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Cas Smithuijsen

After my childhood in Haarlem (the Netherlands) I studied sociology, philosophy  and musicology at the University of Amsterdam. In my dissertation (Een verbazende stilte – An astounding Silence 2001) I implemented aspects of Norbert Elias’ theories on European civilizing processes shaping the patterns of behaviour practised by music lovers: although it took centuries, they gradually stopped making noises during concerts. Not in one single city or isolated nation, but everywhere in Europe, as the result of a massive, tacidly arranged agreement.

In the late seventies, I started my professional career in the artists organisations. Later on, I worked at the municipality of Amsterdam, as secretary general of the Amsterdam Arts Council. In present days, I am director of the Boekman Foundation, Study Centre for the Arts, Culture and related Policy in Amsterdam. (  The Boekman foundation is  responsible for the Dutch contribution to the European information system on national cultural policies (, assembled by Ericarts and supervised by the Council of Europe. I was there when the initiative to set up the compendium was taken and I have been a supporter of the system ever since, in various roles. The Foundation is editor of a Dutch quarterly on arts policy. It houses a unique library on cultural policy documentation, in cooperation with the library of the University of Amsterdam. The Boekman foundation has working relationships with CBS (National Office for Statistics), the National Office for Social Studies (SCP) and the Royal Academy of Sciences (KNAW). Together with CBS and SCP we currently realised a project re: collecting all relevant cultural statistics nationwide, in order to build up a national arts index, by and large similar to the already existing arts indexes in the US as well as the UK.

As long as I am reflecting on cultural policy issues, I am obsessed by the endeavour of reaching larger peripheries of people and get them involved into democratic decision making concerning collective cultural facilities. Academic professionals, artistic lobbyists and cultural advocacy people are omnipresent in the national and European culture debates – I know this because I am one of them. But the ulterior challenge is to get large quantities of people from everywhere ready to stand up and to speak out in favour of art and culture. Or at least to contribute as art lovers to the democratic debate. We know the arts are broadly integrated in social encounters and individual lives, but we did not succeed so far to find methods to make this a crystal clear reality for decision makers in various levels of public administration. To find the right tools to mobilize a maximum of European citizens from everywhere and get them together in a massive pro arts and culture agreement. A mission that keeps me on my toes.