Skip to content

Interview with “Art in Public” author Lambert Zuidervaart

March 19, 2011

On Thursday and Friday, Grand Rapids had the opportunity to be part of the kick-off to a new book tour by author and educator Lambert Zuidevaart.

Zuidervaat, a former Calvin College professor who now teaches in Toronto, came to Grand Rapids to unveil his new book Art in Public: Politics, Economics and a Democratic Culture. The importance of his book tour beginning in Grand Rapids was also because of his relationship to the Urban Institute for Contemporary Arts (UICA), where Lambert served as board president during the time the organization was moving into the Sheldon street location.

On Thursday, Zuidervaart gave a lecture at the Grand Rapids Art Museum that basically summarized the main points of his book. He talked about the function of art in the public, particularly its role in promoting a democratic culture.

On Friday, the UICA hosted a symposium in collaboration with Civic Studio and the Art Department of GVSU that included Zuidervaart and several people involved in the arts and culture in West Michigan. The Friday symposium continued the themes that Lambert laid out on Thursday, but involved a larger conversation about these issues, particularly as it relates to Grand Rapids.

Issues of funding for art, civil society, the role of government in art, and democratic culture were discussed along with the commercial pressures that art and artists face in contemporary capitalism. This commercial pressure is what Zuidervaart referred to as hyper-commercialism where art and culture are subordinate to the profit motive.

About 35 people attending the Friday event generated some lively conversation around these themes, but despite the 3-hour forum there was not enough time to deal with all of the complexities and perspectives raised by both the invited speakers and those in attendance.

GRIID was fortunate to have an opportunity to sit down with Lambert Zuidervaart on Friday morning to discuss some of the themes in his book, with some of the discussion centered around Grand Rapids art issues, including ArtPrize.


4 Comments leave one →
  1. Jack Hoffman permalink
    March 21, 2011 1:34 pm

    Nice article Jeff. The article is timely for me because Eric Larson, the Cascade Township anesthesiologist who is on a mission to destroy public transportation in West Michigan has made an attack on public art the front page of his Rapid attack site, As far as I can tell, to Eric private is good, public is bad, so all things public, such as public transportation and public art must be destroyed. I gather from his links that Eric is likewise oppossed to the federal reserve currency system. How would you respond to Dr. Larson? I’d be interested in hearing your thoughts.

  2. March 21, 2011 4:40 pm

    Jack, thanks for the feedback. Larson sounds like he is philosophically a Libertarian, which believes that the government should play a minimal role in our lives. However, if there are no accountability mechanisms against private capital then how are people to defend themselves? Clearly, people don’t need government to defend them, but having government policies that do defend the public interest are important. I would also ask Mr. Larson if he uses the roads, libraries, mail delivery, police, fire dept., just some of the services he benefits from that are publicly financed.


  1. New Media We Recommend « Grand Rapids Institute for Information Democracy
  2. Interview With Lambert Zuidervaart On His Book Art In Public – Urban Times

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: