Community offers urban dynamics in quiet Drenthe. ‘Contact with colleagues can help you grow’

A striking number of new art initiatives are being developed in Drenthe. After Zookeeper in Emmen, Campis in Assen and Kunstwerk in Kolderveen, visual artists have now united in the community.

As an artist, Laura van Gaans is looking for stillness. She does this by turning inward, through self-examination and then expressing that. She used photography for this, but lately she has been trying to shape feelings and images with oil paint, ink and charcoal.

Initially, Van Gaans did this in a room with children in her hometown of Havelte. Cozy, but not always practical, especially when tranquility is the goal. To further develop as an artist, she looked for a larger workplace.

She found it in a studio in Meppel. Her works quickly became larger. She no longer had to limit herself to the living room size of one meter by one meter. In Meppel she was also able to literally give her art more space.

Making thumbnails, or writing

But the studio in Meppel is not available indefinitely, says Van Gaans. “It stops at some point. And then it becomes problematic. I can start making miniatures or writing. But that is not the development I see for me as an artist.”

Van Gaans decided to join the artist community Not primarily to find another studio, the problem is not that acute, but to talk to colleagues and come up with ideas about work and circumstances.

“If you’re just in your head, if you’re just thinking, not much happens,” she says. “Contact with colleagues can help you grow, gain more self-confidence and improve as an artist. I feel like I’m at the bottom of the ladder. I want to learn.”

Building a community is new in Drenthe, last Friday the community presented itself in a wooden house at the Sustainability Center in the Asser forest. Since an opening ceremony by Mariëlle Kooij, art developer for the province of Drenthe, twenty artists have joined the community. The intention is for there to be more.

According to figures from the Art & Culture Foundation (K&C), Drenthe has approximately 350 professional visual artists, in addition to approximately 1,400 active amateurs. “ wants to give a positive impetus to the art climate for all these artists, directly or indirectly,” says Hellen Abma, who helped build the community on behalf of K&C.

Drenthe is a sparsely populated province without an art academy, with relatively few facilities for artists, Abma knows. “They are difficult to see by the general public. Because there is hardly any infrastructure, it is difficult for them to profile themselves and connect with each other.”

Young artists also connect – the name is inspired by the Drenthe language – wants to change that. The goals are to exchange knowledge, promote expertise and craftsmanship and organize exhibitions and activities. That indeed resembles the work that Centrum Beeldende Kunst Drenthe did until its bankruptcy in 2015.

The majority of the members have a decent track record. “There is still a challenge to connect young artists,” says Abma. “Hopefully can ensure that recently graduated artists see that there are unique opportunities and possibilities in Drenthe and want to settle permanently.”

Need for commonality

The creation of the community did not come out of the blue. The foundation was laid years ago during several editions of the K&C Figureheads competition. During the pandemic, the need for more community was felt even more. was subsequently made possible with corona support money.

In recent years, more new art initiatives have been developed in Drenthe. For example, Emmen has had the Zookeeper workshop since 2021, Assen has had the Campis art venue since 2022 and Kunstwerk in Kolderveen started last year. In addition, the Into Nature event, which was initially conceived as a biennial, now makes its mark every year.

Stimulating contact

The current boom does not make the need for the community any less important, thinks member Maria Berkhout. After she left Rotterdam for Dwingeloo as an artist, Berkhout discovered the necessity and pleasure of collaboration and stimulating contact with artists in Drenthe.

Since then, she has organized various activities with others, including members Joop Vos and Tieneke Zijlstra. As Northnow in the former horticultural school and Frederiksoord and last year the art route Look Then See in Veenhuizen.

What is difficult in Drenthe, says Berkhout, is that it can easily take an hour to contact colleagues. “Not that I want to return to Rotterdam, but some of the dynamics and exchange that you have in a city would be nice here. A community can ensure that.”

Inhale – Exhale

For more about the community see . Members Edward Clydesdale Thomson and Priscila Fernandes from Kolderveen, Bouke Groen from Tynaarlo, Peter Veen from Nieuw-Schoonebeek and Cora Jongsma from Assen contribute to Inhale – Exhale a program of art manifestation Into Nature and the Art & Culture Foundation (K&C) in the swampy area De Onlanden in the north of Drenthe.