For Niger-born architect Mariam Kamara, the 2018 Rolex Mentor and Protégé Arts Initiative presented her with a tremendous opportunity. The two-year program, which pairs emerging creative talents with masters in their field, saw her working under the guidance of British-Ghanaian architect David Adjaye, and allowed her to realize her dream of designing an arts center in Niger’s capital city, Niamey. But it also exposed her to her most formidable and outspoken critics yet: a group of high school students. The students told her they wanted a place to read and participate in the arts that reflect their identities as Nigeriens, while also looking to their future. To meet that request, Kamara unveiled her plans for an arts center that also houses an auditorium, a gallery and the city’s first public library last year. Once completed (construction begins this summer), the Niamey Cultural Center will be a place for learning, creativity and community-building.