Society of Arts

A forum for the arts in society

Unlike various other countries, the Netherlands does not have a society comparable to the Royal Academy to which artists are admitted for their artistic merits after a quality appraisal by their peers. A number of Dutch artists have said that they miss having such an institution. The Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences therefore intends to found an Society of Arts in 2014 that will serve as a platform for artists in every artistic discipline.

The Society of Academy will be the voice and conscience of the arts. Meetings between its members and the members of the Royal Academy and Young Academy will restore the connection between art and science in the Trippenhuis Building. That connection was embedded in the structure of the Academy when it was founded in 1808.

Why should the Society of Arts be part of the Royal Academy?

There are many similarities between the work of researchers and the work of artists. Both groups are motivated by a sense of wonder and by their passion for excellence, and both require the crucial medium of creativity to pursue their ambitions. Practical utility is not necessary either in science or art, but both do require originality.

It is only logical, then, that the world of science and the world of art should be brought together in the Trippenhuis Building. As the voice and conscience of the arts, the new Society of Arts will fall into step with a similar tradition of scientific culture in the Royal Academy. For example, one of the Royal Academy’s key aims is to bring together outstanding researchers, professionals in other sectors of civil society, and the public. Another aim is to get researchers to explore innovation and reflect on their own discipline and on potential crossovers. By launching debates, the Royal Academy also builds bridges to society. The Society’s organisational structure provides an ideal context for an Society of Arts.

In her strategic memorandum, Transforming Culture. The Meaning of Culture in a Changing Society (spring 2013), the Minister of Education, Culture and Science embraced the Royal Academy’s idea of founding an Society of Arts. It is precisely the activities of such an Academy that can make the relationship between cultural trends and social and scientific trends more explicit. The Minister also recognises that an Society of Arts can play a valuable role in restoring the connection between science and art.

The Academy Board will develop the Society of Arts with the Minister’s moral and financial support. It is naturally aware that founding this new body may lead to tensions. Good art, even more than good science, basically distances itself from any form of institutionalisation or regulation, and the standards of quality assessment in the arts differ from those in other areas of endeavour.

Which activities will the Society of Arts undertake?

The Society of Arts will serve as a forum for the arts in society, in the same way that the Royal Academy serves as a forum for science. Unlike the Royal Academy, however, it will not make recommendations or issue advice. Although the Society of Arts will be part of the Royal Academy, it will have the freedom to define its role as a forum as it sees fit. Potential topics for forum meetings include interdisciplinarity in art and science, the relationship between cultural, social and scientific trends, and the art of the experiment. The president of the Society of Arts can also draw attention to the “state of the arts” in his or her annual address and reflect on current trends in science and society from the perspective of the arts.

Who are the potential members?

The members of the Society of Arts will be selected from the following domains:

  • Literature (poets, essayists, writers, playwrights, scriptwriters, dramatists, translators)
  • Fine arts, design and architecture (visual artists, designers, photographers, architects, performers, e-culture practitioners)
  • Music (composers, conductors, musicians)
  • Performing arts (choreographers, dancers, actors, theatre-makers, film directors)

How will the Society of Arts commence work and who will be its first members?

In the first year, the Academy Board will select twenty artists working in the four domains listed above to be the Society of Arts’ first members. A selection committee made up of Royal Academy members will propose candidates to the Academy Board, based on nominations by key cultural institutions and arts education programmes.

The potential members

  1. should have distinguished themselves artistically, for example by winning awards or gaining international recognition in some other manner;
  2. should be capable of cross-disciplinary thinking and of creating satisfactory programmes based on this approach, with a sensitivity to connections between the arts and between art, science and society;
  3. should be prepared and able to work on starting up and building the Society of Arts;
  4. should serve as major sources of inspiration for up-and-coming talent.

The Academy Board will appoint the first group of Society of Arts members after reviewing the selection procedure for accuracy and correctness. Based on interviews with the members, the Board will ask four individuals to serve on the Society of Arts’ provisional board.

How will the remaining members of the Society of Arts be selected?

Fifteen new members will be selected each subsequent year until there are fifty members in all. The annual selection round will be based on nominations submitted by cultural institutions. The board of the Society of Arts will appoint a committee to select the new members. In addition to an assessment against the selection criteria, the committee will interview the candidates and let them know what is expected of them in terms of effort and availability.

How will the Society of Arts be positioned within the Royal Academy?

The Society of Arts will be established provisionally for a 3.5-year period. It will operate independently within the Royal Academy. It will have its own working plan and will be responsible for its own activities. The Academy Board and the board of the Society of Arts will consult regularly. The board of the Society of Arts will account for its policy and financial management of the past year by producing a report that will be included in the Royal Academy’s annual report.

The board of the Society of Arts will be responsible for organising activities. Once it has been installed, the board will adopt a charter and internal rules as soon as possible, in close consultation with the Academy Board. A policy officer from the Learned Society Division of the Academy Bureau will assist the board and the members of the Society of Arts.

Following internal and external reviews after 3.5 years, the term of the Society of Arts may or may not be extended. The Academy Board will leave it to the future board of the Society of Arts to decide whether to establish a rotating membership similar to the Young Academy.

How will the Society of Arts be funded?

The Royal Academy will make an annual budget available to the board of the Society of Arts to cover its management and organisational costs.

The Society of Arts’ programme will be financed from funds earmarked by the Minister of Education, Culture and Science. After the initial 3.5 years, the Society of Arts may be able to contribute to its own budget, for example by means of fundraising.