An international organization aiming to balance consumerism with a focus on arts, culture, and social justice has recognized San Antonio nonprofit Musical Bridges Around the World for its 20 years of bringing together diverse international musicians for free community concerts.

Musical Bridges Around the World (MBAW) is the first U.S. recipient of the Fair Saturday award, given by the Bilbao, Spain-based Fair Saturday Foundation to arts organizations that “generate a notable social impact through culture,” according to its 2018 annual report. Musical Bridges’ guest artists hail from such diverse locations as Syria, Armenia, Indonesia, Russia, Argentina, Spain, Israel, and the Palestinian territories, and all perform free of charge for the public.

The Fair Saturday Foundation has bestowed its annual Fair Saturday Awards since 2017 “to recognize inspiring organizations worldwide transforming realities through culture and building bridges among communities, cities and regions,” Foundation President Jordi Albareda Ureta said in an e-mail to the Rivard Report. “MBAW fits perfectly to that.”

The foundation also organizes Fair Saturday, a global event meant to counter Black Friday, the post-Thanksgiving day that launches the Christmas shopping season each year. That consumerist-driven, informal holiday aims to put businesses in the black, a bookkeeping term for profitability.

Albareda founded Fair Saturday in 2015 as a “global cultural movement” to counter the “strong desire of ‘having’” with “the profound aspiration of ‘being,’” the annual report said.

Each year, the late November Fair Saturday Festival invites cities worldwide to schedule events tied to the organization’s identity and goals. The 2018 festival featured 11 official “hub” cities including Málaga, Lima, Milan, and Bristol, along with 180 participating cities worldwide.

Among the seven 2019 awardees are the Ingoma Nshya women’s cultural center in Ngoma, Rwanda; the Artscape Theatre Centre in Cape Town, South Africa; and the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, founded by Daniel Barenboim in Berlin.

Suhail Arastu, MBAW’s advancement director, said being included in the same company as Barenboim is a particular honor.

“He’s pretty special in our world of the performing arts and music,” having created the Divan Orchestra to bring Arab and Israeli musicians together in performances around the globe, Arastu said.

MBAW has partnered with several musicians involved in Barenboim’s project, including Kinan Azneh and Kevourk Mourad, both originally from Syria. San Antonio Symphony violinist Bassam Nashwati also has played with the Divan Orchestra.

Arastu and MBAW founder and President Anya Grokhovski will travel to Spain for the June 24 Fair Saturday Awards ceremony at the Guggenheim Bilbao art museum, a visit Arastu said will help their organization continue to foster such international cultural collaborations.

“Events like this, where it’s tied to really great performing arts organizations across the globe, there are inevitable partnerships,” he said.

Albareda noted that awarding a Texas cultural organization as the first in the United States holds particular resonance. MBAW won the award in part, he said, “because they build international bridges through music in Texas instead of walls.”

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Nicholas Frank

Senior Reporter Nicholas Frank moved from Milwaukee to San Antonio following a 2017 Artpace residency. Prior to that he taught college fine arts, curated a university contemporary art program, toured with...