Urban Development

Aarhus Center for Visual Art will in the coming years focus on a line of projects and education initiatives revolving around art in public space. Our goal is to reflect on methodical approaches to working with art in public space with for instance streets, exterior walls, interfaces, libraries, nature, residential areas and so on. Up until 2015 Aarhus Center for Visual Arts will to a higher degree focus its attention on the project From Godsbanen to Gellerup, which concentrates on combining artistic expertise with urban development and city planning.  

Since 2012 Aarhus Center for Visual Arts (AABKC) has been working on a project called From Godsbanen to Gellerup, which concentrates on art in public space and intertwining artistic expertise with city planning. Both Godsbanen and Gellerup/Toveshøj are city areas under development.

Gellerup is a multicultural area lying approximately 8km outside of the city centre, which faces a long line of social challenges. The area is currently under development.  AABKC started the project From Godsbanen to Gellerup because we believe that any urban remodeling should derive from aspects such as the residents’ and the area’s social and cultural make-up and not from an exclusive focus on the buildings and physical infrastructure. AABKC works towards making artists a more integral part of city planning, as their expertise and artistic visions can be tremendous assets and as they possess the necessary capabilities and reflexivity to relate to the social and cultural factors in overall planning strategies.

The artists will initiate a dialogue with the local residents and together with them create values such as creativity, a positive media image, and active citizenship.

The area around Godsbanen is a central area which is also undergoing development. It is designated as the new creative quarter, which will house 14.000 new inhabitants by the end of 2014. The new creative qurter will revolve around the 10.500m2 cultural production centre Godsbanen, where Aarhus Centre for Visual Art also has its office. Godsbanen was an old freight yard which hasn’t been in use for half a century. It is included on UNESCO’s world heritage list and was repurposed as a cultural centre opening in the spring of 2012.

The project From Godsbanen to Gellerup will be locally anchored both at Godsbanen and in Gellerup. In order to anchor the project in Gellerup we have initiated a close collaboration with a local artist platform called Sigrids Stue, who works with contemporary art and participatory artistic projects, and they invite international artists in residence to live and work in the area. Sigrids Stue is also connected to a line of associations, unions and key figures in the area, which is a vital prerequisite to anchoring the project locally.

We have reasons to believe that there is an overlooked group of writers, actors, musicians and visual artists with an intercultural background in Gellerup, which stand outside the city’s artistic milieu because their strategies and artistic expression stands in contrast to our Western notions of art. Together with Sigrids Stue we are working to establish an artist network in order to cultivate the artistic milieu in the area, so that the local artists can enjoy new possibilities in the future.

Moreover, we are working on establishing an art route between the two areas. The art route will be ornated by two groups of children, one from each area, who will create art works under the supervision of Danish-based Spanish artist Joaquin Zaragoza. The workshops will teach the children about site-specific art and art in public space and will promote a sense of belonging to the city as a whole, as well as encourage active citizenship.

A large part of our work on From Godsbanen to Gellerup is creating a mentoring network and arranging courses, workshops, and artist talks, which serve to better equip artists for working in public space, as well as with social relations pertaining to artistic projects. We have already collaborated with Aarhus University on organizing seminars, panel sessions, and workshops as a part of the RETHINK Participatory Cultural Citizenship conference which took place 14th – 16th November 2013. We invited artists/curators Agnieszka Wolodzko from Laznia Centre for Contemporary Art, Gdansk, Poland and Matthia Einhoff from KUNSTrePUBLIKZK/U - Centre for Art and Urbanistics, Berlin, Germany, who both held talks and workshops with local and international artists at Godsbanen.

From Godsbanen to Gellerup is a complex project that involves many parameters. But we initiate projects like this because we believe that art is an important factor in city development and that it has a greater potential of involving the local residents in the development process merely by its visual, audio and scenical appeal. Our hypothesis is that the means to achieve successful city renewal in Denmark is a close cooperation between developers, architects, housing associations, citizens, artists and the local authorities. However, we are also working to avoid contributing to the instrumentalization of art and to artists contributing to consolidate a top-down system where residents feel excluded. We believe that participatory artistic projects can have a use-value but should never be reduced to just that.

We would like to hear from you if you have any input regarding the project, have an initiative you would like to carry out in Gellerup, or if you wish to collaborate with us.


From Godsbanen to Gellerup is supported by: