Updated: Feb 25
As 2019 begins to wind down and the museum shifts its focus toward 2020, Street Art Museum
Amsterdam has chosen to streamline and structure programming into three interrelated thematic areas: heritage consultation and preservation, education, and innovation. This follows on at least two years of research and production leading in this direction, but with a more stable and qualified team, will allow the museum to continue its activities in these areas with more focus, to greater effect. Our activities in heritage, education, and innovation are not entirely inwardly-focused, however; as an institution dedicated to documenting, researching, and defending the ethics which originally defined graffiti and street art, it is of critical importance for SAMA to act as responsible consultants to other bodies who work with any form of street art creation, preservation, demolition, or study, with the hope that we can support and ensure street art in Amsterdam is created, documented, and preserved in a manner that is logical, ethical, and meaningful.
Through November and early December, SAMA has advised several bodies including Imagine IC and Noha Cultural Consultancy, both cultural and research institutions advising on heritage preservation and urban planning. In the former two cases, both institutions either found or wanted to create street art, but were unaware of how to select, protect, or correctly apply street art to their initiatives. With both Imagine IC and Noha, Street Art Museum Amsterdam acted as responsible consultants, essentially advising that, because the intent behind both projects was somewhat misplaced and lacking in full understanding of street art, they should not be pursued. Of course, our objective is not to chase a monopoly on street art in Amsterdam (there are many other already-existing initiatives throughout the city), but to ensure that if street art is preserved or created, it is done so in accordance with the movement’s ethics, not profit-seeking or culturewashing.
We have, and continue to, work as advisors and facilitators for cultural exchange, social outreach and events planning. SAMA recently hosted Saudi Arabian artist, Noura Bint Saidan in Amsterdam, and is currently in collaborative planning stages for a joint project and exhibition
on contemporary and street art in the Arabian Gulf, in collaboration with Sultan Sooud Al-Qassemi, founder or Barjeel Art Foundation in the United Arab Emirates. This is not so out of the ordinary in the conventional art world, but it is for street art; as street art is normally guerilla, individualistic and bottom-up, cities and countries do not normally seek institutions such as ours to which they send local artists for consultative and developmental advice. Furthermore, we continually advise organizations such as Fred Foundation and Van Gogh Connects (being two current examples) on how to apply novel strategies, through street art and street art production, to social outreach, community-building, and awareness programs.
As a museum and research institution, SAMA is also committed to diverse educational advising, programming and collaboration. We work with school and community programs ranging in objectives, age, and education level from toddlers and new learners of Dutch and English, to annually-returning art, business, and interdisciplinary social science post-secondary groups, consultations and collaborations for bachelor’s, master’s and PhD researchers, and international creative organizations. SAMA designs creative curricula tailored to the needs of the institutions we work with, which currently include the Apolloschool in Amsterdam Zuid and IVKO Montessori School in De Pijp. In all cases, we provide informal, peer-to-peer, and unconventional learning opportunities, which supports learning in other aspects of students’ lives. SAMA is also currently engaged in organizing a partnership with Radiona Zagreb Makerspace, aimed at building interdisciplinary connections in creative and cultural industries throughout the EU, to foster ongoing development of projects at the intersections of street art culture, interdisciplinary arts, and maker culture.
Finally, as a museum and research institution creating and displaying art in ever-changing public space, SAMA’s main focus is, of course, to study heritage preservation, to document and study our ephemeral collection, and to utilize emerging digital technologies to keep up with – or ahead of – current museological trends. Because we are working with an art form where precedents for ownership, intellectual property, preservation, representation and crediting standards are yet to be established, we are pushed to continually consult with veteran street artists and specialists in the cultural and legal fields to establish these standards as we work. In so doing, we are writing the book on standards by which to register an ephemeral art collection, in which conceptions of “ownership” vary by artist, into Axielle cloud database in alignment with current museum and heritage standards. We have chosen to use extended reality AR and VR technologies to preserve our collection towards these ends, in order to respect street art’s place-based, public nature and to document a rapidly-changing region of the city, while using a far more sustainable solution than relocating artworks into museum buildings (which would
also negate all of these works’ character as openly-accessible art).
SAMA’s team receives ongoing requests from diverse sectors of society to use its diverse background to continue solving problems, supporting education, and ethical street art production and display. Ironically, as many civic governments and the private sector habitually expect street artists to aid in civic boosterism and support gentrifying redevelopment initiatives for free, SAMA is also often asked to provide its consultative services without compensation, in support of unrelated initiatives obtaining their goals. As a team working for a non-profit organization, trying our best to maintain the integrity of an anti-commercial and altruistic art movement while striving to practice those same ethics, we contribute enormously to creativity, culture, and education in this city, but are stunted in our abilities by continually being asked to work for free. The scope of our work extends beyond our own walls, to providing alternative learning opportunities to children who will become tomorrow’s artists and innovators; we, likewise, advise the research bodies which report directly to the urban planning, cultural, and civic organizations who build and reshape this city before our eyes. Our inputs have far-reaching and real impacts in the way other museums and cultural organizations make far-reaching impacts in their cities, yet unlike them, we are frequently unpaid for our services.
We want to continue this work because we want to continue working collaboratively to make real things happen in Amsterdam. Like conventional consultants, however, we will be unable to continue supporting others as we would like to without fair compensation. As the only real street art initiative in the city with a long-lasting collection that is managed, in contrast to festivals or "selfie-museums," we look forward to fostering new and productive relationships with anyone seeking our services in culture, urban planning and education, who understand the value of our expertise and are willing to fairly recognize and reward us for it.
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