Some of you might be very new to this city. Whilst others, like me, have lived in this area for their entire lives. As a city, Maastricht has many cultural things to offer in all sorts of fields: theatre, museums, galleries, dance, music, and so on. This can be through established institutions, like Van Eijck, Marres house, Bonnefanten museum, Lumiere, Muziekgieterij, but also the more alternative scene like Landbouwbelang and the Mandril. These places are key to our experience as students in Maastricht, but they are also important for all other inhabitants. It is common knowledge that most students tend to live in a so-called international bubble. This means students, generally speaking, interact solely with each other and hardly ever come in touch with ‘the locals’. Funnily enough, this is not something only international students deal with.
I speak the local dialect and yet since moving to Maastricht for my studies, I have met a shocking total of 3 people that are actually from Maastricht. Most students who come here tend to stay for a few years only before moving on again. Which in most cases will not be enough motivation to learn Dutch, or to really get to know ‘the locals’, wherever they might be hiding. Most of the cultural institutions used to advertise and hold events in Dutch, but recently these institutions have increased their collective efforts to pierce through this international bubble and reach the students of Maastricht. But this is something they cannot do on their own.
In order to find out more about the inner-workings of the cultural scene in Maastricht, I approached Lincey Bastings. She is one of the policy advisors for arts and culture for the municipality of Maastricht. Through this conversation I wanted to find out how the municipality supports the cultural scene in Maastricht, especially how this impacts students. During our conversation she began by explaining the actual role the municipality plays in the cultural scene of Maastricht. The cultural infrastructure is subsidised by the state, the province and the municipality. This means that a large amount of the decisions regarding funding are not made here. The exact policy of all three of these ‘levels’ are determined though politics, meaning that these decisions are dependent on the political parties in charge at that moment. But each municipality receives a fund, the amount of this is determined by the number of inhabitants, size of the municipality, amount of younger people, and so forth. On what specifically they spend this is up to them to decide (to a certain level), but this has to be approved by the city council, meaning several different parties with different interests play a role in this decision making. This too of course has to be in accordance with the cultural policy set by the government and province. All these different interests have to be balanced, and of course, all the different population groups have to be thought of. But to simplify this extremely, the municipality deals with the accommodation of cultural institutions, and funding local cultural places and libraries, and financing of musea. Besides this complex funding system, another important service provided by the municipality is the assistance they provide for local initiatives and start-up companies. This help can be something like helping a start-up company find a suitable building or even just assisting in successfully setting up the company.
But what is the actual cultural policy of Maastricht right now? What importance do they put in the cultural scene of Maastricht, as a student city? As I already mentioned Maastricht has a rather large cultural infrastructure (compared to other Dutch cities of a similar size). The availability of all these different types of cultural places is seen as essential by the municipality, because there are many studies related to these topics in Maastricht. It is important for the city that many students, from different fields, manage to find jobs here in Maastricht after finishing their studies. The best way to achieve this goal is to help local initiatives who support students during, and possibly after they get their degree. For instance there is the Fashion Class initiative. This is a platform, created by ex-art students in Maastricht, that allows young fashion talents to gain experience in the field and assistance in further developing their career in fashion. They look for talent and organise fashion events. For example, they organise a Fashionclash festival every year. And the call for their 2019 event (1-3 November 2019) is open right now. Should this be something that you would be interest in participating with you can follow the link for more information, or to sign up (https://www.aanmelder.nl/fcf2019).
But are these institutions and initiatives really that accessible to students? Many of these institutions receive subsidies, but they still have to charge the money they do in order to play even. This is why the Muziekgieterij for instance cannot just let anyone have an event there, they need to sell enough tickets or drinks to play even. Along with funding these institutions, the municipality also aims at spreading a message of inclusivity. Encouraging companies and institutions to engage with the students of Maastricht, wherever possible. Engaging with students is beneficial for the companies as well, creating a win-win situation. This has given rise to an abundance of events organised by cultural institutions. They aim at reaching a more diverse public and engaging new talent. For example, the Fashionclash festival that I mentioned earlier but also events like Museumnacht. This is an evening during which several museums and cultural places in Maastricht open late and hold events with the aim of engaging a broader public in the cultural scene of Maastricht. This years theme being ‘Lost in Space’ (friday, 12 April).
After this interesting conversation with Lincey, I found an answer to my initial question. How do we pierce this international bubble, this divide between students and locals, students and the established cultural scene? At the risk of sounding extremely cliché: together! The role of the municipality in this is a supporting one. They can and try to provide help wherever needed but rely on start-ups and local initiatives to take the first step. These companies and initiatives are encouraged to reach out to the students and in doing so broaden their audience. But, as students, we have a role to play in this as well. If you are an artist or a creative talented person then the only way to get more involved in these institutions and events is by taking initiative yourself, and reaching out to them. So take a cue from High School Musical and realise that the only way to get here is by initiating something yourself. You might just be surprised at how far this can get you.
Nadine Meertens is a writer for the MD and Arts& & Culture student at Fasos.