Sharjah Museums Department represented the Emirate of Sharjah at the 3rd Annual New Cities Summit in Dallas, Texas, where Director General Manal Ataya spoke on an experts panel, sharing best practices that have enabled Sharjah to seamlessly embrace its cultural institutions.
The discussion and interactive workshop titled "Cultural Districts as Engines of Urban Transformation," explored key success factors that transform a cultural district into a sustainable, innovative and binding thread in the fabric of urban life.
Ataya introduced SMD, which was founded as an independent government department in 2006 under the vision of H.H. Dr Sheikh Sultan bin Mohammed Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah. She went on to note how, in a very short time, SMD has managed to open and support 16 thriving museums and attributed this rapid growth to the overwhelming relevance that permanent collections, temporary exhibitions and institutions have in common with the surrounding community of Sharjah and its rich, multi-layered heritage.
The session was moderated by Adrian Ellis, Director of the Global Cultural Districts Network (GCDN) and Founder of AEA Consulting, who opened it by remarking, "We have a truly impressive line-up of experts ready and willing to ask hard questions about how to make these cultural districts successful. There will be a rich variety of global perspectives around the table and I am looking forward to gathering a great list of best practices that GCDN can then disseminate to its members and share with the field." Other knowledgeable panellists included Jamie Bennett (Executive Director of ArtPlace America), Zhiyong Fu (Vice Director, Information Art and Design Department, Academy of Arts and Design, Tsinghua University, China), and Jeffrey Johnson (Founding Director of China Megacities Lab, Columbia University USA).
Over 800 attendees from 40 countries congregated in Dallas Winspear Opera House in the heart of the city s vibrant arts district 17-19 June for the summit hosted by the New Cities Foundation, an independent, non-profit organisation dedicated to making cities across the world more inclusive, dynamic and creative. The conference is a platform for action-focused dialogue and the sharing of best practices between leaders, thinkers, and builders of global urban centres.
Around 90 international speakers from the public, private, education and non-for-profit sectors delivered presentations and participated in panel discussions centred around the conference s theme "Re-imagining Cities: Transforming the 21st Century Metropolis." Reflecting upon her participation in the engaging summit, Ataya stated, "In today's world, cities are increasingly looking at the economic benefit of building cultural districts and it's up to the stakeholders to engage community members to shape, develop, and re-imagine these urban spaces to enable populations and diverse cultures to thrive. Sharjah is a brilliant example of a diverse city with museums that are the pride of the community." She went on to add, "By connecting to share information and troubleshoot challenges with other thought-leaders from around the world, SMD has brought back to the U.A.E. a wealth of ideas and an even stronger network of like-minded organisations to draw upon in the future."