Ftoon AlThaedi showcased her artwork and spoke about her trajectory as an artist on Saudi national TV in January. Ftoon is an alumna of the Student Leaders Program that Montana State University hosted in 2017.

"There is a new generation of Saudi artists that use technology to break from tradition," Ftoon said in the interview. 

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Self-Portrait While Driving by Ftoon Althaedi

Ftoon captured a historic break from tradition in one of her pieces, a landmark decision by the Saudi government to allow women to drive. She portrayed her joy at the news in a digital painting of herself driving a car, against a background of news headlines.

"I felt incredibly happy, and I decided to document this life-changing decision in a piece of artwork," she said.

Her artwork was recently featured on Pharmacy Times at Princess Nourah Bint Abdulrahman University, where Ftoon studies Visual Arts and Design, as well as showcased at multiple galleries across Riyadh, such as the Naila Art Gallery

Abdullah Ftoon

Abdullah by Ftoon AlThaedi

Ftoon also uses her artwork to address persistent societal issues, such as the discrimination faced by people with Down syndrome in Saudi Arabia. She created a series of photographs painted in watercolors of yellow and blue, the official colors of Down syndrome, to debunk a number of misconceptions that plague people with an extra 21st chromosome. 

"They're often looked at as people who lead lives that aren't normal when in fact they do," Ftoon said. "They live their lives normally, but with even more joy than we do."

Ftoon is currently working on a new project, the Saudi Art Initiative, that she began to develop during the Student Leaders Program. She recently presented her initiative to the Saudi Arabian Society for Arts and Culture, and they subsequently agreed to participate in the initiative and provide exhibition rooms for free. 

Her participation in the Student Leaders Program has encouraged her to take part in various events and conferences, Ftoon said. "It has showed me that the SLP experience has helped me tremendously." 

"With the resources and the skills that the experience has provided me," Ftoon said. "I feel confident and eager to put myself as well as my project out there and implement it into my society." She plans to launch the Saudi Art Initiative soon.

Funded by the U.S. Department of Statethe Student Leaders Program is a rigorous exchange program for up to 60 undergraduate and graduate students from the Middle East and North Africa. Students are divided among U.S. academic institutions, including Montana State University, where they develop leadership skills and expand their understanding of civil society and participatory governance and how both may be applied in their home communities.

For more information, contact Janelle Rasmussen: jrasmussen@montana.edu

Ftoon AlThaedi Gallery

Abstract painting with a yellow circle in the middlePainting of a woman with random photos in the backgroundSelf-Portrait While Driving by Ftoon AlthaediAbdullah by Ftoon AlThaediSculpture of a woman

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