Art in Times of Corona: FAAM Utrecht
The corona crisis has shaken the cultural sector to its core, not only affecting the established cultural institutions, but smaller, local initiatives as well. FAAM Utrecht is the perfect example of such a locally rooted initiative that, due to the pandemic, went out and found digital solutions to pursue its mission: connecting Art History students to young artists, and connecting them both to the public. Through this search forced by the worldwide crisis, FAAM discovered the possibility to showcase these young art historians and artists’ work and conversations to an international audience.
Stichting FAAM was founded in 2019 by Art History students from Utrecht University and HKU-students (University of the Arts Utrecht), who noticed there was little to no exchange taking place between the two institutions. FAAM saw this as a missed opportunity, because of the expected contact between the two parties in the future day-to-day practice. Moreover, FAAM is convinced that approaching the artworld in an collaborative manner contributes to inventive creativity. By pairing up young art historians with young artists (both Dutch and international), FAAM quite literally bridges the gap between the two worlds of theory and practice. During the academic year, the couples get to know each other’s practices. The Art History students open up their rooms and the HKU-students fill up the resulting pop-up exhibition spaces with their artwork. The Art History students reflect on the artworks by writing a catalogue text and producing a podcast. The collaboration culminates in a one-day physical event where visitors get around the exhibition spaces by following the exhibition route.
The coronavirus had a direct impact on the project. Because of the safety risks, it was simply not possible to let the exhibition route take place. 'The crisis inspired us, however, to rethink the initiative and to broaden our view,' says Annette Knol, one of the founders of FAAM. Before, FAAM intended to reach a local audience, focused on the city of Utrecht and its surroundings. The coronavirus forced FAAM to look beyond the physical event, which resulted in the online exhibition series ‘Beeldbrug’. In this series, the couples make visual or conceptual associations between a contemporary artwork of the HKU-student and an artwork from the past. What do the soon-to-be artist and the revolutionaries of the past have in common? The series made it possible for the participants to stay connected in an inspiring way, in a time in which contact is much needed. Moreover, by taking part in ‘Beeldbrug’ the students are able to present their thinking and making to an audience that is no longer limited to physical boundaries. The online series has stimulated the organization to start thinking of reaching a wider, international audience and is currently working on bilingual communication channels. Communicating in English and online is not only essential for widening FAAM’s reach, but also contributes to making the project more attractive for international participants. Since its founding, international students have been taking part in the project. FAAM continually tries to improve itself to increase both national and international partakers.
Willem Vos (Art History, Utrecht University) and South-African student Elliot McDonald (Fine Art, HKU) worked together on an episode in the Beeldbrug-series. Elliot’s acrylic painting Dad by the pool made Willem instantly think of the famous ‘pool paintings’ by the British David Hockney, not only because of the similar choice of subject and the use of color, but also because of their artistic process. Both artists work from reference pictures and are keen on depicting the people they are surrounded with. Willem thinks the online series are ‘a nice twist on the project, giving the artists a platform to showcase their work and the Art History students a platform to showcase their knowledge in art history.’ Elliot states: ‘I think it works quite well this way actually, and it has a greater reach potential’. The coronacrisis inspired FAAM to enter the digital world, making artistic theory and practice even more approachable. FAAM is excited to continue making connections in the future and reaching out to local and global audiences, both in the physical and the digital world.