The First Lady of Culture, Alice Van Romondt Wraps Up the Cultural Conference at Cas Di Cultura

You agree if I, an extremely busy but happy pensionado, proud recipient of a recent distinguished royal honor the so called Zilveren Anjer, expresses myself by saying “mama mia, what a day? What a wonderful day?”

What an impressive exchange of best practices, what an insight shared with us and how inspired one can get listening to the speakers, right?

May I start the wrap up by thanking the organizing staff, led by Vicky Arens, for a well-organized conference and I think the audience won’t mind if I do so on their behalf.

Applause please…

The whole day was a transfer of knowledge and expertise, an upgrade and refresh opportunity that was long due in the arts and culture in Aruba.

The program touched a large variety of relevant art and culture areas, promoting best practices by Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Holland, the US and Surinam, sharing personal experiences and delivering statements by solo performing acts and the kids from the Montessori school.

Thank you for being here at Cas di Cultura celebrating its 60th anniversary together with Directie Cultuur; celebrating its 40th anniversary. 

Today’s house band, struck a perfect note, from the moment the conference started until the very end. Thanks Michael Lampe, thank you for your unique way of dressing up our native criyoyo music in new outfits. You modernized our caha di orgel music, you upgraded the tambu. You enlighten us continuously about our roots.

How I wish you were in the local schools daily with your story, teaching music to school kids!

100 Years is a symbolic number, a number to stand still by and reflect on the changes, and evolution, a time to redefine policies and reach new goals. 

I could identify with the comparison made by Clayde Menso, executive director of 4 theaters in Amsterdam. He compared his experience to the Titanic, as far as attendance and support.

The ship is sinking and the band plays on. 

Amsterdam experienced their difficult times, when subsidies were cut and culture was considered a hobby.  Their next step was soul searching. Their aim was to make the houses of culture attractive to a larger group, competing in the new digital age with:  Netflix, YouTube, Social Media, and digital everything.

What impressed me most is the shift they made from giving up to acquiring new audiences, using the approach of “Mi casa es tu casa,” as key phrase.

They changed the choice of programming, share their space, and made things over, Interacted with their public via digital evaluation after each performance. Young artists got special attention. The public was included all the way!

Clayde can also be called a “financial artist,” he morphed his budget from 7 million to 32 million in just one a year, which qualifies him for the artist title!

Although culture is the ultimate form of freedom, still a negative social climate influences the theater and the cultural world.

And we feel the changes; we feel the hurt in the USA as we witness the rise of racism, bullying, school shootings.

We heard about new professions emerging out of that new age, such as stage intimacy trainers, coaches who help actors navigate sexually charged performances, for example

We can detect a shift in artists, some persisting, some switching gear and becoming personal life coaches.

We noticed theaters are becoming more commercial, less artistic.

We liked the idea of new programs which require staging theatrical pieces outside of theaters, in homes for the elderly for example, and artists turning to Shakespeare, as a form of therapy, healing the hurt with theater as a form of medicinal mending.

The question I have is: Are doctrines really changing? Or are we experiencing a kind of a second civil rights movement, with frequent and dramatic protests creating theater in the street.

Another question: Are artists reinventing themselves towards financial gain in order to survive and get noticed.

Back to Aruba: In just 4 days Albert Arens accomplished a lot with the Montessori school kids. He is a success story. He makes substantial changes via daily education, starting at the elementary level.

And he proves that small steps can result in big development.

We also heard from Ismara Thomas, blessed with a voice in a million! Ismara, you make us proud. You persevered and found great success in Europe. Your life story is compelling and to think that you are a Connor family member, known for lifetime dedication to steel band, means that music runs in your veins, going from one generation to the next.

To personally excel in the world of opera means to educate yourself profoundly, gain total support from parents. Then on a personal level one has to dare and be bold, striving to excel, fearless of the world, and its global backstage.

The story of Ismara is an inspiration to us all.  

Then the story of our Art Fair is riveting. Once upon a time an idealist called Tito Bolivar woke up after a visit to Colombia and said, the artists in Aruba need exposure, need an outlet, they need to be seen and be noticed…. “San Nicolas needs an art-fair and that’s what I am going to do.”

He met with many professionals who supported him, also met with people who did not believe in him, he also heard from those who didn’t believe mural art is ART, and people who thought his plan was not realistic, or rather too difficult to realize………

How proud we are today for the new look of San Nicolas, a former ghost town shining, hosting an Art Fair with over 200 artists, with a large number of schools in participation, and much more……

How proud must Tito be that in just 3 years he can look back on organizing the largest, most successful, cultural event on Aruba? This is one much-desired, welcome project! 

When it comes to art, more art is better says Vicky Arens, and I agree!

It was an eye-opener for me to hear and see the comparison between cultural platforms in the Netherlands and Aruba.

We are okay, in comparison, we can’t complain. But… we lack support and appreciation for what is ‘di nos,’ the indigenous, cultural heritage that’s uniquely Aruban.

At this point I want to take a short trip back in history.

When Cas di Cultura was created by the late Jan Beaujon, and funded 100% by the Dutch STICUSA, stichting culturele samenwerking fund, it was a platform for debating clubs, and had the Muziekschool as an off-shoot. Yes, that was 50 years ago!

STICUSA funded professional music teachers, gave scholarships to Aruban students to continue their education in the Arts, provided movies for the Filmliga in Cas di Cultura, and paid for book mobiles for the traveling library and so on.

My reason for taking you back in history is my current call to art and culture lovers;

Let’s make Cas di Cultura the island’s most important cultural platform again.

Let’s re-institute Debate Clubs, let’s create Think Tanks, and let’s get surveys done by the University of Aruba to help us formulate new strategies and policies based on the needs of the community.

Let’s concentrate on inclusiveness, hugging and holding youth.

I also have an anniversary wish for Directie Cultuur:

Let’s re-institute the oral history project in order to safeguard some of the cultural heritage we are losing.

Start giving an Inburgeringscursus (introduction course: “This is Aruba”) to the new Arubans, emphasizing on art and culture, and the island’s unique way of living.

DCA should be the official institute for our native language Papiamento, together with relevant foundations and institutions. Get workshops going…

DCA should be the official institute to guard and preserve all official items and the correct protocol in use of our flag, the national anthem, the style of national day celebrations and the national days of our various immigrant groups.

Tie that into a research on our Culture and Creative Industry.

In closing, I would like to add on to your list Vicky a national call for a community funding for the expansion and restauration of Cas di Culltura, we call this “For the Love of Art and the Art of Love,” remembering Segni Bernadina each time we use it.

I am suggesting to approach all hotels and timeshare units with the proposition to charge a $1 a night, voluntarily, earmarked for a Cultural Fund. 

We have done this before with Divi Resorts, that’s how the YMCA Dakota was built!

Then WEB, SETAR and Elmar, our national companies could do the same on the monthly bills, charging a florin for Cas di Cultura for a certain period, as a form of public fundraising.

A recent example is the creation of the Piano Lab in the former Rialto Theater. It is an example of out of the box thinking, which occurred when creative minds joined in with business minds in search of ways to serve the artistic needs of talented youths who don’t have the financial means to buy into arts, or pay for lessons, in this specific musical field, I am talking about piano music.

A lab was created by a generous private donor, where multiple students can be taught and may practice on nine pianos in one space being instructed by a single teacher who is in direct audio and visual contact with each of them, as well as a group. And then it’s not only teaching piano but also composing and cross pollinating each other, with inspiration and support. 

Art makes our lives beautiful. Don’t you agree?!

And to the audience: A big Thank you for being here and spending your time to support the arts.

Support and appreciation are so very important for further development and survival of all art institutions: Museums, Libraries, Cas di Cultura, School di Arte, Music Schools, Da Vinci Academy, and more.

Permit me, on behalf of Prins Bernhard Culture Fund, to congratulate you with your 100-year celebration. We are celebrating our 65th anniversary, this year.

Present here are board members Des Croes and Roly Sint Jago, Raffy Kock and Frendsel Giel, who will join us for the Saturday night Gala Concert.

We have funded and still fund a variety of projects for Cas di Cultura, which reminds me of the year we celebrated our 55th anniversary as a fund, we subsidized the new light and sound equipment.  

And we continue to do so. Bernhardfonds, is the only foundation deciding to stay here as a Dutch Caribbean Fund, when Aruba got its Status Aparte in 1986. That same fund also remained in the Antilles, past there 10-10-10 new status.  Bernhardfonds is here to fund cultural and nature preservation projects up to 25,000 florins, and most of you present know the procedures, and how to apply. If not, pls look online:

Let’s give a big round of applause for the gracious MCs Amy Richard and Edjean Semeleer, thank you for your excellent job!

And now… let’s celebrate 165 years of Art and Culture!

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October 16, 2018
Rona Coster