The corner building on Amerikalei is pleasantly busy. Founder Daniela Castro Ramirez is busy hauling furniture that will soon be sold during the big sale. Her dog Bobby jumps after her curiously. After ten years, Castro Ramirez puts an end to her KOP story, a project she brought to life together with Joesra Meeusen. And as her support and support El Neoray provided the distinctive house design for.
Today there are twelve artists under one roof who all love each other as much as they love the organization. Freelance journalist Arkasha Keysers, who for a while was responsible for the non-profit organization’s communications and social media, showed off her desk in the attic of the charming house a few years ago. “The beauty of this workplace is that it’s not a cold corporate office,” Keysers says. “We all practice a profession that you could also do at home from your own island. Moving in here ensures that you have colleagues and friends for life.” And the latter is confirmed by all the artists who have spoken to me.
Main founder Daniela always created a homely atmosphere with Christmas dinners, open studios, cava Fridays and after work drinks. “My intention was to bring different disciplines together,” says Ramirez. “Art can reinforce each other when artists are given the opportunity to step out of their comfort zone.” And after ten years of lowering the threshold of Antwerp’s art scene, it is safe to say that Castro Ramirez has succeeded in his goal. “Dani is the glue between everyone,” says Sarah Budts, who studied theater costume design and is currently working on a project painting kimonos. “She made KOP a second home.”
And also during the corona crisis, the family formed a tight bubble. “Together we looked for a way to let people still enjoy our art. One of the KOPPers at the time, Alex, cast a concrete staircase in front of our facade so that passers-by could look at our work through the window,” says journalist Arkasha Keysers. “Now there sometimes still people looking through the windows,” says Esther Vandenbroele, who runs a screen printing business with her boyfriend in the basement of the building.
Before Castro Ramirez leaves the nest, the mother hen arranged for Morpho vzw to take over the lease. “Our contract expired, so it was a good time to look for a new owner. We had the building under commercial lease. It was a big step for our non-profit organization six years ago, with which we had to leave the building in Jan Van Gentstraat in four weeks,” recalls Castro Ramirez. “Because Morpho vzw has the biggest studio activities in Antwerp, I immediately thought of them as a successor. We have known each other for years. I hand over the house with peace of mind.”
“We are super happy to stay here, I am in love with this house with the beautiful stained glass windows and details from the 1930s”, says illustrator Charlotte Dumortier, who has been part of the KOP adventure since day one.family. “Everybody rendered goodbye with the caption ‘the end of an era‘, and it really is,” says Dumortier.
Over the past decade, the illustrator has made great strides. “When Charlotte started with us she was super shy, I pushed her to do an Instagram and put her first spray can in her hands to do a mural on our first property,” said Castro Ramirez. “Today, she has 41,000 followers on her Instagram account, and her work attracts many buyers to our online KOPshop. Many young artists were the first to exhibit here and have now really grown, which is nice to see.”
No more subsidies
Due to a lack of funding, a lot has changed for Castro Ramirez and her organization. “We started this project with 500 euros at the time. We have grown from a voluntary company to a non-profit organization with three employees. Therefore, the loss of our grant was a serious blow,” says the founder. “We tried to persevere by reopened with exhibitions in collaboration with Laura Walravens from the SIPPIN bar, but it was not enough. The disappointment is great. “I’m sorry, I wish my actions spoke for themselves and that they would see for themselves why KOP is important within the Antwerp art world. There has never been a conversation.”
But it remains, it is not in KOPrichtster’s dictionary. “When we started, there were very few places for artists. Now you see the formula returning much more often, and artists more often get a platform to talk about the business side of their job. “My mission has been accomplished and now it’s time for something else.”
And it immediately becomes a project as prestigious as KOP vzw. “I will support Zilt en Zoet vzw. An organization specializing in edible flowers, herbs and organic vegetables. A super cool young company that is already doing really well with customers like The Jane.”
The end of the KOP story is bittersweet, but Castro Ramirez looks back on the past ten years with great pride. “I have a big family for life my goal now is to connect nature and art. And that is urgently needed today, more than ever.”
If you would like to purchase a HEAD piece, you can pick up the latest art prints and furniture during the sale on Saturday 22nd October. www.kopvzw.be.