Treasures of Beesterzwaag Workshop, Friesland (NL), July 2016

2016/06/28 — 2016/07/03

Goal: General learning about the cultural history and village life in this part of Friesland with a focus on maintained and new local production in the Opsterland area. Our learning methods are oral history, representation of the local, storytelling and the sharing of production skills. The final two days we were also a part of the Art and Craft weekend Beetsterzwaag – which is a local event run by volunteers in the village. We presented an International Village Shop with special made and gathered local produce and made a meeting room in Kunsthuis SYB were we exchanged ideas and knowledge with a broader audience.

Languages: Frisian, Dutch, English and German.


28 June: Introduction to Kunsthuis SYB and the program for the 5 day-learning-block. For the guests from Amsterdam and Leipzig there was a car-tour with an introduction in the local Landscape of this part of Fryslân (peat, sand and agriculture). First plan and materials are collected for the still-life-setup in the Arts and Craft weekend and we tested a few local cakes and ordered some for the planned village-meeting-room in SYB were we plan welcoming guests that are interested in local stories and skills.  

29 June: Walk in the mainstreet and introduction to Beetsterzwaag and its history of poor peat workers and rich landowners. In the afternoon a bike tour (and two cars) with a visit to the storks at the Gorredijk road and the ecological farm of Tjeerdsma. We get information about cheese storage and pig breading (Bentheimer mix) and for those that were interested there is some information about the slaughtering of young pigs. We visit the garden and gather the dried beans that in the weekend is part of our presentation workshop. We order a cheese for our presentation.

30 June: Visit to Fries Museum Leeuwarden, Opsterland Museum Gorredijk and Goudsmidse V d Velde. Two Museums are visited by two groups and the Goudsmidse. The latter is so small that we cannot attend it with the whole group, so we spread the visits also over the weekend 2 and 3 July when the gold and silver workshops are open during the Art and Craft weekend. The Fries Museum in Leeuwarden is visited by those who did not see yet the amazing and popular local show about the general cultural history of Friesland  “Ferhaal fan Fryslân”.

In the Gorredijk museum we focus on the peat history and the fact that the house of Kunsthuis SYB is a monument and that it was a shop that sold and produced a famous local product “het boterballetje”.

1 July:

In the morning we do a guided tour with Durk Schroor to the Museum Belvedere that has a national fame for their art shows on landscape, the parc is visited and some stay longer and visit their collection of Frisian paintings.  In the afternoon we split up in small group activities for the preparation of the next day when the Art and Craft weekend starts and the whole village gets over thousands guests in two days. We will present and discuss the local cultural history in a special style, and make a still life Dutch style with local cheese, an old photo print technic is explained and on show, some good-mood paintings by one of the group-members, silverworks, beans that are dried can be pealed, peat-shaped-cakes are made and can be eaten, there is rhubarb liqueur from May 2016, a love letter to the local area is read aloud and a film about a new local product that is launched. We make Kunsthuis SYB ready to launch and do a preview screening in Kunsthuis Syb. Also some learning-block participants are working with a group of village activist – they make a “sculpture” that communicates in the public action meeting that is set up to save the music school for this village, as also in future kids want to play an instrument in Beetsterzwaag. In the evening for those who are interested we bake together Dutch pancakes Frisian Style and eat them together. A smaller group goes for a visit to a family that lives near Groningen to learn about pig grilling, they also do schnapps tests (as this is not legal we cannot tell you the name of the family).

2 July:

This day we show from 11 till 17 o’clock our local produce in Kunsthuis SYB and tell the cultural and personal stories behind the goods on show, meanwhile listening to new inlets of the visiting public. Unexpected we had over 350 people that came along and the whole group was sharing the work that had to be done and heared new local stories by the enthusiastic public. All could find the time to go out for a walk on the mainstreet to visit some other Art and Craft presentations in the village. We were serving tea and coffee in our meeting room. In the evening we celebrated the fruitful days and gatherings of this Learning Block with a dinner (the local pig) and later we were singing some old hippy songs (some were dancing).

3 July:

During the day the guests from Germany leave in the morning and during the day we screen a group of films for visitors (unbelievable but 400 on Sunday so SYB never had so much people in their house in one weekend). In the late afternoon we deconstructed the shop and meeting-room. This 5 day event with the workshops was a final event of a 5 month collaboration of Myvillages and Kunsthuis SYB on local produce. Now already we know for sure the local group that was involved and that was part of the final learning block will continuing working together. It was for them the start of thinking together about local produce and what does it mean to work collectively in this field. How we used the power of collective producing we plan to present in December in GfZK when some Dutch guests will visit Leipzig.

Wapke Feenstra – project leader Learning Block

Myvillages, Rotterdam


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