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Street Art & Democracy – Impact

Updated: Nov 29, 2022

Researching the role of street art in an urban environment for the project ‘Street Art & Democracy’, we asked different stakeholders to share with us their experiences with street art. But first:

What is a street art stakeholder?

Any party that has an economic, social, cultural, or political interest in street art and/or is (in)directly affected by a street art project.

Several street art stakeholders in the city of Amsterdam are the city curatorium (Stadscuratorium) that values street art as a form of art in public space; urban developers that use street art to make a new district appealing for new residents and entrepreneurs, and to generate positive attention; housing associations that use street art to connect and get to know their residents and provide them an enjoyable living environment; social organisations that use street art to engage people and to develop talents of young adults.

Who did we interview and what impact do they consider street art to have on (a neighbourhood in) the city?

"Street art is an accessible way of bringing art to the people. Especially in neighbourhoods where there is a big distance between residents and cultural institutions.”
Aileen Middel, Stadscuratorium

R.U.A. - Reflexo on Urban Art project with Ramon Martins, 'A Pregnant Man's Dream', 2014. Photo Marco Buddingh

Aileen Middel is a street artist and curator, and a former member at the Stadscuratorium (City Curatorium) of Amsterdam. The Stadscuratorium provides advice within the municipality of Amsterdam about art in public space. The concern for the quality of public space, and the art that is given a place in it, is not assessed only by aesthetic criteria. Above all, the curatorium judges the quality of artworks in the public domain by what they do on, with and for the ecology of a place or area. With the appointment of the city curatorium, the City of Amsterdam indicates that it considers a guiding vision in the development of (art in) public space important.

"Street art is a very good way to take the conversation in a neighbourhood to another level. If there is art in the public space, the press often wants to write about it. It also encourages people to talk about something other than the usual."
Chiel Griffioen, Hondsrugpark Project

Chiel Griffioen is district developer at Hondsrugpark in the Southeast district of Amsterdam. Hondsrugpark is a pioneering urban development project. Originally built as an office district, the area is now being redeveloped into a lively and green working and residential district with, besides offices, different types of housing, facilities and a large city park. Stakeholders and local residents are invited to contribute to these developments.

"With all street art projects in which housing association Rochdale is involved, we enter into a dialogue with the residents and their neighbours. We want to know what the experience of the residents is and what suits the neighbourhood."
Hester van Buren, housing association Rochdale

Hester van Buren has been on the board of directors of the housing association Rochdale for twelve years. Rochdale facilitated and financed multiple street art projects on their buildings in Amsterdam for the past ten years. Some projects are initiated by residents, some are initiated by Rochdale and/or the local government, and others by street art organisations such as SAMA. Recently two murals have been made, on the initiative of local residents, in the North district of Amsterdam, ‘de Klipperbuurt’. SAMA produced the walls In a participative programme with the neighbourhood, in collaboration with Rochdale and the City of Amsterdam.

"I think that our location De Valk in the north of Amsterdam, is a very good example of street art. Several artists and local residents were involved in this project. What happens at De Valk was also included in the process."
Roel Overduin, youth organisation DOCK

Roel Overduin is a youth worker at DOCK Amsterdam. They offer help to young people and organise various activities. One of the projects aimed at connecting and talent development was a street art project at location ‘De Valk’, situated in the North of Amsterdam. This project helped young adults commit to a project, organise, be creative, and grow awareness about sustainability, the theme of the project. The street art on the building helped give the local youth centre an eye-catching presence.

“I think it is important in the first place to see and approach street art as a form of heritage. Documenting the works of art that will disappear plays an important role in this.”
Annemarie de Wildt, Amsterdam Museum

Annemarie de Wildt is historian and a curator at the Amsterdam Museum. The Amsterdam Museum collected work by graffiti artist Hugo Kaagman, as being part of the story and heritage of Amsterdam. Kaagman made a large scaffolding canvas that hung in the city centre during the years of construction of a new Metro Line. Kaagman made the canvas on behalf of the Metro Department of the municipality of Amsterdam. The canvas provides an artistic commentary on the ins and outs of the city in the last ten years. In 2014 , the canvas was cut into pieces and collected by the Amsterdam Museum.

Hugo Kaagman, Damrak-print. Photo Maarten Jansen

"Apart from the fact that it can look beautiful, I think street art is the best way to get people in the public space to think about certain topics. But also, to get people to talk to each other. The people who live in the area should always be taken into account in one way or another. It should touch something that is familiar. Otherwise it can easily become meaningless."
Karima Aissaoui, independent journalist

Karima Aissaoui provided the interviews with the stakeholders for SAMA. She is a writer, visual artist and theatre critic from Amsterdam. She wrote for the Dutch national newspapers NRC and de Volkskrant, and is working on her first book. Karima Aissaoui lived in the Nieuw-West district of Amsterdam for 25 years, and witnessed the process of gentrification. It inspired her to write a series of articles for the Dutch newspaper ‘de Volkskrant’ on how the development plans affect the neighbourhood and its residents.

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