De Zwijger spreekt met… Anna Stolyarova

A personal conversation with the founder and director of Street Art Museum Amsterdam about her position in the city, the museum, and their plans for WeMakeThe.City.

How did Street Art Museum Amsterdam (SAMA) came into being?
“I moved from Ukraine to the western world when I was 18 years old. After living in Amsterdam Nieuw-West for just over 10 years (1998-2010), I realized that I was not integrated in the city or my neighborhood. Although I live here, I pay taxes here, and work here, I still go out of here as much as possible. When friends came over to Amsterdam, I would tell them they could see the city within one day. My friends challenged me to find something in Amsterdam that would help for me to become one with the city. After all, Amsterdam is a ‘republic’ and the only free city in the world that accepts everybody. When I was in my early thirties I asked myself: ‘How do I want to live?’ ‘What is my identity in Amsterdam?’ ‘When I have kids, will I still be living in Nieuw-West?’ ‘Will my kids go to these schools?’ ‘Will I become friends with the local moms?’
During my burn out at the beginning of 2012, I had more time and space to think even further about my place and my city. After following courses on investigative journalism at Time Out, I decided to volunteer at the first Amsterdam Street Art Festival. The organization asked me to help an artist get around. I also offered him my place for residence. This artist has a lot of connections and told them about this “crazy lady” in Amsterdam, with a great apartment full of furniture found on the streets, in an area that is not yet gentrified. That’s how the pilgrimage started. The artists came to me, and I found them places to make street art. I worked with everybody who dared to do it in Nieuw-West and with local residents. This is how SAMA collection was born.”

How does SAMA make the city?
Firstly, I will describe our collection: it is created using open source methodology, contributed by an entire neighborhood, it is maintained, located in a specific area, it is made up of physical artworks and intangible heritage, and stories that accompany the artworks. This makes SAMA an eco-museum with its grass-root collection. In this sense, we make the city by making art on buildings, and then use the street art for dialogues. It is living art.
At a family day we organized, it was interesting that Muslim mothers got into a discussion. One of them asked us during the production of Glory (informally known as Milkmaid): “Why do I need a fat Dutch white woman on my apartment block wall, if nobody in the building is white or Dutch?”  So we created Sunday workshop with free BBQ for all the locals affected by the artwork – we painted together and read stories about color blue, Vermeer and influences of the middle East on Dutch history of art.
This is an example of how we are not scared to cross the road, we will not stop because of prejudices. On the contrary: We use art to break cultural boundaries. We use street art as a platform for conversation. It is about participating, so we can all make the city together.”

How will the Street Art Museum Amsterdam contribute to WeMakeThe.City?
“We will give four tours through SAMA collection, but mix the routes a little. In the West we have beautiful murals by URIGINAL (ES) and SUSO33 (ES), as well as portraits by BTOY (ES). At Schiphol, we shall have BTOY, who painted with Banksy in 2008, adding new artworks to “Office Walk with a Twist” collection for SPOT community (the people who work there). We also want to expand our street art to Sloterdijk Station, because there are new nice spots there, such as the only legal train by KENOR (ES) and 2 containers by ICY&SOT (IR). These dots will be added to a new route”

WeMakeThe.City, the festival that makes cities better, from Wednesday 20 until Sunday 24 June 2018, metropolitan area Amsterdam. Find more information about SAMA at WeMakeThe.City here!