In celebration of World Art Day, NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) highlights ten of its alumni who are making waves in the world of arts and culture.
A research university with a fully integrated liberal arts and science college, NYUAD draws students from around the world and prepares them for the challenges and opportunities of our interconnected world.
Now in its second decade, after celebrating ten years of success, the University is launching a Master of Fine Arts (MFA) in Art and Media in the visual arts this fall. It is designed as a full-time, interdisciplinary studio art program that sits at the crossroads of practice and theory, tradition, and change in the arts.
NYUAD Class of 2015 alumna Aganza Kisaka from Uganda majored in Arts in Theatre with a concentration in Psychology. In 2020, she completed a Master’s in Education with Unicaf University. She won Best Actress at the Pearl International Film Festival 2017, and in 2019, she won Best Supporting Actress at the Uganda Film Festival. She has facilitated acting workshops for individuals of all ages and participated as a writer and actress at the 10th Berlin Biennale School of Anxiety (2018). Some of her theatre work includes the lead role in Silent Voices (2015) by Judith Adong; producer and actress for the Betrothal (2015, 2018, and 2019) by Joshua Mmali; and producer for Red Hills by Asiimwe Deborah Kawe. She made her debut as a playwright at the Kampala International Theatre Festival in 2016 with her play Black and her newest play Killing Time, which featured at the Lagos Theatre Festival 2021. In 2021, she founded the Yenze Theatre Conservatoire to mentor and train emerging artists in the performance arts.
Bernice delos Reyes
NYUAD Class of 2020 alumna, Bernice delos Reyes from the Philippines, majored in Social Research Public Policy and Theater. An arts and culture practitioner and communications strategist, delos Reyes is currently a Communications Executive at Alserkal, one of Dubai’s most influential arts and culture enterprises. Simultaneously, she’s a freelance arts and culture journalist, more frequently writing for Vice Arabia, Global Art Daily, and Alserkal. Online. Following her debut as an art curator in November 2019 through Go Back To Move Forward, a group exhibition featuring works from His Excellency Zaki Nusseibeh under the guidance of NYUAD Professor Salwa Mikdadi, delos Reyes co-curated an all-Filipino art exhibition at Alserkal Avenue in December 2020 to launch Sa Tahanan Co, a Dubai-based global Filipino art collective that strives to create inclusion and representation for Filipino creativity. Together with co-founder Augustine Paredes, a UAE-based Filipino artist, delos Reyes is pursuing her passion for creating more visibility and platforms for Filipino artistry in global contemporary art spaces through engaging with key arts institutions in the region and other grassroots initiatives in the UAE.
Daniel H. Rey
NYUAD Class of 2020 alumnus, Daniel H. Rey from Paraguay and Colombia, majored in Theater and Social Research-Public Policy. He is an independent curator based in the UAE, where he advocates for #YouthCuratingYouth. In 2020, Rey was part of the Jameel Youth Assembly, a curatorial program that he now co-leads (2021-22). He is a member of Dirwaza Lab, an Abu Dhabi-based curatorial incubator, and leads the audience experience team atEngage101, a grassroots art collecting and research platform in the Gulf. Upon graduating, Rey has curated a series of youth-driven exhibitions and public programs in Dubai. Since 2017, he has joined initiatives presented within the Guggenheim Abu Dhabi, Warehouse421, Abu Dhabi Art, BAIT15, Art Jameel, Alserkal Avenue, and Art Dubai. He is also the editorial liaison of Global Art Daily and recently completed Forsa School via Sharjah Art Foundation and Naqd.
NYUAD Class of 2015 alumna, Olya Karpova from Russia, majored in Visual Arts. Karpova is a visual consultant, photographer, and creative entrepreneur. After her graduation, she worked with brands around the world to help them define their visual and content strategy. However, her recent passion has become sustainability, which led to the establishment of her own art and homeware business, forma by olya. In 2019, she won the Noon Arts Award in the Digital Art Category. She is passionate about helping animals and wildlife, and gives away 5% of her sales to different environmental and animal welfare organisations.
NYUAD Class of 2019 alumna, Riva Razdan from India, majored in Film and New Media. She has already published her first novel, Arzu. The novel charts the life of a young heiress Arzu in 1991, who is forced onto a journey of feminist awakening in New York after her fiancé in India dumps her for a ‘more suitable’ match. Arzu starts to find her independence and grows into a heroine as she studies the ongoing economic liberalisation of India in the same year. This book was inspired by Razdan’s constant relocation during her semesters abroad with NYUAD, as it taught her to examine the patriarchal values of her own culture against the cultures of other countries.
NYUAD Class of 2019 alumna, Sarah Almehairi from the UAE, majored in Art and Art History. A practicing artist from Abu Dhabi, Almehairi expresses herself in different mediums, including mixed media, sculpture, book art, and fiber art. Her overarching body of work unfolds a discourse on themes of language, materiality and memory through the intuitive examination of narrative and abstraction. Almehairi has been part of the 2019 Youth Takeover group show at Jameel Arts Centre; Tashkeel’s 2019 group exhibition Play; exhibited at the Culture Summit Abu Dhabi 2018; the 35th Annual Emirates Fine Art Society Exhibition in 2018; and had her first-ever solo show, Between, at Carbon 12 in Alserkal Avenue in 2019. Almehairi was also part of the Salama bint Hamdan Emerging Artists Fellowship’s (SEAF) 7th Cohort (2019-2020), and is the founder of the Artist Talks series and co-founder of the JARA Collective.
NYUAD Class of 2018 alumnus, Sebastian Grube from Germany, majored in Music and Theatre. Grube is an artist, entrepreneur, and thinker with a passion for investigating human relationships. He currently works as a Community Engagement and Marketing Officer at The NYUAD Art Gallery, where he spearheads the Gallery’s public programming and marketing efforts. Recently, he launched the Gallery’s first-ever Teen Council, a programme that encourages greater dialogue with the UAE’s younger generation and promotes active participation in the arts. He is also a founding member of the Zuckerberg Institute, where he actively engages with questions around leadership and entrepreneurship.
NYUAD Class of 2017 alumna Sophie Arni from Switzerland majored in Art History. Inspired by her time in the cultural capital of Abu Dhabi, Arni launched her own Global Art Daily, an independent publication amplifying local voices of the global art world, with the aim to shed light on contemporary art in the UAE, the wider Middle East, Asia, US, Europe, and Latin America. Through her publication, Arni aims to promote conversations between emerging artists and established figures of the art world via exhibition reviews, opinion essays, and artist interviews. After graduating from NYUAD, she pursued a Master’s in Curatorial Practices from Tokyo University of the Arts Graduate School of Global Arts. She has curated the East-East: UAE meets Japan exhibition series at The NYUAD Project Space (2016) and CHI-KA Space on Alserkal Avenue (2016-17), as well as co-curated Count the Waves: Visualising Invisibility at the Chinretsukan Gallery (2019).
Born in Amman, Jordan, Tala Nassar earned her BA in Art and Art History from NYUAD in 2019. Soon after her graduation, Nassar was selected as The NYUAD Art Gallery’s inaugural David Webb Museum Fellow. The rotating curatorial fellowship, a partnership between The NYUAD Art Gallery and David Webb New York, has been designed exclusively for NYUAD alumni who have bilingual literacy in Arabic and English and work in the museum field. In her current role, Nassar produced several exhibitions in The Art Gallery’s auxiliary venue, The Project Space, including UAE Unlimited’s sixth annual exhibition, titled Intimaa: Belonging. She has conducted major research for future exhibitions and played a key role in The Art Gallery’s pivot and response to the pandemic.
NYUAD Class of 2019 alumnus, Vuk Vuković from Montenegro, majored in Art History and Film and New Media Studies, with a minor in History. From working and supporting some of the most notable institutions around the world, including The Westmoreland Museum of American Art, Contemporary Art Centre of Montenegro, International Council of Museums (ICOM), Peggy Guggenheim Collection, and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Vuković is currently pursuing his PhD in the History of Art and Architecture as well as Film and Media Studies at the University of Pittsburgh. His research focuses on the exhibition of time-based media.