Piet Paaltjenspad 9
Art as the means to an end or an end in itself?
In 2014 journalist and researcher Roel Griffioen wrote an article for the Belgian magazine Rekto:versoabout ‘art as a lubricant’ in deprived neighbourhoods. He zoomed in on the Kolenkit neighbourhood, which was declared the Netherlands’s worst neighbourhood some ten years ago.
In the Kolenkit neighbourhood various initiatives can be found which aim to improve the quality of life in the relatively small neighbourhood by means of art and culture. WOW Amsterdam at Wiltzanghlaan is one of those initiatives, just like the former Bookstore Foundation. And then there is Cascoland, led by Roel Schoenmakers and Fiona de Bell.
Cascoland is a versatile project in which local residents often participate. This takes form as an urban garden, a guest house and a flexible workspace. In the past a number of pop-up projects were organised, like an ice rink, a barbeque island and a hen house.
The main question in Griffioen’s article was about the role of art in these neighbourhoods. Is it merely the means to an end or can it be an end in itself? Because as everybody knows, once a ‘broedplaats’ has done service project developers will be readily spending their millions and will promote the place as ‘the newest and trendiest Berlin neighbourhood’. The creatives will have to pack up and leave and give up their place to the yuppies.
Of course there are flaws in Cascoland’s projects. The urban farm may serve as a micro-level example. It is used by some residents as a way to support their own livelihood. The heaviest crops bring in more money so they are given priority. Looking at the bigger picture, the emerging Kolenkit neighbourhood is a threat to itself. Young people leaving home won’t be able to find affordable housing in the neighbourhood. The neighbourhood’s character seems to have fallen prey to gentrification.
In Cascoland’s ‘living room’ is a model of the Rhapsody building in Amsterdam-West. With the developer and the architect Cascoland accomplished that the apartments be sold for reasonable prices, so that young starters get the chance to stay in their own neighbourhood. Cascoland’s guest house is also art of this complex.
What makes Cascoland special is the self-awareness of its founders Roel Schoenmakers and Fiona de Bell and the group of researchers and volunteers who have committed themselves to the project. They know that they contribute to the regeneration of the city and that they are a link in the mechanism of gentrification, but they don’t simply resign themselves to that fact. Instead, they add another link to the chain, one that is crucial and even more effective, all for the sake of the neighbourhood.
http://cascoland.com EN Griffioen, Roel (2014) De creatieve klasse als vreemdelingenlegioen, www.rektoverso.be. URL bezocht op 25 mei 2018. https://www.rektoverso.be/artikel/de-creatieve-klasse-als-vreemdelingenlegioen