The Sunflower theater will shine again
THE SUNFLOWER A CULTURAL LANDMARK OF BEIRUT, LEBANON, AND THE REGION.
On July 6, 2023, a fire ravaged and destroyed The Sunflower main entrance. The smoke also spread beyond the entrance and severely damaged the rest of the space. Everything in it either needs to be replaced or deep cleaned.
The Sunflower is an indispensable hub for the youth, and its activities include incubations, productions, disseminations, festivals, workshops, seminars, debates, and exchanges at the local, regional and international levels.
Immediate action is needed to put the space back on its feet. It can not reopen to the large public without repairing the following damage caused by the fire:
A- The whole space needs deep cleaning.
B- The main entrance needs the below:
1- Removal of all the destroyed items including the false ceiling, the cafeteria, the furniture, etc…
2- Repairing the main doors.
3- Replacing the floor tiles.
4- Deep cleaning the stairs.
5- Repairing the elevator mainly used by persons with mobility impairments.
6- Designing a new look for the entrance.
7- Installing a new electrical system (Electrical box, circuit breaker, cables, etc)
8- Installing a new lighting system.
9- Installing a new air conditioning system.
10- Installing new security cameras.
11- Installing new signage – indoors and outdoors
12- Painting the walls.
13- Repairing the ceiling.
14- Redecorating the main entrance.
15- Buying furniture for the cafeteria.
16- Buying a Fridge, a Coffee machine and other items for the cafeteria.
17- Installing a new automatic fire extinguisher in the main entrance and the theater (The theatre is equipped with a fire extinguishing system; it is however advised to replace the old one after a fire).
18- Installing new smoke and fire sensors.
The Sunflower was established by SHAMS in 2005.
Since its creation in 1999, SHAMS, The Cultural Cooperative Association for Youth in Theatre and Cinema, has faced one challenge after another, including technical, cultural, or even security, economic and social challenges. Thus far, the association was able to overcome all obstacles and hardships it was forced to face in Lebanon for the past 24 years and remain open and functional.
In the fall of 1999, SHAMS' activities were launched, while Lebanon was still suffering from the Israeli occupation, the Syrian influence, and the difficulties of finding spaces for artistic expression. SHAMS sought to attract Lebanese youth from various regions by providing artistic and technical capabilities and creating the appropriate atmosphere to facilitate cultural exchange between young men and women belonging to different cities and factions forming the Lebanese society. Festivals and forums were the way to facilitate the meeting of the other coming from "afar". This meeting, which many feared, managed to create an artistic and cultural movement that imposed itself on the local, regional, and international levels. The "SHAMS Youth Festival" became the focus of the cultural and artistic movement and the meeting place for Lebanese youth to meet with one another and with regional and international artists.
SHAMS was able, with modest means, to overcome the despair prevailing at that time. The doors were opened for young men and women who, with the direct and indirect help of SHAMS, launched their own projects or institutions - some of which are still alive and effective in the artistic and social scene to this day.
The SHAMS Association, after running the Beirut theater for five years, and in response to the artistic and cultural need of the time, responded to the desire of young men and women active in the field and opened “The Sunflower Cultural Space” in the fall of 2005. This space, which today stands as one of the country’s few cultural landmarks still in operation, contains two performance halls, an exhibition hall, and two multipurpose studios. The Sunflower also currently hosts four associations: Khayal, ICARE, Koon and the Caravan, as well as the Art School (art activities and workshops for children).
In order to be able to open the first independent cultural space, SHAMS had to face financial and ethical challenges. At that time, some of the employees of SHAMS agreed to not receive a salary for a specific period of almost 5 years, and SHAMS was able to obtain a bank loan equivalent to three times its annual budget. The loan was repaid in five years.
The space, which itself became the main project of SHAMS, faced several challenges like many other Lebanese cultural projects, the most important of which were: the assassination of Rafik Hariri (2005), the July War (2006), bombings and assassinations - Beirut (2007), the closure of Beirut (2008), the tense political / security situation (2010), The beginning of the events in Syria (2011), the suicide bombings in the suburbs of Beirut (2014), the October 17 revolution (2019), the Covid-19 epidemic, the Beirut Blast (2020) and the Tayouneh Incident (October 2021).
All these events negatively affected SHAMS’ financial capabilities, but they acted as a moral impetus which doubled down on the importance of keeping this association as an active member in Lebanese society, with the Sunflower being its central hub for cultural encounters and artistic expression.
SHAMS organizes and implements cultural projects in several Lebanese regions. SHAMS cooperates with many Lebanese, Syrian, Egyptian, Jordanian, Palestinian associations (in Lebanon - the Palestinian Authority), French, Italian, etc... SHAMS is also a founding member of the Tamasi Collective (www.tamasicollective.org).
The audience of SHAMS is a melting pot of genders, ages, and socio-economic backgrounds.
SHAMS offers most of the cultural services and shows, either free of charge or at nominal prices. For example, SHAMS always offers the theater space for the senior projects of the students of the Theater Department at the Faculty of Fine Arts and Architecture \ Lebanese University for a whole month free of charge.
SHAMS has an important archive and plays an exceptional role in spreading the memory of the Lebanese theater and evaluating it through recorded works, interviews, special recordings and films…
In conclusion, culture and art constitute a fundamental axis for building civilizations. And SHAMS, through its participation in local, regional, and international forums, looks forward to setting long-term policies to meet the cultural and artistic needs and aspirations of Lebanese youth in particular and Arab youth in general, which contributes to the development of societies and the consolidation of civilizations.