Meyboom Artist-
Run Spaces

Meyboom is an artist run-space that brings together a community of individuals and collectives working in different fields that formed over the years since 2013.

The importance of non-profit workspaces for artists in Brussels

Collective statement by Meyboom Artist-run Spaces

Meyboom Artist-run Spaces is a vibrant community of artists from diferent backgrounds, languages, nationalities, orientations and track record. Many of us work from desks, but our artistic practices span a wide variety of forms and disciplines. We are self-organised and non-proft. As an artist-run studio collective, we shape our working spaces, develop relationships, formulate our vision, build individual and collective practices in any discipline and media, and create bottom-up art programs. Building a community is a slow process and embracing self-organization takes a lot of efort, but we believe the invested time and energy will lead to the creation of long- term, empowering spaces. In evolving compositions, our community has navigated through several temporary places in Brussels. At the moment, we are in our fourth building.

Space for creating and developing art is a scarce good. When referring to art, the focus often falls on museums and established institutions, which primarily function according to a logic of programming: next to presenting established artists, they showcase upcoming projects and ofer residency opportunities. On the scale of an artistic practice, these are crucial if one-of and ephemeral. In contrast, self-organized art collectives like ours are defned by, and thrive on, support networks that enable work synergies and collaborations by means of sustainable, shared infrastructures. Personal relationships, often undervalued, form the core of these support networks. Their value is not quantifable in monetary terms, yet their capital is paramount. Lasting relationships foster knowledge transfer, connection, and afection. They enable the strength of cooperation. In turn, in order for these relationships and networks to be fruitful and productive, we need to enable them with an infrastructure. This can translate to physical spaces, recurring meetings or virtual platforms, but always require time spent together. When the time and energy invested in cooperation converge with infrastructure, a creative community and its individuals can bring forth to reality what would otherwise remain only imaginable.

This is the aim of our collective. Our strength lies both in the capacity of each member and in the diverse creative relationships they cultivate with each other. When creative connections are nurtured in a supportive, durational infrastructure, they increase exponentially both their individual and collective capacity. Brussels enjoys a wealth of cultural programs but its majority is put together by institutions bound to their own objectives, ambitions and limited budgets. Yet if we, as a collective, make our spaces accessible for residencies and public events, we shape our programme and vision independently. This autonomy allows us to assert our voices and those of others, showcasing our practices, concerns, realities, interests, and partnerships.

Now as in the past, the stay in our locations is secure for up to 2 to 4 years only. 'Temporary use' is a problematic concept. Afordable temporary spaces are nearly always dependent on undertaking renovations in order to make use of them – for too short a period. Such operations drain personal time, collective eforts, and precious budget from artists who are already working in a precarious situation. Yet after a notable investment (or perhaps, waste) of time, energy and money, these settlements led to a sure eviction barely a few years later. The appeal of the novelty and the popularity of 'temporary use' and pop-up locations mislead artists and policy-makers alike into assuming such resource-exhausting cycles can be part of a sustainable normality.

We try to go beyond this model of temporary locations for artists. As a premediated plan, it perpetuates precarity, alienates citizens and pushes gentrifcation and speculation. We call for longer-term solutions. We advocate for public powers to implement policies safeguarding real estate for non-proft use, particularly for artists developing their practice in the present. Such policies are in place for museums and art centres. Living artists need policies for spatial justice to bufer our contemporary unpredictable market dynamics. This need should be addressed by all public powers and advocated by all cultural (educational) institutions in their mission to strengthen the urban social fabric.

Social needs abound and we want to stress we do not argue that culture should take priority over social housing. Art communities and art spaces are socially-aware and organize their practice in cultivating solidarity, a much-needed trait among citizens. Housing should stay housing. However, vacant ofce and industry-type buildings could and should serve as valuable spaces for cultural and social-cultural practices. Our plea extends beyond Meyboom Artist-run Spaces or any of our fellow collectives. This is a collective call for creating an enduring awareness and support access to spaces where art can be practised and developed.

This text was collectively written by the Ecology and Representation circle of Meyboom Artist-run Spaces, Brussels, 2023-24