Yesterday we appeared in the local paper, describing the project and our residency. This followed another article two days before from a local politician stating ‘the trouble with Poelenburg is the people who live here’, in other words the exact opposite of what we’ve been saying – that the people make the building/area valuable. Being here for a month and speaking to the people who live here, has confirmed our belief there is no use in continuing to stigmatize this neighbourhood. That’s why our focus has not been on the needs of this place, but on its strengths and qualities.
Image from Dagsblad Zaanstreek 27.2.13
On the same day the paper came out, a man from the local resident’s neighbourhood group immediately came to visit us, having read the article – asking us to make a presentation about our project to the group. We’ve found that people in Poelenburg are interested in our ideas around looking for assets and not problems in the area. That by building on these assets a community can make the changes they want to make and fulfil their potential. So now we’ve met another active community leader who is working to support these developments in Poelenburg.
The first we met was Violeta Meta, a local activist and entrepreneur. She runs a catering company and has initiated several valuable projects in Poelenburg. Including the World Women’s Choir – which brings women from the many cultural backgrounds in the area together, to sing as well as support each other in their lives. They’re hosting a performance event with a buffet, which is open to all in the evening of 15th March. Violeta also works at the Infohuis (a housing association/municipality-run support centre), an accessible place where anybody can walk in with their questions and ideas. Violeta acts as a facilitator, connecting people when she thinks they can succeed better by working together. This way of working is an example of how things can slowly things change in Poelenburg, by using a positive, ground-up approach.
We hope we may be able to continue to work with residents of Poelenburg in some way in the future.
Image credit: Sarah Spanton
Poelenburg is a district of the city of Zaandam that has fallen foul of the credit crunch, in that the whole area was due for regeneration, but due to financial crisis, this has all been put on hold for the foreseeable future. The tHUISbasis programme of artists is part of light touch approach to re-activating the area. So, Ellen and I have been re-reading some articles on alternative approaches to regeneration. Dave Barrie’s article on Open-Source Placemaking is particularly interesting.
Barrie describes it as ‘… an approach to urban development that centres on the making of an implementable ‘social action plan’ first – not a master plan – is inspired by the autonomy that many people want from their lives and seeks to create places through an unfolding process of interaction design first, architecture second.’
We’re interested in how he suggests supporting communities and enterprises in regeneration areas by having agencies involved in development ‘…promote internal markets in goods and services on a barter basis – perhaps even follow a model by which tenants provide services-in-kind to external grant funders of a site, in lieu of rent.’
Today is our first real day of working on the project, so we’ve drawn back the curtains to see out into the neighbourhood.
Image credit: Ellen Holleman
Ellen and I began the tHUISbasis residency yesterday. We met with two of the other artists on the programme; musician and composer Claudia Rumondor and visual artist Carla Hoekenga – who updated us on how the tHUISbasis project has been going.
So far Ellen and I have been thinking together and planning the residency’s trajectory. We’re focussing on asking the question – what is valuable in this neighbourhood? We’re interested in asking residents and local agencies/organisations to look more closely at what might be of value, to try to reveal value that is currently not recognised in the area.
And I’ve moved into the flat and have been getting it ready for us to start using it as a studio and as my living space for the next month.
The neighbourhood of Poelenburg.