Independent, experimental and/or artist--led initiatives are attempting to fill critical gaps in the cultural infrastructure of the Middle East, where institutions have failed or are non--existent. In the face of censorship, economic uncertainty and harsh socio--political realities, these initiatives produce pioneering work. Yet every step forward jeopardises their very survival. Can patronage be equally risk--taking and support groundbreaking work in difficult situations? Drawing on actual experiences from Algiers to Teheran, this panel will unpick the challenges faced by practitioners and explore the virtue of risk in art production, education and patronage.