Getting creative with the cultural sector benefits society and the economy

A new national programme to support Emirati artists is a wise investment for the future

1 - May - 2013, Eastern Mangroves Hotel, Abu Dhabi

Islamic Geometry Art class at  Eastern Mangroves Hotel. Students Learn about the Islamic pattern and taking class with Richard Henry is an artist and teacher with a specialism in Islamic geometric pattern, and Adam Williamson is a stone/wood carver and artist practicing in many media. Fatima AL Marzouqi/ The National.
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Most people have a heartfelt need to create and express themselves – it’s part of what makes us human. However, while art, music and writing can be fulfilling at an individual level, governments are increasingly aware of the importance of nurturing creative talent for the benefit of society and the economy.

The creative economy is growing in importance around the world. According to the UN Conference on Trade and Development, in 2020, it accounted for 3.1 per cent of global gross domestic product and 6.2 per cent of employment worldwide, equating to 50 million jobs. The creative industry also employs more young people than other sectors and is a major driver of innovation and economic growth, fuelling cultural tourism and creating vibrant societies.

The UAE government has elevated the role of creative industries in the past few years. It recently unveiled a national programme to support culture and creativity. Grants of up to Dh100,000 ($27,230) are being made available for Emirati applicants working on projects in disciplines that include literature, music, film and TV, performing arts and theatre, visual arts and design, video games and cultural heritage. That’s good for the Emirates’ cultural and creative industries both at home and on the global stage.

The potential of the creative sector in the UAE has already been recognised – the Dubai Creative Economy Strategy, launched in 2021, is just one initiative that aims to double the contribution of the creative industries from 2.6 per cent of the emirate’s GDP in 2020 to five per cent by 2025. It also seeks double the number of creators based in the emirate, from 70,000 in 2020 to 140,000 by 2025.

This harnessing of the country’s talent comes at an opportune time, as new and developing technologies rapidly change how people work and create. Artificial intelligence, which is already the focus of several institutions in the UAE, is one such game changer, and it will require talented people equipped with the right training and skills in order to fully realise its potential.

A quick glance at the UAE’s well-established cultural calendar reveals the vibrancy of a country that values its creatives. The Sharjah Biennial, Art Dubai and Abu Dhabi Art are just three examples of major events that contribute to the country’s creative life and economy. Numerous exhibitions, film festivals and performances take place in repurposed former industrial locations that are revitalising the country’s urban landscapes, such as Alserkal Avenue in Dubai and Warehouse 421 in Abu Dhabi. These accompany purpose-built cultural spaces of international significance, such as Louvre Abu Dhabi, while the Culture Summit held in the capital is now a major event on the global culture calendar.

Bringing creative minds together and giving them the opportunity to forge a career in their chosen field is not only good for society, it is also good for the economy. Yes, art and creativity are things that have intrinsic value. But for societies to invest in and encourage more homegrown talent in a rapidly changing sector is a wise investment for the future.

Published: August 09, 2023, 3:00 AM