interviews

Explosion of new life forms’

Fraser Stewart & Marcel van den Berg, The Cambrian Explosion, 2018, VHDG in Leeuwarden. Foto: David Vroom Fraser Stewart & Marcel van den Berg, The Cambrian Explosion, 2018, VHDG in Leeuwarden. Foto: David Vroom

‘The fact that we still exist is owed to this grant!’

Lieselot Van Damme says it with a smile, but for Art Initiative Voorheen De Gemeente (VHDG), located in Leeuwarden, it is of the utmost importance that the Mondriaan Fund has awarded a Stipendium for Art Initiatives. VHDG is one of the eleven smaller art spaces and initiatives scattered over the Netherlands that have received this grant. Breeding grounds of art, according to Birgit Donker in her blog: ‘With the resources for these eleven initiatives, we offer a necessary impetus to the art of the future.’

‘That has a huge impact for us’, says van Damme, who started as a volunteer at VHDG and is now the artistic director. ‘We are still there! Not something that goes without saying!’ Now we have a starting budget that we can build from, but what is maybe even more important than the financial injection is the immaterial validation. The Mondriaan Fund, as a big national fund with all of its collected expertise and its eye for art, has given us a mark which emanates that what we are setting up here in Friesland matters nationwide. Politics, other funds, artists and art institutions with whom we like to cooperate, and not to mention the public, – they now see us even more through that perspective: as lifted from the margins.’

In a centrally located house with a graphic studio and a residency for artists from the Netherlands and abroad, VHDG carries out an international programme. ‘Artists come here to do research and experiment. At our place not everything has to be put on display right away, but that is a possibility. In January we opened our new project space, with a bang. At the exhibition The Cambrian Explosion, Fraser Steward and Marcel van den Berg mix two- and three-dimensional work: an explosion of new life forms.’