Kids love art. From the moment they can wrap their chubby fingers around those bright wax crayons, sprinkle some glitter and get their hands on the glue stick, they immerse themselves in everything bright and paint spattered. Nursery walls, classroom ceilings and even the kitchen fridge provide the perfect canvas to display these works of art (apparently). And, as Dubai is a hub for so much creativity from across the globe, it stands to reason that the city offers up a wonderful fusion of classes and activities for children to really get inspired, not just during Art Week, but all year long. From street art to photography, architecture to watercolours, we’ve broken out our paint palettes and scouted Dubai's most colourful classes for kids.
Draw or paint it
Drawing at DUCTAC
There are a range of classes available for kids of all ages at this creative hub in Mall of the Emirates. Firstly, tiny tots, aged three to five with a love of drawing, can enjoy a class where they will explore the world of painting by experimenting with various mediums, including watercolours, colour pencils, and acrylic paints. Meanwhile, children aged six to ten can discover the world of colour and learn a basic understanding of drawing and painting, as well as be introduced to the basic vocabulary of art and famous styles of painting. As for the older lot, aged eight to 14, they get the chance to develop their drawing and shading skills and even debut their new techniques on a real canvas. This class is suitable for all abilities, from beginners to the more advanced, as they will learn composition and correct techniques using graded pencils, charcoal, colour pencils and pastels.
From Dhs360 (four consecutive classes). Days and timings vary. Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha, www.ductac.org (04 341 4777).
Fashion design at DUCTAC
Let your little trend-setters unlock their sartorial imagination with the chance to design and make their very own clothes. From initial designs, through to final construction, they will learn how to sketch and illustrate their own simple fashion garments. Move over, Stella McCartney!
Dhs1,040 (for eight consecutive classes). Wed and Thu 4pm-6pm, Sat 3.45pm-5.45pm. Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha, www.ductac.org (04 341 4777).
My Big Messy Art Class at Kidville
This 45-minute class is just for the younger 18- to 24-month crowd, as they’re left free to smear, squeeze, splatter and otherwise explore artistic possibilities in the sensory play bins and paint giant paper sheets. Get ready for a messy good time – one that the parents aren’t left to clean up afterwards!
Dhs1,195 (per term). Sun 4pm, Tue 3pm. Plaza Level Rimal 5, The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence, www.kidville.com/jbr (04 440 1220).
My Masterpiece at Kidville
Another one from this family hub teaches the three- to five-year-old set about technique and style. The class utilises instruments and materials suited to build dexterity and fine motor skills. Each week results in a new masterpiece inspired by classic artists, so best to have your refrigerator gallery ready for new installations after a term here!
Dhs1,495 (per term). Wed 3pm. Plaza Level Rimal 5, The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence, www.kidville.com/jbr (04 440 1220).
Painting and drawing at Lotus Educational Institute
The Lotus Educational Institute focuses on artistic pursuits for therapeutic purposes, hosting a class that introduces art lovers aged six to 12 to different techniques in painting and drawing. The kids will then produce their own artwork based on the exercises.
Dhs1,196 (per term). Sat and Sun 4pm-6pm. Office G01, Block 13, Dubai Knowledge Village, www.lotus.ae (04 391 1718).
Painting classes at Dubai International Arts Centre
This non-profit runs various painting and drawing classes for kids aged four to seven, and eight to 12. Children will create figures, imaginary characters, animals, architecture, cities, real and imaginary landscapes, still life and plenty more. They will learn hand-led work and techniques with the age-appropriate simplified methods allowing them to expand their artistic abilities at their own pace.
Dhs150 (per class). Sat, timings vary. Villa 27, Street 75b, Jumeirah 1 (04 344 4398).
Clay sculpture for kids at Kidville
Clay is a soft, malleable and tactile medium that allows creativity to soar in 3D. In this course, kids aged six to 11 will be introduced to the clay-shaping techniques used in hand- building, slab-melding and clay-modelling.
Dhs1,495 (per term). Tue 4pm. Plaza Level Rimal 5, The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence, www.kidville.com/jbr (04 440 1220).
Construction Junction at Kidville
Kids from three- to five-years-old will love going beyond just blocks with Construction Junction. This advanced art programme lets children learn how to plan, build and construct their own 3D art projects. Roads, towers, monuments and pyramids are just a sample of the structures to be introduced, imagined and created with wood, collage, cloth, clay and more.
Dhs1,495 (per term). Tue 4pm. Plaza Level Rimal 5, The Walk at Jumeirah Beach Residence, www.kidville.com/jbr (04 440 1220).
Doll-making at DUCTAC
Little toy lovers can create and sew their very own unique doll during this course. With a focus on developing design and technology skills, the class aims to stimulate creativity and aid the practise of mindfulness as the kids sew together in a group.
Dhs1,040 (for six consecutive classes). Tue 4pm-6pm, Sat 3.45pm-5.45pm. Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha, www.ductac.org (04 341 4777).
Mosaic at DUCTAC
Create beautiful mosaics of turtles, birds, dinosaurs and giraffes together at this parent and child course. It’s a brilliant way to have artistic fun with your seven- to 12-year-olds.
Dhs460 (for four consecutive sessions, plus materials). Sat 4-6pm. Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha, www.ductac.org (04 341 4777).
Pottery at Yadawei
Yadawei (meaning “handmade” in Arabic) is an open studio for ceramic art and pottery, offering authentic classes in pottery for children. Every week, students aged seven and upwards are introduced to a new technique and learn about the ceramics process through application and practise.
Dhs660 (for four classes, including all materials). Thu 5.30pm-7pm. 8th A Street, Al Quoz 1, www.yadawei.net/classes (04 379 1312).
Sculpture and clay modelling at Dubai International Arts Centre
This course encourages expression and exploration in 2D and 3D and is aimed at six- to eight-year-olds, focusing on having fun creating with malleable clay. It gives the little ones a chance to get messy, while they learn more about hands-on crafts.
Dhs910 for non-members. Sat 9:45am-11.45am. Villa 27, Street 75b, Jumeirah 1. www.artdubai.com (04 344 4398).
Click away to your heart’s content and stock up on the arts and crafts supplies at one of these handy online retailers.
Be prepared to lose track of time browsing one of these brilliant local art shops .
• Art Stop Everything from pastels, paints and stencils to origami and jewellery-making kits. Ask about their range of dedicated art courses.
Open Sat-Thu 10am-2pm and 4pm-8.30pm. Jumeirah Plaza, Jumeirah Road (04 349 0627).
• Creative Hands Find supplies for all your crafting needs here, from scrapbooking to card-making and decoupage to stencilling. They also run small workshops for both seasoned crafters and beginners.
Open daily 10am-7pm. Shop 13, Mayfair Building, Dubai Investment Park 1, www.creativehandsdubai.com (04 884 9343).
• Creative Minds Find all you need here, ranging from crafts supplies to costumes, seasonal decorations and all manner of artists’ materials.
Open daily 8am-11pm. International House, Street 1, Umm Suqeim Road, Al Barsha 2, www.creativemindsdubai.com (04 323 7180).
• Paper Lane This cute little store provides a selection of scrapbooking, stamping, arts and other craft materials from carefully curated brands. They also host kids’ birthday parties, with children working on their own exciting crafts projects.
Open daily 10am-10pm. Town Centre Jumeirah, Jumeirah Beach Road (04 344 3633).
Art House Café
This, the team says, is where art meets food. It’s a gorgeous, homely café tucked away on Al Wasl Road, boasting whimsical bicycles hanging from the walls, colourful scatter cushions and squishy sofas. The burgers are highly recommended and the coffee is good, too.
Open daily 8.30am-11.30pm. Villa 442, Al Wasl Road, Al Safa (04 349 0509).
Café Céramique is a wacky workshop, which lets you and your kids unleash your painting skills on a cornucopia of crockery. You don’t have to be Picasso to participate – just grab a table, pick up a brush and let loose on an unsuspecting pot or three, with an order of fresh juice and a sandwich on the side.
Open daily 9am-11pm. Jumeirah Town Centre Mall, Jumeirah, www.cafeceramique.ae (04 444 7331).
Surround yourself with some of the coolest pop art and sculptures made from recycled materials at this laid-back arts café. Opt for a table on the stunning roof garden for breakfast to spot the minarets and wind towers of Al Bastakiya below.
Open daily 9am-7pm. Al Serkal Cultural Foundation Building, Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, Bur Dubai (04 559 7856).
Sketch Art Café
Pitching itself as a sanctuary for creative minds, your littlest arty diners will love the landscaped garden, outdoor exhibition area and casual sofa seating at this branch inside the Marsam Mattar Gallery. And the sketch pads and pencils on every table will have everyone doodling while they eat.
Open daily 9am-9pm. Villa 21, Marsam Mattar Gallery, Satwa (04 398 8331).
Amid the labyrinthine alleyways that make up Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood hides this quirky little café inside the XVA Art Hotel. Step through the small Arabian-style doors and you’ll find yourself in a sheltered courtyard with photograph negatives hanging from the branches and a gallery hosting regular exhibitions to browse around after lunch. The food is all vegetarian and healthy to boot, too.
Open daily 7am-10pm. XVA Art Hotel, Al Fahidi Street, Bur Dubai, www.xvahotel.com (04 353 5383).
A great way to develop an awareness of the world around us is by getting out on the streets and being immersed in inspiration. Luckily for us, Dubai has a rich canvas of districts and communities. No advance preparation needed – just grab a map, your most comfortable walking shoes, open your peepers and enjoy.
It might not be the most glitzy of areas, but then who says that art needs to be glamorous? Sometimes a bit of grit goes a long way and hidden among the car repair shops, tyre yards and trampoline parks, is a vibrant artistic community that is as edgy as it is dusty. Alserkal Avenue provides a perfect space for creativity to flourish with its huge warehouses being the perfect spaces for exhibitions, and with plenty of parking space in the surrounding streets. This is our pick of the galleries:
• Ayyam Gallery
This top arts organisation manages a wide variety of established and emerging artists and you can peruse various exhibitions throughout the year.
11-12 Alserkal Avenue, Street 8, Al Quoz 1, www.ayyamgallery.com (04 323 6242).
• Gallery Isabelle van den Eynde
The gallery houses a unique array of contemporary artists, with regular exhibitions.
Unit 17, Alserkal Avenue, Street 8, Al Quoz 1, www.ivde.net (04 323 5052).
• The Cartoon Art Gallery
This gallery is a quirky, fresh breath of air that celebrates another side to the art world. It also happens to be the first gallery in the Middle East specifically dedicated to the art of cartooning and animation. The kids (big and small!) will particularly love this one.
4B Street, Al Quoz 1, www.cartoonartgallery.org (04 346 6467).
Synonymous with budget shopping and excellent Indian and Pakistani restaurants, Dubai’s Al Karama neighbourhood now has another unique point of interest. This iconic part of the Old Dubai district is quickly transforming into one of the coolest graffiti spots in the city. From a gigantic mural of a maned lion to a wall decorated with a ship crashing into the waves, many of Karama’s building façades have been transformed by a group of gifted local and international street artists with a mixed design of techniques, including 3D art, freestyle and traditional.
Dubai Design District, d3
Dubai Design District, d3, is a place for design enthusiasts to live, work and play. This neighbourhood has been carefully planned to enable aspiring designers to test their work and learn their trade, so local talent can work alongside international design, art and fashion houses. Its wide, open spaces are perfect for sweeping along with scooters and buggies, spotting cool galleries and pop-up installations as you go. There’s a range of excellent cafés where you can take it all in and be inspired. Check it out this month during Design Days Dubai, the leading fair in the Middle East dedicated to collectible and limited-edition furniture, where there will be interactive workshops, installations and live performances to enjoy from international artists.
Design Days Dubai: Dhs50 for an adult day pass (kids go free). March 14-17, timings vary. Dubai Design District, d3, www.dubaidesigndistrict.com, www.designdaysdubai.ae.
Fifteen of the world’s most celebrated urban artists were given a super-sized blank canvas to do with it what they wish, with the final results used to decorate one of Dubai’s most popular districts, as part of the inaugural Dubai Walls project. And big names from the street art world, including Rone, Eine, Nick Walker, Magda Sayeg and Blek Le Rat, left their creative stamp all over City Walk. The artists, who hailed from five different continents, used physical props, spray tins, stencils and good old-fashioned paint brushes to create an area awash with stunning colour. You can see the latest work yourself, when it’s unveiled this month at the Dubai Canvas 3D Art Festival.
Free. March 1-7. City Walk, www.3daward.branddubai.com, www.citywalk.ae.
Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood
Meander around the alleyways of this lovely, cultural hotspot, also known as Al Bastakiya. Soak up the historical vibes, spot some street art and pop into various crafts stores and art galleries. It’s located close to The Dubai Museum, which is a great eye-opener for little minds, as well as Dubai Creek, where you can take an abra to criss-cross the waterway and experience Dubai as it was. Nearby, a wander around Bur Dubai’s souk is also a great experience and you can pick up fabrics and other artistic materials, as well as get inspired by the bustling streets.
From March 13-18, Dubai will be immersed in all things artistic as Art Week takes hold. Spend a family weekend at the event, discovering a wide range of art within the Contemporary and Modern gallery halls, watching live performance-art pieces and exploring a variety of exhibitions and installations showcased by more than 90 galleries from across the world. For the little ones, the Sheikha Manal Little Artist’s Programme provides hands-on and engaging workshops for children between the ages of five and 17. The programme encourages young people to get involved in the arts, acting as a platform for creative thinking and expression.
Dhs50 per ticket, per day (in advance via the website), Dhs80 (at the door), free (children under 18). March 15-18, timings vary. Madinat Jumeirah, Umm Suqeim, www.artweek.ae.
Also check out this year’s SIKKA Art Fair at the historical district of Al Fahidi, which sits along the banks of Dubai Creek. The event showcases works of UAE-based artists from various countries, encouraging them to share their talent with the wider community and encourage a culture of art in the city. There’s the chance to see audio and video installations, music performances and visual arts, such as photography, sculpture and painting.
Free. March 12-18. Al Fahidi Historical Neighbourhood, www.dubaiculture.gov.ae.
Therapy through expression
Art therapy is helping troubled teens and stressed-out primary school children work through issues using the freedom of expression gained from the humble paintbrush.
Andrew Wright, art therapist and director of Attic Art Therapy, explains how it works:
“Art therapy is a form of psychotherapy with the use of the creative arts as a main form of expression. In an art therapy session, a child or adult is guided by an art therapist to explore different creative mediums to aid their personal communication, wellness and personal development. Making art can be a powerful yet non-intrusive way to get in touch with how we feel and can lead to personal insight and growth. With children, fears and worries expressed through art and play can be metaphors for how they are feeling and can be an insight
into their inner world.
“Art therapy works especially well for children because art and play are a natural way for them to communicate. It can help children to get in touch with deeper emotions and learn to regulate and communicate their feelings. Often this approach can be a more effective way of helping children communicate their fears and worries than the use of words, and can be a way for them to work on issues such as self-esteem, barriers to communication, and help with attachment, social and anxiety issues. Sometimes a child may be withdrawn or acting out with angry behaviour – working with an art therapist helps the child to overcome, at times, overwhelming negative emotions and experiences and make positive relationships through the safe element of making art.”
Artist Ramy Elzaghawy offers up his tips on how to tackle the art galleries with kids, and avoid a disastrous melt-down.
“Art galleries have a certain etiquette and rules that should be followed by parents when bringing their children – visiting a gallery is a beautiful experience to have under very close supervision with instructions on how to get the best out of the visit. It’s a good learning place to teach children discipline and, especially for older children, to learn how to appreciate other people’s work and how to behave around delicate pieces.”
Here are a few tips to get you started:
1. Enjoy art yourself. Long before you visit your first gallery together, display artwork around your home – whether it’s professional or homemade – and talk about your own connections to the art. Explain that each person experiences art differently and help them see that, as they grow, art will be an everyday part of their life experience.
2. Prepare for the specific artwork. Check the gallery’s website and find out what artwork will be on display, choose a few pieces to study and discuss them with your kids before you go. Print out photos of those pieces, read out loud what they’re about and why they’re meaningful and research the artists themselves together.
3. Place art in history. Many pieces of art are old and that makes it hard for kids to relate to. Find something in history that your kids are interested in and place art in the same context. If they love the Terrible Tudors from the Horrible Histories series, for example, find out what famous paintings were created around that time and talk about who painted them. Any connection, however small, will make the art more meaningful to them.
4. Let life imitate art. Have some fun by asking them to mimic the artwork they see. Pose and pretend to be the characters in the paintings and, this way, they will learn and absorb the details without even realising it.
5. Hunger for art is great But hunger for lunch is not. Don’t let a temper tantrum spoil your trip, and feed the troops before your visit. Timing is everything (as is a decent gallery café).
6. Spot a familiar face. Task everyone with the job of finding the faces of friends, family members or even teachers in some of the portraits you’re looking at. The biggest cupcake at the aforementioned café goes to the one who can spot the most lookalikes!
7. See (a still) life through a lens. Check the rules before you go, but, where possible, let your kids take pictures of the works they like, so they can feel as though they’ve made the art their own. And then they can take it home to enjoy again.