Sarah Almehairi wears many hats—she’s an artist, poet and spin instructor. It’s been a busy few years for her, especially as she has quickly risen to the fore as one of the UAE’s most exciting young artists at just age 24. But it could’ve been different.
She had initially opted for a Psychology degree at NYU Abu Dhabi, but realised over time that her love of art precedes all else. She soon switched degrees and became more involved in the local art scene, exploring opportunities ranging from participating in exhibitions to taking up internships and research writing. The growing governmental investment in art further propelled her to discover the many new possibilities of pursuing a career in the creative realm.Sarah Almehairi. 3. Watch Your Step. 2022. Concrete pavers. 200x224x8cm.
Image courtesy of the artist and Carbon 12
“It was challenging at first to navigate the UAE art scene as a student,” says Sarah. “It took some time for me to understand an ecosystem that’s constantly developing and find my possible place within it. But with my growing experience over the years and seeing the rise of both large-scale and grassroots initiatives, I’m confident that I too can be a part of the change.”
Dubai-based gallery Carbon 12 noticed Sarah’s potential on a talent-scouting trip to NYU Abu Dhabi during her senior year and offered to exhibit her work after graduation. Thus began a relationship that continues till today, with the gallery hosting her biggest solo exhibition, ‘When the Ground Was’, last year.
“Showcasing art makes you feel vulnerable because, even if the work isn’t about you, it’s still a product of your physical and mental output,” Sarah notes. Inspired by her daily strolls in Abu Dhabi and other cities during her travels, ‘When the Ground Was’ featured concrete floor sculptures, and works on paper and canvas that survey the changes in her surrounding environment.
This year, Sarah remains hard at work—she revealed a new sculpture as part of ‘The Follower’ programme at Alserkal Avenue, commissioned by Alserkal Arts Foundation and curated by Nada Raza, and exhibited with Carbon 12 alongside other artists at Art Dubai in March. On the poetry front, she’s a founding member of the JARA Collective, which publishes four poetry chapbooks every year to make literature easy and accessible.
As part of her ongoing efforts towards bolstering local cultural discourse, she launched a biannual series called ‘Artist Talks’ in 2020, featuring discussions with creatives based in or affiliated with the UAE. The artist-focused platform aims at initiating conversation and connecting individuals in an informal yet informative setting. It also serves as an archive, with recordings of the talks available for future use.
News of Sarah’s upcoming projects will be shared on Instagram, which has emerged as a tool of choice for artists in the UAE and beyond. She has come to recognise the platform’s benefits over the past years. “Instagram allows you to create a portfolio and provides many networking opportunities,” she states. “It also offers a way to connect with creatives across the world and keep up with other art scenes.”
Late last year, Sarah pursued her passion for fitness by becoming a spin instructor at Crank, a fitness studio with branches in Alserkal Avenue, Dubai and Sheikha Fatima Park in Abu Dhabi. “Being a fitness instructor has so many more benefits than just physical ones. It provides a healthy balance, especially when you give your all to work and need an outlet to unwind,” she shares.
Sarah currently has her eyes set on carving out her own path and continuing to play her role as a member of the UAE creative community. “Not everyone gets the chance to have a job that’s their passion,” she holds. “I’m so grateful that I’m able to experience that—a career that allows me to connect with people, learn and grow.”
Follow @Sarah.almehairi on Instagram.
This article was originally published in Villa 88’s Spring 2023 edition. Subscribe here.