Anthony Heidweiller: Secretary of State, came up with a Delta plan for a fundamental place for art in society.

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KNAW – reflection

Outline Letter for Culture 2022: Recovery, renewal and growth of State Secretary for Culture and Media Gunay Uslu was published this spring. The Academy of Arts (part of KNAW) invites its members to reflect on political developments, to let the voices of creators be heard before the public and politicians. This letter is from Anthony Heidweiller, director of the Amsterdam Academy of Theater and Dance.


On 23 May, you shared your new vision of cultural policy in a letter to the House of Representatives. Your vision is one of recovery, renewal and growth, and you propose to shape it along five lines that lead to a sector that is healthy, strong and resilient again.

Exactly what is needed! Your vision gives me confidence!

You take culture more than seriously, and you plan to invest more time, money and knowledge in it every year. The letter also particularly touches me about your concern about the people behind the scenes, the production managers, the sound people, stage builders, who had to move en masse to other professional environments when the corona pandemic broke out. Because it is precisely these people who I would also like to refer to as the foundation of the cultural sector and it is precisely these people who are hard to find at the moment. Now that we are in full swing of creating and producing again, we encounter the understaffing of this profession and we realize how important this profession is to the development and survival of the cultural sector.

Corona pandemic and foundation!

No one has connected these two concepts as poetically and elegantly as Ramsey Nasr, first during his interview in the Buitenhof program on a Sunday morning in the spring of 2020 and then in his essay De Gronden, which was published afterwards. He believes that art should no longer be an ornament, but the foundation of our society.

He asked the crucial but also painful question: why were artists not invited to participate in the corona crisis consultation?

We have now had two years of pandemic and are trying to get back to ‘normal’ as soon as possible. However, we must be aware that there is a very good chance that the art sector will have to close its doors again this autumn, or perhaps even this summer.

Therefore, I would like to ask you to consider adding a sixth line (including a financial reservation) to your vision of cultural policy, namely: Delta plan for art’s fundamental place in society.

One of the components of that line could then be the script for the arts sector in the event of a pandemic. Where, how, with whom and when can the arts sector work during a pandemic to take and show the fundamental role.

Because how painful it was for anyone working with or involved in arts and culture to find out in April 2020 that we were apparently not practicing a ‘vital’ profession. And what a sharp contrast is that statement from then to the words in your letter now: “Without culture, life becomes meager, dull and pale. Without culture, inspiration, joy and coherence are lacking. And without culture, we stand still. ‘How can we understand the dramatic consequences of the pandemic in recent years, how countless colleagues working in the world of art and culture ended up in an economic horror movie, many were forced to retrain, how can we prevent consequences.

Let’s start yesterday with a fundamental dialogue with the entire art sector, with the vitality and creativity of art as inspiration, both for the sector itself and for society as a whole. Our sector that speaks, thinks, participates, participates in decision-making! in good times and in bad times. Never be silent again…

Yours sincerely,

Anthony Heidweiller

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