On art and community in Hasselt and Genk

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Different Class recently added a lot of events to their agenda that are taking place in the Hasselt - Genk region. For the occasion, we had a chat with Hasselt-based photographer and VONK residency coordinator Stefanie De Bakker, in which she tells us more about her experience in the local cultural scene. 

During our conversation, Stefanie kept mentioning the endless organisations and collectives. This scene report only gives a glimpse of what Hasselt and Genk have to offer, let's dive into it.

Photos by Sam Ramaekers, Indra Wouters, Stefanie De Bakker, Lize Vanrusselt, Mira De Boose, Lucinde Wahlen and Kunstvanger

Stefanie moved around a lot. After a brief stay in Ghent, she decided to complete her studies in Genk, then Hasselt. At some point, she ended up in Berlin. 

'I really wanted to spend some time outside of Hasselt, because it felt empty; while of course, this wasn’t the only reason. Hasselt and Genk have a lot to offer artistically. Besides the major cultural institutions, there are also several art schools, such as PXL-MAD, PXL-Music, LUCA School of Arts and University Hasselt. Plenty of interesting artistic practices are developing here and yet for some reason, after graduating, people tend to leave for Ghent, Antwerp or Brussels. I am trying to find out why this is the case, to anticipate this with other like-minded people and to use this free space. I really loved my time in Berlin. When I came back, I felt this emptiness even harder. But that pushed me to see it as one big playground for artistic development.'

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This sentiment, shared by many, has fostered a growing art and music scene in the region. New collectives are on the rise, providing a platform to young local creatives. This is the case of KALF, an artist-run space located in an old slaughterhouse that hosts more than ten art studios. Musicians, performance artists, filmmakers, and visual artists are welcome to create and collaborate on all sorts of projects. Music collective Sardien is another name to look out for. They host monthly jam sessions at Farrm, where visitors can just pick up an instrument and jam with other musicians. You can also catch Sardien at their very own stage at the Absolutely Free Festival in Genk.

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They also organize club evenings at De Serre: 'I go there all the time. It’s a very warm environment. On a regular day, it’s a great place to just chill at the bar with like-minded people. Mainly, De Serre is a place where young artistic talent can be developed. Creatives are given responsibilities and other opportunities through workshops and stage nights. And the club evenings are also great!'

De Serre is a place where young artistic talent can be developed

These initiatives are signs of a growing music and art scene in the region: people want to collaborate with each other, and there are always new things popping up. This includes collaborations between young collectives and more established institutions: 'The bigger organizations, they’re very open to working with smaller collectives. Over two years ago, I started a collective called Let’s Change Don’t Change, where we organized a 3-week art festival with the support of Z33, De Serre, and VONK. We got artists from all over Belgium to come to Hasselt, and I’m really proud of that.'

Everyone wants to collaborate with each other, and there are always new things popping up

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At the intersection of art, design and architecture, Z33 is one of the leading players in the Limburg art scene: 'It’s more than just a museum. It really feels like a home.' Z33 also hosts FORMAT, a coaching program for up-and-coming artists working in design and architecture. Starting the 2nd of April, Z33 will open 3 exhibitions on the theme of water: River of Rebirth, a reflection on the water as a cultural source, Healing Water, an exploration of the properties of water for designing new rituals, and Water Expeditions, FORMAT’s 2023 exhibition.

<img class="editorial-image-50-left" src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/61eebcc683107b99137f4423/6424124475222a333b56a108_differentclassNocturneZ33-08.12.22-stefaniedebakker011-min.webp"/>

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Stefanie now works at VONK. They provide workspaces and residencies in Hasselt and Genk for local and international artists. Since she started working there, Stefanie wants to expand the organization’s reach: 'I really want to extend our program to the public space and make more public performances and artistic interventions happen in the city centre of Hasselt. We’re constantly looking for sustainable collaborations with international artists to work with us in Hasselt. That’s why I wanted to work at an art space in Hasselt because I want to bring more people here.

That’s why I wanted to work at an art space in Hasselt because I want to bring more people here

<img class="editorial-image" src="https://assets-global.website-files.com/61eebcc683107b99137f4423/642412462be6438c613fa03f_differentclassSardien1-min.webp"/>

So we have a lot coming up! On 11 May, there will be Kunstennacht in Hasselt. The nocturne is a great opportunity to discover Hasselt's cultural life. To name just a few: VONK will show a performance by Daisy Ray in collaboration with Chloe Arrouy and William Ludwig Lutgens' installation in the old city hall. Sardien will provide the city with some nomadic music performances and quite a few local artists will open their studios. On top of that, there will also be an afterparty at Z33 and much more during Kunstennacht. Also worth checking out is stopping by CCHA or spending the night at Nomad City and contributing to The School's research project that investigates community building in Hasselt.

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If you’re in Genk, make sure to pay a visit to C-Mine. Located in an old mining complex, the creative hotspot and art centre hosts exhibitions, concerts, lectures and much more. You can now catch an exhibition on Enzo Mari. You can also find Jester on its campus, which provides workshops, residences and exhibitions focused on contemporary art. 

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Throughout the year, AFF organises concerts at unique locations under the name AFFectie - at the intersection of sister cities Genk and Hasselt in Limburg. With AFF Presents, they head into the music clubs with a series of exclusive concerts. In August, Absolutely Free Festival will pitch its tents at C-Mine, where you can discover all sorts of local and international artists. If you’re more of a classical music fan, B-CLASSIC is here for you. It gives a new face to the genre via ateliers and performances.

Absolutely Free Festival will pitch its tents at C-Mine, where you can discover all sorts of local and international artists

B-Classic and C-mine also have a shared project which is called MOLD SESSIONS. It is a musical experiment where musicians of diverse genres meet for a day. During their date, they can blend their sounds together in the rehearsal room and then perform for an audience at C-Mine in the evening. In collaboration with VONK, they also provide interdisciplinary residencies, where classical music artists who want to expand their practice get in touch with performance artists. 

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When I asked Stefanie about artists who decided to leave the region, she shouted out those who decided to stay: 'That’s the nice thing about our scene. There really is a need for young artists to find a good place to meet other creatives. Young artists who stay here, really want to initiate something and bring people together. I think that’s beautiful.'

In Hasselt, I felt that a need was there, that things were possible

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<div class="editorial-banner"> <div class=“editorial-credits”> @bclassic.be / @z33be / @absolutelyfreefestival / @cminegenk </div></div>

<div class="editorial-banner"> <div class=“editorial-credits”> Photo credits: @ramaekerssam / @wouters_indra / @stefaniedebakker / @lizevanrusselt / @miradeboose / @lucindewah / @kunstvanger </div></div>

<div class="editorial-banner"> <div class=“editorial-credits”> Artist credits: @janny_babby / @rcaleh / @lolailegems / @daisy.ray.darkpark / @chloearwy  / @williamludwiglutgens / @a_e_i_o_u_collectief / @aaronvictorpeeters / @whisperingsons / @vanschuylenberghsimon </div></div>

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