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An education in funding Arab arts

Salameh believes in investing in individuals rather than buildings. (Grace Kassab/The Daily Star)

BEIRUT: Time was, artists and arts administrators in this country wished that Lebanon were more European. Standards vary from state to state but, historically, Western European governments have demonstrated a degree of financial and institutional commitment to art and cultural production that the managers of Lebanon’s meager state had no means, and little interest, to emulate.

With no local support for cultural production, Lebanese artists without independent means have had to rely on financial assistance from Europe, whether from Mother France or the EU.

Perceived as extensions of the social welfare state, Europe’s art funding infrastructure has been under threat since the end of last century, the ideological menace finding populist political traction in the wake of the crisis in global finance capitalism that coincided with the end of the second Bush administration.

While the European model of arts infrastructure has come under siege, alternative sources of funding have been evolving in the Middle East. Arab filmmakers have increasingly been lured to a web of production grants spinning out of film festivals in Qatar and the UAE (in both Dubai and Abu Dhabi).

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