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Why a city should be careful of its artists

Cultural breeding ground THE WAR must make way for property developer Rovase. It is not the only creative hit art-loving Amersfoort has had to take. Several dozen artists also have to look for a new workplace. This time, the municipality is not to blame. Part of the factory that was their home has been lost to fire. This is the former 'meat preserves' NOACK factory, diagonally behind the central station. Used for years as De Slegte's warehouse.

What is the value of artists to a city?

The question arises how bad all this is. More precisely, what is the value of artists to a city like Amersfoort? For culture consumers, there remains plenty to enjoy. A neat theatre, film house, festivals, plenty of small-scale initiatives. And artists can also make their work elsewhere. So what is the problem?

It occurred to me that artists are an indispensable part of a healthy cultural climate. That a city without artists will deteriorate considerably. Duller and more colourless. But I didn't actually like this answer. It remained too much on the surface. There had to be more to say about it.

So I went into town looking for someone more knowledgeable. I ended up with Henk Logman. He is not someone who often comes to the fore. Weekly with his picture in the local or regional newspaper. But in the art world he feels like a fish in water. He coaches (also) young artists and organises small-scale exhibitions. Who better to ask my question to?

Artists provide good and innovative initiatives

Henk explained it to me roughly as follows: 'The presence of (young) artists adds something essential to the development and constant movement of a city's cultural climate. Stagnation is decline. Artists who populate a number of places together in a city seek each other out. As a result, good and innovative initiatives often arise, because they are used to thinking from limited resources but are well able to combine forces and establish connections that ensure that plans can still be implemented. Here in Amersfoort, for example, De WAR contributes enormously to this. There is room for experimentation and support for science or sustainability initiatives, for example.'

Let artists contribute ideas on city redesign

'Take those facilities away from a city, a basic breeding ground for fresh blood and new ideas also stops. On the contrary, the government could make very good use of the know-how and expertise of artists and designers and should deploy them more often for complex issues that exist in the city. Commission artists to help think about the redevelopment of the city centre, ask them to help think about a meaningful implementation of the concept of Smart-City and let them visualise it.'

'Artists do need affordable playing space for that, and preferably in a place where they can do that together and where regulations are less of an issue. Take that away, then the need to stay is no longer there, artists move away and so you also take away the much-needed energy of renewal from a city that wants to keep developing.'


Onno Weggemans

At CulturePress, I combine my passion for culture with my love of writing. I have a broad cultural interest and target a wide audience. I like to choose a personal angle and like to experiment occasionally in terms of form.View Author posts

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