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It is without doubt that everyone attending the opening of the Jordan National Gallery of Fine Arts Park and its two magnificent buildings in Jabal Weibdeh yesterday were awe-struck.

The tireless efforts of President of Royal Society of Fine Arts HRH Princess Wijdan, the masterstroke of Director Khalid Khreis, the genius of interior designer Maha Kawar combined with the support of the Greater Amman Municipality, USAID, the Ministry of Planning and International Cooperation, the Water and Efficiency and Public Information for Action, and the craftsmanship of countless engineers and technicians to bring about an institution that can only be described as world class.

The attendance of Their Majesties King Abdullah and Queen Rania lends support to an important aspect of life that in our part of the world can sometimes be neglected.

The endeavour was a courageous one, and one that took two years of intensive work. While all the construction, renovation, and landscaping was in the works, Khreis wore two hats: A hard hat and a beret. His dedication to the project and to his responsibility of promoting Jordanian art here and abroad were rewarded yesterday by the accolades of every single guest ? artists, diplomats, government officials and friends of the arts ? who strolled through the garden and toured the sunlit floors of the National Gallery's new sister edifice.

Princess Wijdan has long worked to establish a national museum in Jordan. Yesterday, she and her entire cast of players must have felt the thrill of a hit opening night ? they had accomplished their dream and can take many a bow for years to come.

Now it will be up to the public and private sectors to band together to support the National Gallery of Fine Arts. An endowment that would help support all art forms in the country ? visual and performing ? is precisely what is called for.

Aside from public funding and private donations to such an endowment, there are many ways that citizens themselves can be part of such an endeavour. For example, a small portion of taxes or fees paid to the government for licence plates, national ID cards and property deeds, could be directed to the endowment.

The personal and public benefit derived from art should be advocated. Advocacy should be the primary mandate of the Ministry of Culture which, under its aegis, should provide the impetus for increased private support for the arts.

Monday, May 16, 2005

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