Published On: Fri, Aug 31st, 2018

“Eye-openers in the creative sector” as an option for the future development of Curaçao

Handelskade-Willemstad-Curacao-IstockCuraçao has a rich and varied past. Curaçao was used in the past as the largest slave depot in the western hemisphere. Using this history, Curaçao is given new opportunities within the contemporary socio-cultural development of the African Diaspora. For example, the Museum Kura di Hulanda by Jacob Gelt Dekker partly complements this potential. But also through the organization of events, such as Curaçao North Sea Jazz Festival (CNSJF) and the International Rotterdam Film Festival (IFFR) Curaçao manifests itself as a newcomer, which may possibly grow into a top position for the region. But how could growth development be made possible?

During World War II, the Isla refinery in Curaçao developed into the largest refinery in the western hemisphere. Of the 100,000 inhabitants that Curaçao then counted, about 13,000 worked at the refinery. In 1900 Curaçao had only 30,000 inhabitants. Due to the effects of industrialization, the population due to mass immigration, which took place after 1915, has been multiplied in a period of more than 100 years. In 2018 the situation is completely reversed. The Isla refinery has only about 900 employees. Also the profits made from the oil industry of the past are no longer there. Worldwide it can be seen that more and more countries are abandoning fossil fuels and are using alternative forms of energy. Even a country like Saudi Arabia, one of the largest oil producers in the world, is opting for alternative energy. Curaçao can become an island that presents itself as a change master in the field of circular economy and also as art and cultural centers of the Caribbean.

The Spanish city of Bilbao is an example of such a change master. With over 500,000 inhabitants, Bilbao is the largest city in the Spanish Basque Country and lies on the river Nervión. It was once the most important city of the Basque economy because of the steel industry and the shipyards. But in the 80s the city was in a huge economic crisis. The industry went down and the city went empty. Nevertheless Bilbao developed from a filthy industrial city to a modern, livable and flourishing city. Transforming is possible! Bilbao underwent a true metamorphosis in the 1990s. The arrival of the Guggenheim Museum that created a true Guggenheim effect. Making Bilbao livable began with urban renewal plans in the nineties. Bilbao got a metro, designed by Norman Foster, and a tram, conceived by the Eusko Tran. Buildings were modernized and refurbished. Meanwhile in the Bilbao region, counting the suburbs, live almost a million people. The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is a work of art in itself, with the power of a mega tourist attraction. It attracts millions of visitors annually and provides the necessary income for the city. It has an exhibition area of approximately 11,000 square meters, scale-shaped titanium plates on the roof and glass walls that are specially designed to protect the artwork from sunlight. The building was designed by the American architect Frank Gehry. Bilbao is the second Guggenheim Museum in the world. The first is the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in New York. Currently in Abu Dabi, the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), the island of Saadiyat is working on the world's third Guggenheim Museum, again a design by Frank Gehry.

Also on Curaçao such a tourist art cultural attraction could be realized in the form of a museum (perhaps the fourth Guggenheim Museum in the world ??) and as an international attraction where local and international renowned artists can exhibit their works. Curaçao has brought great local artists of world allure, including Tony Monsanto, who died a few years ago. The works of Tony Monsanto could also be exhibited in such a museum. With the transformation of the Isla site by applying circular entrepreneurship to Bilbao's example, the foundation could be laid for an ambitious art and culture project on Curaçao for the entire Caribbean region.

A modern art museum supported by the organization of events, such as Curaçao North Sea Jazz Festival (CNSJF) and the International Rotterdam Film Festival (IFFR), Curaçao can further develop in this direction. The construction of a national theater in a strategic location on the waterfront of Punda with innovative architecture (as designated by the architect Carel Weeber) also contributes to the realization of a top position for Curaçao for the region.

By Sharnon Isenia

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