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Amsterdam's "Surround Sound"

Updated: Oct 28, 2022

What is Surround Sound?

In 2021 Street Art Museum Amsterdam commissioned Kenor (ES) to co-create the Surround Sound - a participatory artwork that would be painted together with local artists and community members on Plein 40-45 of Amsterdam Nieuw-West.

Surround Sound was born in the context of AAI, ACCESS and CityLab programs, initiated by Bloomberg Philanthropies (an organisation that works with cities to improve the quality of life in neighbourhoods by developing studies or creating art projects), and co-sponsored by Gemeente Amsterdam and Amsterdams Fonds voor de Kunst. The artwork has also been translated into a diverse myriad of adaptations revealed at the annual Bloomberg #CityLab2022 conference, which took place in October 2022 in Amsterdam.


The project took almost a year to complete: from the first, out of numerous, painting session in October 2021 to the swift refresher and adaptation presentations - digital and analogue - in October 2022. David Andersson and Nicholas Mosquera, who spearheaded the creation of Surround Sound from Bloomberg side, together with Meike Le Coultre and Peter Both from Amsterdam municipality, visited Surround Sound on-site.

Street Art Museum Amsterdam has shown time and again that public art is a crucial part of neighborhood vitality and identity. Our Asphalt Art Initiative works with cities to use public art to revitalize forgotten public spaces in tandem with community residents, and SAMA’s large scale “Surround Sound” installation – designed by Spanish artist Kenor and installed with local artists – brilliantly transforms a giant grey plaza into a colorful space for community interaction.
David Andersson, Arts Team, Bloomberg Philanthropies

What is ACCESS program?

In November and December 2021, the small scale actions (pilots) were implemented in the three city districts of Amsterdam.


In Nieuw-West by Claire van der Mee with the driving bulletin board the Art Cart for making the art and culture on offer to residents visible in an accessible way. Otmar Watson with a documentary Artistic Zuidoost about 4 culturally influential young makers from Zuidoost and a workshop in Noord, led by Massih Hutak for young residents from the De Banne district. There was extensive exchange of ideas about identity, the definition of culture, the offer and the wishes.

In addition, there was a special Street Asphalt Art work Surround Sound on Plein 40-45 in the Nieuw-West district.


The impact measurements on these interventions were performed by the 50 second-year students of the sociology program at the VU. Also, from November to January, together with 60 VU first-year sociology students, research was conducted among local residents in various neighbourhoods about the inclusion of art and culture in the districts of Noord, Zuidoost and Nieuw-West.


What is Asphalt Art Initiative?

The Asphalt Art Initiative is one of the programs at Bloomberg Philanthropies. They've supported projects in more than 40 cities in the US an 3 in EU. Asphalt Art Initiative responds to the growing number of cities around the world embracing art as an effective and relatively low-cost strategy to make their streets more attractive.

While cities incorporate art into public spaces in a variety of ways, the focus of this initiative is what we're calling asphalt art: visual interventions on roadways, pedestrian spaces and vertical infrastructure. The results have been extraordinary. They've helped make streets and sidewalks brighter, and more visible, more full of life, and safer. Bloomberg Philanthropies, published a study showing that accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists have decreased by more than 50% at asphalt art sites.

Public art is hugely important for community. It gives them hope, it makes them feel good.
Yinka Ilori (artist, London, England)

What is CityLab?

Bloomberg CityLab, the preeminent global city summit organised by Bloomberg Philanthropies in partnership with the Aspen Institute, took place this year in Amsterdam on October 9-11.

Global mayors alongside prominent city innovators, business leaders, urban experts, artists, activists have come together to share ideas and solutions to the challenges that facing our planet. #CityLab2022 convened 40+ local leaders from around the world, so they can learn from each other – and share actionable solutions on issues from leading their communities through pandemic recovery to welcoming refugees from global conflicts to combatting climate change.


At #CityLab2022, you could learn more about how Amsterdam is moving digital privacy and transparency, inclusive economics, and climate resilience forward.

Amsterdam has always been a place to be inspired and to develop individuality. This city is absolutely at the forefront of creating a resilient and liveable city for its residents. Amsterdam wants to become a place in the world that begins to heal the planet as a whole. So hopefully the progress this city is making will have an impact on other parts of the world.



Why Surround Sound important?

A paramount idea behind Surround Sound is to attract people to the square and then visit the businesses and social initiatives that are there already.


Participation in this program with Bloomberg Philanthropies and City of Amsterdam placed our neighbourhood on a bigger international map of action.

The other essential aim of this project was to bring people from different cultures and backgrounds together in the neighbourhood. The result of this collaboration with Amsterdam artists and residents of Nieuw-West is one of the largest participatory art works in the city. Now the market square looks bright and colourful and people spend their free time here.


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