Jeanne van Heeswijk to Meld Art and Activism at Bard


Dutch artist and instigator Jeanne van Heeswijk arrives in New York this week to begin her yearlong stint as the inaugural Keith Haring Fellow upstate at Bard College, where she’ll “work with students to address questions about how people can better exercise their rights to their own environments,” she told A.i.A. by phone last week from New Zealand. Funded by a $400,000, five-year grant from the Keith Haring Foundation, New York, the college, in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., will annually appoint a fellow who will teach in both its graduate program in contemporary art curating and criticism and its undergraduate Human Rights Project. The latter was founded in 2003 as the first degree-granting program in the U.S. focused on human rights research and action. Each fellow will also deliver and publish a culminating lecture.

“Jeanne is known for her long-term projects,” according to Tom Eccles, director of Bard’s Center for Curatorial Studies, who spoke to A.i.A. by phone last week. In these projects, he said, she “embeds herself as an active citizen” in communities advocating for social change. “A large part of our program involves looking at the social context of art, and our students and faculty are interested in how art functions in and changes the world,” he said. “We wanted a fellow who engaged with the broad legacy of Keith Haring,” the American artist who died of AIDS in 1990, “who was committed to human rights as well as art and who was a good teacher.”

Van Heeswijk is known for “2Up 2Down/Homebaked,” a community design project in the Anfield suburb of Liverpool, England, where she worked with local residents to redesign and repurpose derelict housing units with the support of the Liverpool Biennial 2012. In addition to undertaking myriad projects in her native Netherlands, van Heeswijk has collaborated with institutions around the world, including New York’s P.S.1 Center for Contemporary Art and London’s Hayward Gallery. She recently spent four days on a project focused on gentrification in Los Angeles, “talking to locals on the streets about how Hollywood is changing and what that means to people,” said van Heeswijk. She’s currently working with the Philadelphia Museum of Art on a long-term project “looking at the relationship between the museum and the city at large,” which will culminate in a “public happening” planned for late 2016 or early 2017.

“My course won’t be a lecture,” said van Heeswijk. “The students and I will build a body of knowledge and collaboratively formulate a project concerning what it means to be an active citizen. And we will of course be keeping the intentions of Keith Haring in mind.”