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Margo Handwerker

Department of Anthropology

Since the 1970s, alternative artist-run exhibition spaces and well-established contemporary art museums throughout the Netherlands have worked to enhance and examine the relationship between these cultural centers and the communities that they serve. In recent years, a growing number of Dutch artists, architects and designers have launched novel initiatives that reinforce and extend this commitment to service. In their pursuit of a kind of art-making commonly referred to as social practice, these individuals and collectives have established nonprofit organizations both as a pragmatic way to diversify their sources of financial support and as a methodological tool to better access and assist those communities they intend to impact. This trend among social art practitioners is occurring worldwide, but the Netherlands cases reflect a distinctive set of disciplinary and social concerns: diminishing cultural funds and deviations from the country's rich design heritage, the increased privatization of a once intensive public housing program, the economic and environmental impact of prolonged urban renewal projects, and the marginalized emigrant and migrant populations affected by neoliberal policies. This paper investigates the advantages and disadvantages of these artists’ approaches and the reception of their strategies and solutions within the country’s private and public sectors.


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