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Street Art - The Value of a Messy Wall

When we think about graffiti or street art, an image of a ‘messy wall’ comes to mind as in opposite to the sterile white cube environment.

For some it is a dirty wall, but for others - a place for democratic expression of oneself. If we stop and think about messiness in art, the term Dada is the first such reference. Dadaism is a revolutionary movement in the early twentieth century in art and literature based on deliberate irrationality and negation of traditional artistic values. With Dadaism in mind, we can think of anyone as an artist in an accepting environment where there is no room for prejudice or overthinking.

SAMA’s MidzomerMokum program was a series of workshops, open to the public and occurring in 2 locations of Amsterdam Nieuw-West during the summer months, engaging with local youth and bringing the neighbourhood together.

SAMA is focused on welcoming and connecting with participants, local and from other parts of Amsterdam, and aims at improving the quality of life of the community while also creating jobs for local artists and creatives. We think it is important to emphasise the work SAMA has done specifically for the neighbourhood where our HQ Gallery is located and Confucius Playground, where our local partner DOCK is. This summer in particular has been challenging for all of us. The travel restrictions of COVID-19 have made it very difficult for many families to leave for the usual holiday vacations. Having events and programs like these in a city, organised in your own neighbourhood by local organisations, helps to provide an imaginative escape from everyday life.

By now we also know that street art is more than graffiti and designed murals. It is a form of expression. Therefore SAMA is an organisation that not only embraces street art, graffiti and art in general, it equally embraces diversity and inclusion. We use street art as a tool to a dialogue, building deeper connection with people and the community. The benefits of bringing these workshops to the small communities are various. We learn a lot from these experiences as well and we know that the parents appreciate knowing that their kids have a place where they can be themselves and express their feelings through art for a period of time during the week. A place where kids are concentrated on the workshop but don’t have to overthink the final result. Letting loose their imagination and learning together with other children from the neighbourhood, where everyone works together for an artistic expression rather than perfection.

SAMA collaborated with local artists Ben de Boef and TeamBlazin in order to make these special experiences for the children and the parents possible. We designed Street Art School program consisting of a series of different workshops, such as spray painting, stencil, drawing, painting, calligraffiti and graffiti techniques. Painting on canvas and on walls are forms of alternative expression that perhaps these children may not learn in their schools or elsewhere. A fun fact about these workshops is that usually it starts off with a few children and as the days go by, more and more kids show up due to the encouraging word of mouth. There is a community within the community and they want to spend their time together. Children are honest and pure and this is an important aspect we learn from them at SAMA. It is a good way of bonding and socialising, getting them out of their comfort zone but in a circle of trust - SAMA team of professionals and volunteers. Each workshop is different so it’s always a learning process for everyone to adapt to the children and the workshop.

We know that the parents have really appreciated what SAMA has done for the neighbourhood based on direct feedback received. They want to experience more moments like these, and we want to continue providing them, by introducing a whole range of urban arts: music, poetry, hip-hop, rap, dance, storytelling - as they are interconnected and thus capable of bringing all of us closer together.

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