My name is Julie Johnson Olson (aka Julia/Julie Olson.) My friends and family know that I live in Saudi Arabia and teach art and design at an all women’s university. It’s exciting times in the Kingdom with all the changes celebrating women and lifting bans on age old traditions like driving, attending sports events, needing permission to travel. Besides this, women are entering the workforce like they did in the USA in the 1970s.
The women of Saudi Arabia are exercising their agency with the same intelligence and grace that they have lived all their lives. You see it in the grandmothers, the mothers, the young ladies (my students) – everywhere. As Lawrence of Arabia (Peter O-Toole) said in the movie by that name, “God, I love this country!”
I am headlining an art festival in a very conservative, non-wealthy village in Saudi Arabia March 23 - 30. I will be volunteering my time and skills to teach a group of women to draw! It’s part of the arts festival that includes Saudi Arabians also be teaching traditional crafts like basket weaving, fishnet making, and textile making with camel and goat hair. My part will be an exhibition of my art work followed by a week long free workshop for the women. At the end of the week they will exhibit their work!
Traditionally any event taking place in the Kingdom looks for sponsors to fund the event. For this event I need funds for the art supplies for the women and necessary support materials for myself in order to teach this free workshop. The workshop has been taught numerous times through the university and been so successful. I am adapting it to this more conservative region and also it’s much shorter.
I have not had luck with finding sponsors. The biggest art supplier in the kingdom responded and then dropped out of sight. I am mostly relying on a system of asking men (in corporations) to fund an event for women. To be clear, the generosity of individuals and companies funding events in Saudi Arabia for women has been stellar. And it will continue to be! But I’m not getting any traction for this event and time is running out.
So, why not ask my friends in the US and abroad to consider making a small contribution toward the women of Saudi Arabia for this workshop? It’s going to be the year of the Saudi Woman – your sisters across the miles! – why not support a small FREE workshop in a conservative town where women are homemakers but interested and engaged in crafts and art.
Ultimately, I am very interested in eco fashion – find small communities of women globally, with an artisan traditional craft, hire them to embellish designs and create a network of local artisans that benefits them, their families and their communities. Drawing is a skill which is a start. I am beyond thrilled to have this opportunity.
The funds will go exclusively to the supplies for the art workshop which is free to the women. I am not making any money myself. It’s my gift to the wonderful women of this community. Any left over funds will be donated to the scholarship fund of the local college for women. I will be completely transparent with the funds once it is settled and also post pictures of the venue, but likely not my event as conservative Saudi women do not want to be seen on social media or photographed.
On March 8th Saudi Arabia celebrates International Women's Day. I will make a poster with all the names of the contributors to this campaign and your photo (with your permission) to show the Saudi women of this region the spirit of support and goodwill for this artistic endeavor of learning that benefits them and their community!
In addition you should know that this workshop and my participation has the blessing of the university and the local authorities in the region it will take place.
Thank you for considering even a small donation. They add up! I am so grateful for all friends in my life across the miles and on Facebook.
Whether you contribute or not, this request comes with my love.
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