In April 2023, American artist Hillary Waters Fayle traveled to Algeria for a week of cultural outreach as part of a Democracy Collection artist exchange. Over the course of four days, she worked with local artisans, spoke with art students, and collaborated with noted Algerian artists and art venues to share her experiences as an American artist with the Algerian people.
On her first day in the country, Fayle led a workshop with handicraft artisans in the town of Tipaza down the coast from Algiers. Approximately twelve local women joined the workshop where they embroidered onto a tablecloth Fayle had brought with her specifically for this program. “There is a distinction in Algeria between what is ‘Art’ and what is ‘Craft’, or ‘Artisanal’, and this is a boundary that’s a bit more blurred in America…I would hope to have shown an alternate path in making ‘Art’ by pulling from craft traditions and techniques,” said Fayle. That evening, she worked side by side with floral artist Saida B. and fashion designer Redouane Zermane to create a collaborative karakou, a traditional Algerian jacket made from velvet and embroidered with gold and silver threads. The three artists worked together to embroider floral elements into the karakou, in keeping with Fayle’s personal techniques.
The next day, Fayle went to the U.S. Embassy to meet with forty students and alumni of the U.S. Embassy exchange program interested in arts and the environment. She spoke to them about her journey and experiences as an artist in America and showed them examples of her work. “I was blown away by the response to my presentations, and the volume of questions. Being asked questions I’ve never been asked before made me think about the answer—to consider different sides or angles of what the answer could be, and what that means for me.”
That afternoon she was interviewed on Ennahar TV and that evening Ambassador Aubin hosted a reception at her residence where Fayle was able to engage with a variety of artists, artisans, and other individuals working on environmental initiatives. “Hillary’s visit enabled us to talk about democracy, freedom of expression, women’s roles in the economy, entrepreneurship and environmentalism in an authoritarian country where it is very difficult to do so. Her visit certainly helped us advance our bilateral goals and strengthen Algerian-American ties on a people-to-people level,” Ambassador Aubin said.
Over the next two days, Fayle was able to visit Bainem Forest, Jardin d’Essais, and Musée des Beaux Arts to learn more about art and the environment in Algeria. She spoke to a group of thirty arts students at École des Beaux Arts about her experiences as an artist in America, her techniques, and her inspirations and lead an open discussion about what it means to be a practicing artist. On the final evening of the program, Brokkart—a local arts venue—hosted an exhibition of Fayle’s work for the community. “I really felt that the interactions I had with Algerians when we could just talk to one another were the highlight of the program for me—I felt there was a genuine curiosity and excitement about American culture that matched mine towards Algerian life and culture and it was amazing just to be able to share and talk together,” Fayle said of her experience on the exchange.