Cas-co, a co-working space for artists – THE WORD

INTERVIEW Cas co a co working space for artists THE WORD 1

Leuven may not boast a buz­z­ing arts sce­ne as lar­ger neigh­bo­ring cities, but it’s nonet­he­less pre­sent in pla­ces like STUK andOPEK. Chances are it can broa­den its pur­view with recent­ly ope­ned artist wor­king spa­ce at Cas-co. Claiming for­mer bre­wery archi­ves as acre­a­ti­ve nest for the arts, Cas-co makes room to nur­tu­re the par­ti­cu­lar con­cen­tra­ti­on that artis­tic work needs.’ Cas-co’s coo­r­di­na­tor Sammy Ben Yakoub gives us the scoop about this much nee­ded ini­ti­a­ti­ve in Leuven, about stri­king a balan­ce bet­ween ancho­ring qua­li­ty spa­ce and cre­a­ting a mee­ting point for artists of dif­fe­rent disciplines.


Article by Nadia Rivera

Can you descri­be your con­cept in a few words? What is its core busi­ness? What are its dri­ving prin­ci­ples? What, in your eyes, makes it unique?

Cas-co is a new orga­ni­za­ti­on in Leuven that pro­vi­des stu­dios and wor­king spa­ce for artists, both visu­al artists and the­a­tre makers or per­for­mers. At the moment we are hou­sed in a for­mer archi­ve cen­tre in Leuven. It’s a beau­ti­ful old indu­stri­al buil­ding, with high cei­lings and big spa­ces. We’ve instal­led ten artists stu­dios and a pro­ject spa­ce on the first level, below we have a the­a­tre, an offi­ce and a spa­ce for shows. We con­ti­nue our search for other buil­dings whe­re we can install more artist stu­dios. Overall, the core busi­ness is to pro­vi­de spa­ces for artists to work in.

Can you dis­cuss the concept’s first steps? When did the idea first rise? How did it come about?

As far as I can tell, the­re has always been the need for artist stu­dios in Leuven. A few years ago, the first ini­ti­a­ti­ve took pla­ce with Batiment A, whe­re a few artists star­ted a com­mu­ni­ty in an older buil­ding. But still, the­re was the need for more good loca­ti­ons. Then, Luc Delrue and Steven Dusoleil had the idea of cre­a­ting an orga­ni­za­ti­on in Leuven that would turn emp­ty buil­dings into pla­ces whe­re artists could work. They imme­di­a­te­ly found sup­port from the city of Leuven through the alder­men for cul­tu­re Denise Vandevoort. The city sup­por­ted the ini­ti­a­ti­ve finan­ci­al­ly and in the search for a loca­ti­on. Delrue and Dusoleil then trig­ge­red other peo­p­le and orga­ni­za­ti­ons to work together, and Cas-co was born. At one point the­re was anop­por­tu­ni­ty given by the real esta­te devel­o­per Virix to start in this buil­ding, situ­a­ted in the Vaartkom neigh­bor­hood in Leuven. This is whe­re we are now, and this is whe­re I work as coordinator.

Can you talk to us about the concept’s name? What is its sig­ni­fi­can­ce? How does it rela­te to the concept’s core idea?

I don’t know if it’s a word in English, but in Dutch cas­co” refers to the shell of a buil­ding: the very basic form, or just the struc­tu­re rea­dy to be tur­ned into some­thing. In a way, that is how we star­ted. From that con­struc­ti­on sta­te we built what is nee­ded to pro­vi­de good ate­liers and wor­king spaces.

What exci­tes you the most about your con­cept? What are you most proud of?

As a coo­r­di­na­tor, what exci­tes me at the moment is the fact that we can start from scratch. We have enough spa­ce for artist stu­dios, the­a­ter rehear­sal spa­ce, pro­ject spa­ce and spa­ce for shows.

We just star­ted, but it’s clear that not only artists from Leuven show inte­rest but also from Brussels and other cities. Six artists are alrea­dy wor­king here, and rehear­sals in the per­for­man­ce spa­ce have star­ted too, showing the­re is gre­at poten­ti­al. In May we will hou­se ele­ven artists and two the­a­ter com­pa­nies. What’s uni­que is that on the one hand we offer stu­dios for auto­no­mous pro­fes­si­o­nal artists, but on the other hand we also have part­ner­ships with M ‑Museum Leuven and the cul­tu­ral cen­tre of Leuven, 30 cc. This will cre­a­te a pro­per dyna­mic and offers our part­ners the oppor­tu­ni­ty to give their artists more spa­ces to work and create.

How and why did you choo­se the neigh­bour­hood you’re cur­rent­ly loca­ted in? What attrac­ted you to it in the first place?

We star­ted in this neigh­bour­hood of the Vaartkom becau­se of the oppor­tu­ni­ty that was given of being hou­sed in this buil­ding that hap­pe­ned to be loca­ted in this neigh­bour­hood. But this is no coin­ci­den­ce, as this was a for­mer indu­stri­al area that has now beco­me avai­la­ble. A lot of the more cre­a­ti­ve com­pa­nies or start-ups have flock­ed to this area. It is a known urba­nist momen­tum, and now it hap­pens in Leuven.

How do you feel you’re brin­ging some­thing fresh to the neigh­bour­hood? Do you feel you’re adding value to it in any way? Are you wor­king with the neigh­bour­hood in any way?

There are alrea­dy remar­ka­ble ini­ti­a­ti­ves here in the Vaartkom, like De Hoorn and OPEK amongst others. De Hoorn is a hub for cre­a­ti­ve indu­stries; OPEK is a for­mer cus­t­oms buil­ding that hou­ses seve­r­al art edu­ca­ti­on orga­ni­za­ti­ons and the­a­ter com­pa­nies. Cas-co will undoub­ted­ly bring a new dimen­si­on to this neigh­bor­hood. The con­nec­ti­on with the spe­ci­fic tex­tu­re of this area and artists from Leuven, together with the fact that we also attract artists from the out­si­de, will undoub­ted­ly add value in this fast-chan­ging part of the city. Formerly, the Vaartkom was very known, also abroad, for its club Silo. Nightlife together with a new artis­tic sce­ne is fin­ding its way back to the Vaartkom.

What, if any­thing, do you hope to chan­ge with this new opening?

We hope that artists can now find affor­da­ble and qua­li­ta­ti­ve spa­ces to work in this area. The dimen­si­ons, tem­pe­ra­tu­re and pre­sen­ce of Wi-Fi do not sole­ly mea­su­re the qua­li­ty of an artist stu­dio, alt­hough that’s pri­mor­di­al, but what is also impor­tant is the way it can sustain the par­ti­cu­lar con­cen­tra­ti­on that artis­tic work needs. Spaces to make this pos­si­ble, spa­ce for try-outs, and cre­a­ti­on: it sounds evi­dent, but it is not. In fact it has to do with defen­ding a ter­ri­to­ry. So the­re is plen­ty of spa­ce, and we go on the hunt to see what’s pos­si­ble and to find peo­p­le with whom we can syn­chro­ni­ze to make things hap­pen, and claim spe­ci­fic spa­ces as ter­ri­to­ry for the arts and defend them. Those spa­ces can very easi­ly be taken for some­thing that is much more lucra­ti­ve at a cer­tain sta­ge. Suddenly you can have a big for-pro­fit busi­ness taking the spa­ce, or a super­mar­ket and it’s gone. What we do is claim the spa­ce and resist for a whi­le, clai­ming it for the arts, becau­se we are con­vin­ced it matters.