The goal of Cultural ID is to show you a direct and personal link to the arts and culture scene through the eyes of the interviewed. Each participant answers the same set of questions. In this way the blog invites them to share their experience and thoughts on the cultural scene in their city or country. Cultural ID gives you a sincere overview about the cultural identity of young arts and culture professionals from all over the world.
Monique van de Wijdeven (25) is a photographer and cultural entrepreneur from Den Bosch. She studied documentary photography at the “Hogeschool voor de Kunsten” in Utrecht. Currently she is following a study in art management.
How do you define yourself? I am pretty enthusiastic about site-specific theatre, bike tours and the Italian kitchen. I would describe myself as a rather independent and critical person. Inquisitive, but I stay close to my instincts. Restful, but I allow myself little rest.
In my way of working I am not much different. I am an independent entrepreneur and work in different projects in the field of fine arts and theater. I am organizing, coordinating, photographing and writing texts. I orientate towards optimized communication and the creation of a firm basis. I recognize and use chances, safeguard quality and I am striving to connect people and parties where it seems valuable.
What does ‘culture’ mean to you? To me Culture is a collection of art, heritage or traditions, but also contemporary expressions typical to countries or regions. I see culture in art forms, parties, food and manners. My province, Noord-Brabant, is known for its coziness and burgundy character. Also, in the south we celebrate a nice tradition: carnival
What kind of added value does culture give to you? Culture is the reason why people want to settle in a certain place and feel connected to it. A lively culture will add to the livability of a place. Arts and culture can also be interesting tools to look at questions or problems in a different manner and to solve them.
Theatre, for instance, can lead to dialogue, reflection and solutions for social issues: Bringing people closer together, question opinions and views. This is how culture evolved long ago.
Being a cultural professional is…
To move in a constantly changing, turbulent but therefore also challenging work field. You will need a good mix of different characteristics and qualities for that. Which might not always fit together, and it is not always easy, but after a while it will all come together.
What is the role of culture in your country?
The Netherlands is known for famous museums, artists, festivals, but also through some bottom-up initiatives, smaller entrepreneurs, incubator spaces and new bands. Everything is kept an eye on by the government and there are many rules. But the offer is big and thus there is naturally not much room for all initiatives. The typical Dutch person is generally more interested in big productions and famous names. However, since the big budget cuts in the cultural sector, there is much attention on making smaller and unknown initiatives more accessible to everyone. Meanwhile the awareness is increasing that culture can be a catalyst for economical progress, social connections and renewing of other sectors.
Can you sketch the cultural scene in your city?
We have festivals such as November Music and Jazz in Duketown. At cafes such as P79 en De Rode Pimpernel there are regularly bands on stage. Nice music events are also Glow, Schurkenbiefstuk and Puur dansen.
The W2 concerthall is situated in an old cigar factory where at the moment there are plans to create an art factory. Music, film and fine arts are coming together in this place. Opposite the building you will find the “Verkadefabriek”: a cinema, café-restaurant and theatre. Theatre also has some temporary places in the city during festivals such as Boulevard and CEMENT, when much use is made of special locations to program shows. Empty buildings such as the “Koningstheater”, the “Gruyterfabriek” and the “Groot Ziekengasthuis” are filled with workspaces, pop-up stores and temporary exhibitions. I am also busy, together with some other cultural entrepreneurs, to build up an initiative that aims to make cultural networks more visible in the city. To connect and enhance them, to offer structures to work together, to share knowledge and create more possibilities for young professionals in Den Bosch.
How did you end up in this city? Why did you choose to work in this city?
During my study of photography I lived in Utrecht, in a house above a little café – but I wanted to leave that place. Den Bosch seemed like a nice city to live in; I visited it several times when I was a younger. I moved with the plan to acquire a year of work experience in the cultural sector and to start a new study afterwards. In this way I became involved with all sorts of local activities and after the first year I already knew many great organizations for which I was working. When I started after that year with my art management study in Utrecht, I decided to live in Den Bosch nevertheless. I felt at home in this city. Next to it I thought that having a relatively big network in a smaller city is an important chance.
How is it for you to work in this cultural scene?
It is great to work daily on things that I love: to be involved with many different projects, to do much and to learn – also about myself. Especially if you have fellow entrepreneurs to discuss with, it helps you to develop yourself further. I constantly get new energy and ideas. The cultural scene in Den Bosch is manageable; in a short time you can learn a great deal of it. It’s also a little like “everyone knows everyone”. This will lead easily to involvement in projects and it is also often very pleasant!
How can you define the position of the cultural professional in your city?
Many work on their own projects or they do work for bigger organisations or festivals in, for instance, the field of production or text writing. Some also have stable employment; others switch between different commissioners or work fields.
How do you see the future for yourself as a cultural professional in your city, are there any opportunities there? And why?
I would love to stay here and work as a freelancer on different projects. At the same time I want to work with other creatives on enhancing bigger networks and possibilities to remain creative. The city of Den Bosch is investing more and more in the cultural position of the city. This is a chance for younger professionals to see Den Bosch as a place where they can develop – so that they do not have to move to Amsterdam or Utrecht. In these cities the cultural offer is much bigger, but just as in most big cities in the Netherlands, the chances for stable employment are low. Here, in Den Bosch, there is a much smaller group of people and thus there are many chances if you know how to use them well. It’s easier to distinguish yourself here as well. In the end you are creating chances by yourself through pro-active working and cooperations also outside your sector. It also fits in this time that more people are taking matters into their own hands.
Are there initiatives in your country that help cultural professionals/artists at the beginning of their career?
In Den Bosch there is ‘SOLOS’ for young people and young professionals who want to realize their own art projects. The two regional organisations ‘Kunstbalie’ and ‘bkkc’ will help you with advice and financial matters. The nationwide operating ‘Kunstbende’ is organizing competitions and talent competitions for youngster under 18. There are enough consultants or freelancers who you can turn to. Many cities and provinces have their own organizations for starters or cultural entrepreneurs.
Did you do residency/internship/studies outside of your country?
No, not yet!
What tips can you give to other young cultural professionals?
The most important is to keep your eyes open and make a start on something. Don’t be hesitant, but be eager. Find your balance in that, but don’t be too picky. Learn a lot, ask many questions, participate and make sure your name will be known. Even a small, unpaid job can lead to a growing partnership. Also, don’t be shy when it comes to offering your talent to organisations. They are sometimes short of project managers, designers or other help if they want to outsource work or want to address a certain topic more thoroughly. Keep building on a strong network. Often you might get a job, not because you have the best CV, but because you happened to be near or because someone knew you and suggested you would be the perfect choice. Do not speak to people at random at networking events, but go to events, openings and drinks where you know relevant people will be. In this way you can talk with them about what you can do for each other. Maybe you will discover common acquaintances or networks. Make sure that you will stay in contact with these people. Also ask for help if you need it because you cannot do everything on your own. Lots of people, like myself, enjoy helping starters in the first steps in their career!
Thank you, Monique!