Finding a new identity is often a process of struggles and uphill battles. It takes determination and sometimes, bridges have to be burnt before they can be rebuilt. I’ll tell you about the new identity that SAMA is trying to take on, but first, let me tell you a bit about myself.
I am born and bred in Amsterdam and have always had a strong connection to urban life and what it means to live in a city. This year, I finished my Bsc in Human Geography at the UvA where i learned about these topics from an academic approach. However, urban life is something you have to do in my view, and it cannot be studied the same way it can be lived. So I set out to find an internship with the municipality where I could approach urban life from a more practical standpoint. Unfortunately it turned out that municipal work is bound up in bureaucracy and strenuous formalities. Who would have predicted that… After six months my internship was finished and I was quite disappointed and disillusioned.
I longed for something more creative and less top-down. A place where out of the box thinking -excuse the cliche- and a free flow of ideas and thoughts are appreciated and put to good use in the city. Well, to cut a long story short, through serendipity, a divine intervention, or sheer coincidence, I ended up at SAMA where I found all those things. Precisely when SAMA was looking at a way to reinvent itself amidst the new reality that COVID-19 imposed on us, I stumbled along, looking for a place where I could experiment and innovate. It was a perfect match.
2020 has been a year of change. As everybody faced the consequences of the global COVID-19 outbreak, people have had to adapt to the changes and have had to overcome new problems. In an instant, the world was upside down and we had to deal with it. People got sick, economies all over the world took a hard hit, social interaction had to be brought to a minimum and many other measures had to be taken to dampen the impact of the pandemic. The effects of COVID-19 were very apparent in Amsterdam. The usually busy and thriving inner city was suddenly abandoned by tourists and for the first time since a very long time, it was possible to manoeuvre the grachten without being caught up in masses of tourists.
And although many people liked the sudden silence and the fact that the city was once again a place where people lived, it didn’t take long for the atmosphere to become eerie and suffocating as the implications of the lockdown and the lack of social life in the city became more and more noticeable. A city should be a place of interaction, buzz, love, friendship, conflict, traffic and all those other qualities that make city life city life. Amsterdam thrives on its position in a globalising world and although many negative things can be said about the tourists, the multinationals, the expats and the global market forces that are a burden on the city at times, one thing is for sure, total exclusion is no solution for these problems.
SAMA was also impacted by the outbreak. As the flows of tourists ran dry, the amount of bookings we received for tours dropped and the realisation set in that SAMA had to change its course to sail through this storm. Flexibility and adaptive capacity are essential in times like this when the fabric of life is being rewoven.
Thankfully, SAMA is a place where creative thinking, out of the box solutions and resilience are paramount.
So, what is this new identity and how will SAMA get there?
Under the supervision of The Impact Coach, we have been working on an impact study and a theory of change in order to reflect on the character and mission of SAMA. Through this reflection, by taking a long hard look in the mirror, SAMA is redefining it’s features.
We have had discussions about the social responsibility of SAMA, our place in the neighbourhood, what it means to be a cultural institution in Nieuw-West, who we reach with our work and what the roles of augmented reality and digitalisation are in the archiving of (street) art. Please read Lennart’s article for a more in depth account of these discussions and the strategy that SAMA will adapt to consolidate this new identity. Although we aren’t quite finished yet with reimagining SAMA, the debate has brought forward many insights into the way SAMA wants and needs to work and the ways in which the new strategy and identity of SAMA will guide us through 2021.
Bricks and Mortar
Another part of the new identity of SAMA is the realisation of the SAMA web shop. SAMA has started selling T-Shirts and Hoodies to consolidate and manifest the newly designed SAMA logo and SAMA image. By selling merchandise, SAMA is branding itself as more than a museum that oversees a collection. Now, you can wear SAMA, you can identify with SAMA by wearing the brand, you can bring SAMA into the streets by wearing a shirt.
The merchandise is a way of communicating with the world that SAMA is a community, a social entity that represents street art and urban life. The design of the merchandise has been inspired by the bricks that street art is painted on, the bricks that the very streets and buildings are made of. The SAMA logo has been designed to encapsulate this relation between art and the street. Bricks are a central theme in the re-imaging and re-imagining of SAMA. They are the building blocks that make up the urban fabric and in a figurative way, bricks are the building blocks of the new SAMA identity. Logically the name of the collection is Bricks and Mortar. Take a look on our website to find out more!
SAMA is a place of connectivity, bringing together artists from all over the world in Amsterdam Nieuw-West. Also, being located in this neighbourhood, multiculturalism and diversity are a key component of the way in which SAMA operates. This valuable connectivity and diversity will stay important for SAMA and SAMA will keep its open and inclusive character towards anybody, regardless of their background. But, SAMA will also redirect its attention to the Dutch context that it is operating in. With the arrival of two new native Dutch employees (that would be me and Lennart), SAMA is in a position where it can focus on Dutch projects. This means that SAMA will be more present in the neighbourhood and will actively explore the interaction between Amsterdam Nieuw-West and SAMA as a social-cultural institution. The forthcoming collaboration with the IMC Weekendschool is a prime example.