#Ask: Fela Donker of the Kunstenaarsbal

Are you ready for a unique party in which visual art, photography, performance, theatre, audiovisual art and music come together? At the Kunstenaarsbal in De Doelen you get a chance to dance, meet new people and enjoy art in a casual and informal atmosphere. The nocturnal setting on 11 February gives the art an extra dimension and the programming with media, art, electronic music and performance equals an exciting combination. From 8 to 12 February 2023 you can visit the exhibition, an adventure in which you get lost in a diverse collection of art. There will be a lot of interaction with the visitor, for example in the form of live artworks, workshops and the opportunity to meet artists and hear about their work. The exhibition offers space for both established and unestablished artists. Get ready for an incomparable experience in the art world! For the Rotterdam Art Week magazine we interview founder Fela Donker about the Kunstenaarsbal (Artist’s Ball). 

Can you offer us a glimpse of what we can expect during the Kunstenaarsbal this year? What is the ultimate highlight for you?  
The whole evening is one big highlight I must say. Musically we have four areas and two secret areas. The Bird stage has very cool live performances by Arp Frique, Beau Zwart & de fam and Brintex Collective, among others. Yardbird does an urban sound with FS Green and Franky Sticks. In addition, there will be two electronic stages with NOW&WOW including Ted Langenbach, Elias Mazian and more

The Kunstenaarsbal is an event that revolves around experience and interaction in which almost all disciplines of the arts come together. It’s not just looking at art: at the same time you see how an artist makes a painting or how you can use your own creativity by controlling our visuals yourself or making art while dancing or watching live performances. It is precisely the combination of all these different art forms that come together that render the event unique.  

What is so unique about this combination of media and art forms? What do you hope to surprise the visitors with? 
In my opinion, only a few events really offers a total experience. It is often either a performance or an exhibition or a theater performance. We add these experiences up. And all this in a pearl of a location: De Doelen Rotterdam. This makes our event unique and will surprise the visitor. We also offer something for everyone in terms of music. In addition, the exhibition will be very large this year. It will be on show throughout Rotterdam Art Week (8 to 12 February) in De Doelen. We have 120 meters worth of walls and about 40 exhibitors. We offer Rotterdam-based talent a place in our exhibition free of charge, which also includes established names such as Frederique Spigt, Peter Klashort, Tymon de Laat and photographer Stacii Sadimin. As an artist myself, I know how difficult it is to participate in art fairs or exhibitions, because you often pay a lot for a piece of wall and then you just have to see if you sell something. Because we do not work like that, they get the visibility and the opportunity to sell work so that they get that extra push for their career. 

Have you run into any problems or have you perhaps made valuable contacts for the future? 
Phew, where do I start haha. This is now the sixth edition, but it will be the first edition in Rotterdam, my own hometown. There is an awful lot involved. We artists are quite unique types, each with our own manual. If you want to organise a tightly organized event with more than 150 artists from all disciplines, that means that you’ll come across some challenges, but the most beautiful things arise from solving them. We run into things every day, that is part of organising events, but that’s also what makes it fun. We think in terms of solutions and not in terms of problems and there is always a solution to be found.
A lot has happened since my first contact with Rotterdam Festivals, in which we discussed bringing the Kunstenaarsbal to Rotterdam. Many valuable contacts have certainly resulted from this. I am very happy with the collaborations with Rotterdam Festivals, as well as working with Charlotte Nijsten of Rotterdam Art Week and our partner and location De Doelen. 

How would you describe your relationship with the city of Rotterdam? 
I was born in 1988 and grew up in the city center of Rotterdam. I love the rawness and authenticity of both the city and its people. They tend to be nice and direct so you know where you stand. We are also generally hard workers in our port city: don’t just talk about it endlessly, actions speak louder than words. That’s how I am as well. I don’t feel more at home anywhere but in Rotterdam, although the whole world feels like my homeland because I have traveled a lot. 

What else are you most looking forward to during the upcoming edition of Rotterdam Art Week? 
I am especially looking forward to the breadth of the programme, the offer is great once again. I like to hop around from location to location. There is a lot to experience in M4H and of course the historic van Nelle Factory. 

Buy your ticket for the Kunstenaarsbal here.

By Flor Linckens