Skip to content

In Perspective #15: With bass guitar in cabinet or classroom

You already read here free messages. So join Culture Press now. We have more than 400 loyal members. People involved in the arts, working in it, setting policy. People who value an independent view of arts journalism. Just like you.

Join NOW To keep Culture Press going!

Cees van Leeuwen was a bass guitarist in the pop formation Kayak. Not for very long; soon he chose to study again: cultural anthropology and law. He specialised in labour and entertainment law and started working as a lawyer. In later years, he was the legal counsel of singer Anouk, among others. Cees van Leeuwen was also state secretary for culture (on behalf of LPF) for a year.

It was in this capacity that he entered the building of the Rotterdam Foundation for Artistic Training (SKVR) on a Monday morning in October 2002. There he attended the national presentation of the course Beroepskunstenaars in de Klas, BIK. That course lasted longer than Cees van Leeuwen's state secretariat, although as a national project it was ultimately not long-lived either.

Art climate, artists' income, workload down

The Professional Artists in the Classroom project was to serve three objectives. The central government wanted to strengthen the cultural climate in schools, wanted to provide additional income opportunities for professional artists who were using the Income Support for Artists Act (WIK) and wanted to alleviate the shortage of subject teachers.

Cultural education and participation were high on the agenda of the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science (OCW) and officials ambitious in this field. Especially: the current director of the OBA Amsterdam, Martin Berendse, and the current director of the Boekman Foundation, Jan Jaap Knol. It was they who commissioned me, together with Kunstenaars & Co (Theo van Adrichem), to quickly realise a project that could meet those three objectives.

There was a basis, because in Tilburg and Enschede, experiments were carried out with an Artists in the Classroom project. The aim was to train artists to become more or less qualified teachers. However, that qualification and all the bureaucratic bells and whistles surrounding it were a major obstacle1. We, on the other hand, would not emphasise being a teacher, but an artist. The artist had to remain an artist, with just enough didactic and practical tools to hold his own in the classroom, and of course preferably more than that.

Nothing wrong with art teachers, but being an artist brought its own added value into the classroom. Artists could possibly add a deeper layer to already ongoing art projects or they could bring in new, more approachable activities.

Arts centres

In the beginning, we mainly sought cooperation with art education. But there they reacted with great suspicion. Did they perceive an intrusion into their own field here? On the contrary, a few centres for the arts in the big cities immediately saw something in it. And so the project started with the pioneers from Enschede and Tilburg and with Kunstweb Amsterdam2, Groningen Arts Centre3 and the SKVR Rotterdam. Later, the arts centres of The Hague and Utrecht, among others, also joined4 to.

The SKVR developed course modules that could give the artists sufficient baggage in an orderly and time-limited context. 2,500 artists were written to for the first edition. And 600 signed up. In the end, 100 were allowed to participate in the first course. During that course, the artists also did an internship and were each given a personal coach. After about six months, they could actually start working. The arts centres mediated between the artists and the schools.

Childhood diseases and happy children

There was a lot of enthusiasm. The schools had to turn a blind eye to rookie mistakes, but once they did, they were happy with the offer. For the artists, it was about more than teaching: preferably the projects involved artistic development for themselves too. They then worked together with the children on an art project. This could be a small theatre project. Or improvised dance that provided new inspiration for the dancer/choreographer himself. A photography project with the children around heritage in the area. Painting self-portraits. And so on.

The children themselves found it exciting: instead of more theoretical art lessons, a real artist went to work with them. Their parents, who were often absent from regular parents' evenings, were only too happy to come to the class' art presentations: exhibitions, performances, music performances. Research firm Letty Ranshuysen cited much such positive feedback in an initial evaluation5. The schools sometimes had to get used to the impulsiveness of the artists and sometimes more went over than they cared to. But the artists in the classroom often gave them plenty of eye-openers.

Ranshuysen did see that schools struggled with funding such art projects. Not much money was available. If there were extra pots at all, they formed a confusing whole. The tenner per pupil for art in primary education came later. Ranshuysen also noted that schools appreciated the didactic baggage that the BIK course gave the artists. They gained a little more insight into how to deal with children, how to prepare lessons and how to bring a minimum of structure into the lesson. The schools did not value a certificate. They did suggest using the course as a selection tool as well, as not all artists are equally suited to this work.

Not sustainable

On the first BIK course in five locations, more followed, also in more cities. In a few years, several hundred artists received their BIK training. After a few years, it was over. The arts centres needed all the energy and money they could get to ensure their survival, if at all. So in many cases they did not. And the temporary financial boost from the ministry also came to an end.

Yet another example of project or programme policies to which politicians do not make a lasting commitment. Then there is no time to build something structurally and provide it with its own sustainable financial foundation.

Although things still happen occasionally, there is no longer cooperation, networking or joint approach at a national level, let alone a nationally known 'brand'. Several local/regional mediators do offer 'artists in the classroom', for example Kunst Centraal in Utrecht, Mocca in Amsterdam or Cultuurschakel in The Hague. (See their websites). Johan Simons, Elsie de Brauw and colleagues started their own 'Kunst in de Klas' projects in the 1990s in which they made and still make short theatre productions with classes. 6

There is also still talk of specific training. After initial scepticism from professional art education, Amsterdam's Hogeschool voor de Kunsten joined the project after all. With that, there was the ideal triangle: primary education, arts centres and art college. So that did not last long.

Now, the Amsterdam University of Applied Sciences seems to be the sole heir to the original BIK project. Interested artists can take the BIK course there, "a one-year part-time post-HBO course for artists who want to carry out art projects in primary education."7 The study coordinator is Trudy Verhoeff, who founded the first Kunstweb course in Amsterdam in 2002. So there is unexpected continuity after all. The college's website points to the possibility of a STAP grant, but still misses the possible contribution from Werktuig PPO.8

Dating in the quadrangle

It should remain attractive for artists and for schools to collaborate with each other dating. They both benefit. We can encourage that with another national network of training, supply and mediation. All the more so because the three original objectives have retained their topicality.

The cultural climate in education, thanks to programmes such as Culture with Quality and More Music in the Classroom, may have been boosted, but we are not there yet. Earning models for artists remain as welcome as ever. And reducing the workload, if not meeting the teacher shortage, has even become urgent.

The use of artists is, of course, no panacea here. Even with the BIK training, the artist is not formally qualified and a teacher must remain nearby. But if done right, the 'BIK guy' can still make a small contribution to solving the pressing vagueness issue.

I see before me how a quadrangle is developing. The perspective of the labour market and continuous professional development (Platform ACCT and PPO); the schools in primary education with their umbrella, the PO Council; the arts centres and local mediation organisations (with their umbrella Cultuurconnectie), the art colleges, united in the HBO Council. Incidentally, it is not the organisations but individual triggers that will make the difference here.

I think it would be nice if more bass guitarists became state cultural ministers in the future. But in the classroom, they come into their own at least as well. Probably even better.


ERIK AKKERMANS is an administrator, consultant and publicist. Among other things, he was a director in arts education. Until recently, he was chairman of the labour market platform ACCT. From 2002 to 2012, he was associated with consultancy firm BMC. From there, he was, among other things, interim manager at centres for the arts. His assignments also included: an advice to the Minister of Education, Culture and Science on structural funding of art classes in primary education and the project management of Professional Artists in the Classroom.


1 Letty Ranshuysen, Interim report: Artists in the Classroom, Pilots in Tilburg and Enschede, Rotterdam, 2001

2 Multidisciplinary arts centre, disbanded by the City of Amsterdam in 2005. See also Culture Press, In Perspective#2

3 Nowadays under the name Friday

4 Respectively Koorenhuis and UCK, both disbanded by their municipalities.

5 Letty Ranshuysen/ Anna Elffers: Professional artists in the classroom: the perspective of education,2002

8 See Culture Press/ In Perspective#14 on training

Erik Akkermans

Director, consultant and publicist.View Author posts

Private Membership (month)
5€ / Maand
For natural persons and self-employed persons.
No annoying banners
A special newsletter
Own mastodon account
Access to our archives
Small Membership (month)
18€ / Maand
For cultural institutions with a turnover/subsidy of less than €250,000 per year
No annoying banners
A premium newsletter
All our podcasts
Your own Mastodon account
Access to archives
Posting press releases yourself
Extra attention in news coverage
Large Membership (month)
36€ / Maand
For cultural institutions with a turnover/subsidy of more than €250,000 per year.
No annoying banners
A special newsletter
Your own Mastodon account
Access to archives
Share press releases with our audience
Extra attention in news coverage
Premium Newsletter (substack)
5 trial subscriptions
All our podcasts

Payments are made via iDeal, Paypal, Credit Card, Bancontact or Direct Debit. If you prefer to pay manually, based on an invoice in advance, we charge a 10€ administration fee

*Only for annual membership or after 12 monthly payments

en_GBEnglish (UK)