanced world? What type of support do creative individuals and institutions need to keep going? How can art help process grief and crisis?

In the ongoing Art Amid Covid video series, 10 artists share their responses through interviews, discussing the pandemic and its impact on their practices.

Part of Abu Dhabi Festival’s Riwaq Al Fikr talks programme, Art Amid Covid consists of five episodes with artists such as Najat Makki, Michael Rice, Mattar Bin Lahej, Obaid AlBudoor and Azza Al Qubaisi, among others, who have been interviewed by curator Jalal Luqman.

The series was developed by Huda Alkhamis-Kanoo, founder of the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation (Admaf) and artistic director of Abu Dhabi Festival, along with the team behind the annual cultural event.

She established the foundation in 1996 before creating the festival eight years later. Since then, Abu Dhabi Festival has grown into a large cultural celebration that brings together musical performances and visual artists from the region.

Now Alkhamis-Kanoo talks about why the Art Amid Covid series is an important part of the festival and how it can amplify the voices of artists as they navigate a new reality in the art and culture sector.

What is the aim of the Art Amid Covid series?

Featuring interviews from Emirati and non-Emirati artists based in the UAE, the series captures how they have been affected by Covid-19 and how the importance of art to society may have changed in the context of the pandemic. The interviews explore how Covid-19 has affected the way artists work and how their art is experienced, discussing how the pandemic may have forever impacted the art industry.

Our ultimate aim is to keep the art and culture conversation alive and create a forum for artists to convey their experiences, showing that the arts will prevail in spite of the pandemic's impact.

Our ultimate aim is to keep the art and culture conversation alive and create a forum for artists to convey their experiences, showing that the arts will prevail in spite of the pandemic’s impact.

What audiences are you trying to reach with the series?

We hope the series resonates not only with artists and people working in the arts, but with all people. The benefits of art are vital to the well-being of everyone in a society, and the Abu Dhabi Music & Arts Foundation's work is based on the value of art as an essential part of our human existence. The pandemic has only reinforced this, as art and culture content became essential to helping us all through lockdowns and isolation.

Why is it important to give the artists a voice through this series?

These conversations are vital to the arts and culture community in the UAE, and everywhere in the world, as we begin to understand what artists are going through and how we can best support them. It is important for the world to know how resilient artists have been in these difficult times. In the UAE, we have noticed strong support from our nation’s wise leadership, and from our people. We all have a responsibility to sustain the culture and creative industries now to ensure a progressive future.

Why is it important for events such as Abu Dhabi Festival to continue despite the pandemic?

Festivals and other cultural events are essential income for artists and are vital revenue for the economies of every nation. They are the cultural heart of strong communities, offering a place for both artists and the public to come together in celebration and support of the arts.

Art Amid Covid’s final episode will be released on Tuesday, February 23. Previous episodes can be found on Abu Dhabi Festival’s YouTube page and website. More information is available at