Cultural Playing Field

Visiting the Forum voor Amateurkunsten by Robin Simpson
June 20, 2013, 3:45 pm
Filed under: meetings | Tags: , , ,

On Wednesday and Thursday I was at the offices of the Forum voor Amateurkunsten in Gent, Belgium – the Flanders equivalent orgaanisation to Voluntary Arts. On Wednesday afternoon Katrien De Bruycker from Forum, who co-ordinates the Week of Amateur Arts in Flanders, and I were joined by Tom de Rooij who is now running the Week of Amateur Arts in The Netherlands as an independent organisation. We compared notes on the 2013 Weeks of Amateur Arts and Voluntary Arts Week. The Week in Flanders, in May 2013, involved 190 local authorities (two thirds of all towns) and a total of 750 activities. The role of local co-ordinators, either working for or supported by local authorities, is a key factor in ensuring this level of activity. Funding cuts in The Netherlands this year reduced the number of participating towns and cities from 125 to 65 but the Week still managed to generate a massive 4,500 activities involving 20,000 amateur artists. Our Voluntary Arts Week in the UK and the Republic of Ireland still has some way to go to match these statistics – but is a much newer initiative and will undoubtedly grow over the coming years. We swapped ideas for campaigns and themes for future Weeks and started to plan an EU funding application to develop more links between the Weeks of Amateur/Voluntary Arts in Flanders, The Netherlands and the UK & Ireland.

Also on Wednesday I met Bieke Vanlerberghe, who last year succeeded Kaat Peeters as the Director of the Forum voor Amateurkunsten. We talked about ways in which our organisations might work closer together and how we could help to support and develop Amateo – the European Network for Active Participation in Cultural Activities.

On Thursday Bieke, Katrien and I were joined at the Forum voor Amateurkunsten by Wim Verwoort, who is the Week of Amateur Arts co-ordinator for Antwerp, and Katrien Boogaerts, the co-ordinator of Kunstwerkt – one of the nine main amateur arts umbrella bodies for Flanders, which supports amateurs engaged in the visual arts. This helped me to understand the particular roles that local co-ordinators and artform umbrella bodies play in the annual Week of Amateur Arts. We talked about the prospects for developing a similar system of local co-ordinators for Voluntary Arts Week in the UK & Ireland and the possibility of running a Facebook-based art competition (along the lines of our recent ‘Life Imitating Art’ initiative) as a joint international project.

On Thursday afternoon Katrien Boogaerts from Kunstwerkt gave us a preview of a new exhibition at the S.M.A.K. contemporary art gallery in Gent, called ‘Track in Residence’. This Kunstwerkt project involved elderly residents in three of Gent’s assisted living centres working with both professional and amateur artists to create four major new contemporary artworks. It’s a fascinating exhibition which shows how the project managed to involve older people as equal participants rather than passive consumers and demonstrates the role that amateurs can play in helping professional artists develop more substantial and sustainable work with older people. See:

Robin Simpson.

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