Street Art Museum Amsterdam runs quite a few events that if you’re a tourist visiting the collection for the day you may not be aware of. We work with different school groups and business to do street art focused workshops, tours, and events. Schiphol Airport, on the outskirts of Amsterdam, is one of the companies that we have worked with frequently. SAMA maintains a small wing of our street art collection at Schiphol Airport and some of the most fun events we have participated in have been with Schiphol. On June 15 & 16 we were again asked to be part of the Schiphol crew, this time for the airport’s Fire Brigade’s Family Day, an appreciation event for the employees and their families. Different departments of Schiphol celebrate their employees by hosting appreciation events similar to this. For this event, families were invited to come to the fire brigade’s training ground at Schiphol airport and see the different exercises that the firemen practice so that they are prepared for any circumstance. As the families arrive they are asked to check-in, offered coffee and other refreshments before they get to see different kinds of equipment, drills and the grand finale was seeing a team of firemen put out several very large fires on their practice plane.
For large scale events like this, we were told to expect roughly 900 people per day for this particular event, the SAMA team is there to focus on the kids. June 15 started off grey and rainy, so the SAMA team was given the go-ahead to set up in a bay of the OT-building, where the fire-brigade barracks and the vehicles of the snow-fleet are housed. As the first of three rounds of families began to trickle in, they get their bearings, have a bite to eat, check out some of the vehicles that are parked in the bay and in this case there was also a large scale LEGO display that had different kinds of buildings and scenarios that firefighters have to deal with. I spoke with one of the firemen in charge of the LEGOs who said that all of the buildings were to scale and that one building alone had 1,200 windows in it.
As the kids get more comfortable and explore this cool new setting, they discover the SAMA team. Now, from our experiences working with kids at the museum, the team knows that given a little encouragement, some room and a lot of sidewalk chalk (stoepkrijtjes in Dutch) kids will go wild making art. And did they! We draw a few basic shapes to get them going, but once one or two kids start drawing the flood gates open!
Once the kids start drawing, we talk to individual families, help kids if they want to draw something specific and answer questions about who/what SAMA is. Over the course of two days, for three rounds each day we helped kids and families explore the medium of chalk on concrete. The first day we ended up taking over the floor of the entire bay! The second day we decided to clean up between each round so that there was less chalk for the fire brigade to deal with when they had to go back to work.
Some kids draw what they see, trucks from the snow fleet and the firemen themselves were very popular. Some of the older children get a bit naughty - its OK, art is supposed to be about exploration - and there is a lot of practice writing their names - the first step to becoming a graffiti tagger. While being amazed at how well behaved most of these kids are - no one used the chalk to draw on any of the vehicles parked nearby - running these kinds of events is also an amazing example of the power that art has. While for many it was probably a fun day at Schiphol Airport seeing what their family members do, the SAMA team hopes that for some kids we also sparked a lifelong love affair with art.