Kirsten Spuijbroek and Jelmer Noordeman

#ASK Karin van Paassen

For the #ASK section, we always ask a number of questions to a fascinating person who is active in the field of art, design & architecture in Rotterdam. This time we address our questions to Karin van Paassen, an energetic and passionate cultural entrepreneur who has been committed to art and culture in the city for several decades. She develops exhibitions and educational projects, in which various disciplines like design, fashion, art and architecture often merge seamlessly. Accessibility is central to that. She is also active as a designer herself. During Rotterdam Art Week, she will present Jewel.Rotterdam, which she coordinates from the foundation Stichting 10 tégen 1. It includes no fewer than 30 Rotterdam-based designers and jewelry designers from the Ad Arts & Crafts course, in the field of jewelry design at the Hogeschool Rotterdam.

Can you tell us a bit more about the Jewel.Rotterdam project?

When Rotterdam Art Week gave the green light for the project, I approached over thirty jewelry designers. Rotterdam has a good jewelry education programme, which I wanted to highlight a bit more. The nice thing is that many of the designers didn’t know each other beforehand, which meant that new networks were forged. We then started building the project together. We meet every month, effectively creating a new network and a gesamtkunstwerk, so that everyone feels like the owner of the project. You really do it together. I will do my best to ensure that that network continues to exist after the project ends.

During OBJECT, we’ll present a special presentation that was made by the designers themselves. We also produced a video with the young Rotterdam-based dancers from House of Urban Arts, which will be projected on the Van Lanschot bankers building. I really wanted to organise something that is accessible to everyone. We also have a number of enthusiastic ambassadors. For instance, the staff of the restaurant in the Depot of Museum Boijmans van Beuningen will wear jewelry by Rotterdam-based designers for the entirety of Rotterdam Art Week. And a councilor for the local D66 political party has been wearing jewelry from local makers for a whole year. During Rotterdam Art Week, we also organise a series of lectures on jewelry for men, in collaboration with Galerie Phoebus. We asked the participating designers to make jewelry for men in particular, although many of them indicated that their jewelry can actually be worn by anyone.

The nice thing is that it’s such a diverse group of makers: you’ll see anything from precious stones to something rugged and autonomous. It’s such a wide range of styles and materials, from plastics to diamonds, quite interesting. Because I really feel that it’s a shame when people consider art to be something elitist, when it’s for everyone really. Sometimes it is even close to the skin in a literal sense: as in the case of jewelry and fashion. 

Karin van Paassen

How would you describe your relationship with the city of Rotterdam?

Rotterdam is a part of me, it really is my city. I have a very strong bond with it. That is a feeling, but it also has a lot to do with the fact that I myself have contributed to art and culture in the city. I’ve been working in the fashion, culture and jewelry sector since the late eighties, although not much was happening in that field at the time. I have always tried to fight for culture in the broadest sense, to make it accessible to everyone, in all neighbourhoods. I also try to include children in that, because you take that with you for the rest of your life.
And that’s the nice thing about the city of Rotterdam: if you have good ideas, there is always room for them in one way or another, the lines are very short. The opportunities are open and I have been given real opportunities to make exhibitions and create projects. Foundations such as Droom en Daad really invest in the city, and they also make Jewel.Rotterdam possible. But Rotterdammers also fight for their city themselves. For example, when a group of patrons raised money to help certain neighborhoods retain their unique character. Because developments in the city are going very fast, even if I haven’t been there for a short while, things have already changed. Not always good, but very fascinating.
I am also part of the Art and Culture advisory group for D66, where we advise council members. After all, we tend to know much better what is going on in society. I don’t aspire to a political career myself, but it is nice to be able to feed politics in this way.

What else are you most looking forward to during the upcoming edition of Rotterdam Art Week?

During Rotterdam Art Week, I’ll spend quite a bit of time at Jewel.Rotterdam, so I’ve made a smart schedule that includes those things that can only be seen during this particular week. I’ll explore the dynamic area within walking distance from OBJECT, but I will also pay a visit to Art Rotterdam, where you really get to see what is going on in the art world at the moment. And I’m definitely going to have a look at the Huidenclub. After that, I’ll explore the things that will be on display for longer, such as Brutus. I’m already looking forward to it!