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From East to West, Amsterdam in a New Light

This morning, Street Art Museum Amsterdam had the pleasure of welcoming a group of journalists, marketers and bloggers from Amsterdam&Partners on a tour. Amsterdam&Partners is a non-profit public-private partnership dedicated to building connections and sharing knowledge to enrich Amsterdam’s social fabric and liveability. Amsterdam&Partners organized a press tour designed to promote the less-known and less-visited regions of the city outside of the center, meant to highlight the often-overlooked vibrancy and breadth of cultural offerings beyond it. Starting their two-day tour in the Eastern Docklands, SAMA was honored to be chosen by iAmsterdam as the only tour stop in the west – since 2010, it has been SAMA’s goal to put Nieuw-West on the map, and through working with groups like Amsterdam&Partners, we continue working to change perceptions and celebrate the richness of the largest and most diverse region of Amsterdam.

The super gezellig late October morning that it was, was the perfect time to pump up our neighbourhood and show off to visitors who would likely never have come otherwise. We were a bit short-staffed; I had to stop Anna from talking too much and take over for part of the tour before rushing to meet twenty British art students for a second tour, while our other volunteers were with Dutch calligrafitti rockstar, TeamBlazin’, who was providing yet another educational graffiti workshop at Apolloschool. Nevertheless, Vitoria, Anna and I were happy to take the opportunity to show Amsterdam&Partners our greenways, canals, Dutch modernist architecture and utopian urban planning, fresh seasonal produce, and the super delicious but little-known (in the center/to tourists) Moroccan and Turkish restaurants in our area.

Our visitors from Amsterdam&Partners were on a tight schedule, but were all still very open, talkative, curious, and eager to share their input on the collection and the neighbourhood with us. Being an international group of travel, lifestyle and hospitality bloggers, the group was full of thoughtful questions about socio-economic challenges in the region, gentrification, and developing our collection, as well as providing overall positive feedback – all equally humbling, encouraging, and valuable to the museum as an opportunity to learn from individuals who spend their lives traveling and writing. Although they are not street art bloggers by trade, it was a valuable morale boost for the SAMA team to see that after seven years, this initiative continues to grow, generate interest and excitement from educated and critical individuals.

The morning wasn’t all just us showing off, however. As a new curatorial team – and as the museum runs a kickstarter campaign to generate funding to preserve Stinkfish’s “Fatherhood” in VR as it is about to be demolished – Paige, Vitoria and I were lucky to take advantage of the opportunity to learn a bit more from the Amsterdam&Partners group about social media channels’ power in marketing, especially in the cultural sector. As the three of us step in to taking more operational responsibility at SAMA and other institutions in years to come, it is especially valuable for us to not only practice what we have learned at school, but also learn alternative and grassroots strategies for making cultural initiatives work from individuals who have through their diverse backgrounds and expertise.

Street Art Museum Amsterdam has always sought to use its street art collection as a tool for dialogue, for horizontal education, and as boosterism for the often ignored Nieuw-West region. Today was an opportunity to achieve both, sharing our history, our neighbourhood, and teaching international journalists about our art, but also learning from our guests. Seven years into what started as a one-off community initiative, SAMA hopes that the experience today will help us carry on our goal of showing Nieuw-West in a positive light, while expanding our access to new audiences to continue using street art to inspire dialogue and positive social outcomes.

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