Our work so far: recap and review
This text is to give an entire overview of work in our classes, Art and Society Designing Research and Experimental Ethnography Lab. These classes took place over the course of 20 weeks from September – February. This text includes individual sections of highlights along with a brief description of the work that was involved. During this time our group faced many challenges, however we feel that this challenges played a role in enriching the learning atmosphere. These course overall prepared us in understanding ethnographic fieldwork and training and in being submersed in real world applications of practice. A brief summary of that practice and applications include working alongside a professional researcher, interviewing industry professionals, conducting research surveys, conducting fieldwork, facilitating a research symposium, and compiling our research to translate to data gathering such as this blog and class assignments. The following are the descriptions of each of the points listed in the prior statement.
Renée Steenbergen is an academic scholar at the Utrecht University. She has a Ph.D in Art History and Art Sociology and has been working on the behavior of donors and art collectors since the late eighties. She has worked for Dutch newspapers as an art critic and has been involved in the art sector as an advisor. In 2008 she published the book “De Nieuwe Mecenas” (The New Patron).
Currently Renée is working on a research about the behavior and motivation of young donors in the Netherlands. She’s not the only one in Europe researching this topic, so she is building a network of researchers in Europe that are doing a similar research in their country. This is where we come in. She has asked us to help her with her research and help her in organizing “The Day of Arts Philanthropy,” a symposium organized by Renée to share data, learn from each other, get into contact with fellow researchers and other people in this field.
Tomorrow (19th) the Day of Arts Philanthropy will be in the Academiegebouw at the Domsquare. Other researchers will attend, but also a lot of funders, collectors, politicians, policymakers and corporate workers. During the day a number of lectures will be held by a number of Dutch and international speakers.
She has asked us to help her with the invitations, the social media, covering the event academically and literally preparing the event (setting up chairs etc.)
Concerning her research she has asked us to help with a survey that she is currently conducting among the Young Patron Circle of the Dutch National Opera & Ballet, in collaboration with that organization. We have helped her to develop the survey and helped her in developing a digital format that is easy for the recipient and the researcher.
Our project is really different from most of the other project, and that’s why we really liked it in the beginning. Unfortunately there were some misunderstandings between our group, Renée and Akin. This led to us not doing anything academically for a long time and basically supporting her in simple and basic tasks (e.g. data—entry for the invitations for hours). We were disappointed in the fact that she had promised us to get us into contact with the donors and cultural organizations, as we had tried our best to let her understand what the aim of this course was (and what we’d eventually be graded on). After a few very direct conversations (and help from Akin) she finally saw that we had to do different things than just assisting her.
Since then Renée has brought us into contact with Matilde Smit and Arjan de Wit for interviews. Matilde works for FOAM and is the head of Club FOAM, the young donors of FOAM. We had a great interview with her and she really showed us what it is that she does and how she’s so good at it. Arjen de Wit is a scholar working at the philanthropy department of the University of Amsterdam. He gave us key insights in philanthropy studies that are more quantitative based. Renée also stayed for this interview, giving us a nice contrast between the quantitative and qualitative based research on this topic.
The road we had to take wasn’t the road that Akin had set out for us. We have had little contact with our “field” and up until recently had done nothing that would meet proper academic standards. This means that our blog is somewhat… minimalistic. We still have to post some of our articles on the interviews and have posted a few articles on the literature that Renée made us read. We are aware of the fact that most of the other groups have more comprehensive blogs, but wel will try to squeeze every blog post out of the material that we’ve gathered. This of course means that we will cover the symposium.
From this experience with Renée, FOAM and Dutch National Opera & Ballet about art philanthropy among younger people, we would like to apply our experience and knowledge. Our presentation consists of introducing a virtual project in which we would like the Art & Society’s students to be involved in. The Hub Utrecht is a place to connect the cultural life of Utrecht. It is a place where artists from all kinds of disciplines can come and rehearse, exhibit, learn and perform. The artists can be of all levels, beginner or advanced, or maybe even an aspiring artist. It is also a place for critical thought and in depth conversation about a wide range of topics, where no opinions are incorrect. We want the most true form of Habermas’ Public Sphere to be present in the Hub. Next to that we also want to connect with the established cultural institutions that Utrecht has to offer.
- ’t Hoogt (cinema)
- Touché Company (dance)
- Ekko, BASIS, ACU, Sofar Sound (music)
- Parnassos (performance)
- Kapitaal, BAK, Casco,
- HKU, UU
The networking with the institutions has several benefits for all partners. As a marketing tool it works both ways. The visitors of the Hub get to know more about the cultural institutions and the other way around. The Hub is also a place where the institutions can exchange knowledge between themselves, so that future collaborative efforts might arise and networking among the institutions can be enhanced. As the Hub is also a training ground for aspiring artists, the institutions might stumble upon some extraordinary talent that they feel could be a great fit for their own venue.
Together with the municipality of Utrecht the founders were looking for a location and by sheer luck found an abandoned store at the Oude Gracht that perfectly fits all of the Hub’s needs. The aim is to open before this summer.
The Hub: a user-friendly place
Supported by the municipality, we hope on getting a location in the center of Utrecht, on the Oudegracht. We want this space a convivial gathering spot, with a café area. Conceived as a co-working space during the day it can also be an exhibition space. The evening we would host conferences, representations, shows on the stage.
The open space should materialize the whole philosophy of our project, that everyone can make his own.
The Hub’s Aims
As a non-profit organization, we define ourselves as facilitator and catalyzer of talents. We deeply care about initiatives that benefit the city of Utrecht, as a young, dynamic and engaged cultural scene. To this end, we privilege projects that connect the arts with social, political, economic and ecologic meanings.
- Informing about the diverse cultural events in Utrecht
- Helping (art)students/upcoming artist to go into administration process to get a space of exhibition or public subventions
- Connecting creative people in a welcoming and co-working space. We have a little café inside our studio.
- Networking: to create a sense of community belonging the local creative people of Utrecht
- Sharing knowledge: a place for conference/lecture, open stage, workshop, exhibition. We also have a specialized library about social engagement in the arts.
- Discussing: Public Sphere (The public sphere is an area in social life where individuals can come together to freely discuss and identify societal problems, and through that discussion influence political action.)
- Locally engaged: delimited by the city of Utrecht and closed by villages, we would like to boost the cultural life of a specific territory. Notion of citizenship includes also a political engagement and questions the relationship of a population to its public space
When the audience becomes participants
We build this project specifically for this audience (part of the targeting strategy) that we want to become participant. Characteristics of the public:
- student (little money)
- well educated
- interested by culture & the arts
- socially engaged
- international / multicultural
- majority of the population in Utrecht
We thought about creating a utopian project that would fit the best for our targeted demographic. Therefore, the project required we correspond to the interest of our public in order to convince them to be part of this undertaking (necessary to mention that normally this is the reverse process: you have a project first and then a certain kind of public will follow it)
According to our target-audience, the project must be:
- No money involved
- Sharing knowledge
- Engaged through the arts and culture
- Open on cultural exchange
What do we expect from our audience/participants?
Because our public is a student one, we do not ask for money but we focus on time giving and spontaneous donation (knowledge, network, space, furniture for the studio, music instruments, creative material, food, etc.). Active participation in the project is the ultimate goal for keeping The Hub alive. This participation is in fact the heart of the project: the source, the motor and the purpose.
Joep & Christos & Esther > Choral and music event to gather money for refugee center (New Dutch Society). The project is FOR and BY the refugees. Concert entrance based on donation, located at the ACU (politically engaged).
- Joep would be the facilitator with The New Dutch Connection, could also create a choral.
- We could help Christo to get in touch with local musician that would like to participate
- Esther would be part of the curating, organizing team. Her artist friend could be involved
- We would provide a concert place
- Manage the communication
Sylvie : music concert with sofar sound, vj contemporary visual art
Calina could organize a dance show next to it
Analyze & Conclusion
Discussion and analyze of our strategy. It should include the web strategy (must be more elaborated)!
Feedback from the class.
THE question: Would you get involved in our project?
Analyze: the target public
Strategy is about knowing as much as possible about your audience in our to carter to their characteristics. The heart of the project comes from directly what we believe would interest the students of Art & Society master.
We learned how to get this information through the questionnaires exercise for the Opera Ballet. This strategy is connected to the notion of Capital form Bourdieu. Cultural, social and economic capitals (have to be defined). Define the specificity of the young public inside the cultural and artistic world.
Analyze2: the goals of The Hub
I believe, the notion of engagement must be more framed and clearly defined.
Connection between creativity, cultural life and the city space (public sphere). Our larger concern is about how to improve the life of Utrecht’s citizens: we believe that art and culture are powerful tools of social connection and political involvement in the sphere of the city. The young generation has to find its own way of getting involved in the public debate, and it is via the cultural scene that we expect attracting the biggest number of them.
Importance of the networking > Foam Club example
Analyze3: Connecting people & ethic of the project
It is also an answer to neoliberalism and the business orientation of the art world: we are looking for an alternative to connect people around a common interest for the arts and culture, and at the same time breaking the capitalist rules of profit, consummation and commodification.
Analyze4: Collaboration with the local institutions
We want to collaborate with young spirit institutions. Hipster culture. (focus on Kapitaal)
The collaboration with cultural institutions already set up appears to us necessary to stay connected with the roots of the Utrecht’s cultural life, to connect a broader type of public and to get some legitimacy among the municipality (financing by the municipality)
Question public sphere / private vs. public funding.
Analyze5: the presentation and interaction with the class
This strategy of taking people individually to task is important in order to show them that they can make this project their own. It also makes the project more concrete.
Mathilde Smith insisted on the importance of the “Home feeling” in that there is a value in making individuals feel special, unique and considered. Human side. Was this achieved?
In conclusion the above topics helped us in developing our group as potential researchers and professionals. Our group has built a strong bond over the projects and our proud of one another for their work toward our mutual goals. This experience has truly enriched our personal and professional environments. Special thanks to Renée Steenbergen, Arjen de Wit, Mathilde Smit, our professor Dr. Edward Akintola Hubbard, and most importantly to one another in Group D.
This report was compiled by Karel de Leeuw, Morgane Bodin, and Adam Rakestraw