Leuven introduced its creative ambassadors for the first time at the and& festival, an initiative of Leuven MindGate. These are eight Leuven-based artists, entrepreneurs, organisations and companies who are unique in propagating Leuven's cultural and creative international ambitions. At the and& festival, they shared their own story and their view of creativity in Leuven.
One hundred thousand inhabitants, fifty thousand students and over 170 nationalities. These figures indicate that Leuven is an exciting city. A city on the move. Leuven has long been on the world map as a university town and home to many successful, innovative companies in health and technology. It is not without reason that Leuven can call itself the European Capital of Innovation.
Cultural and creative top players
What is less well known is Leuven's high density of top players in the cultural and creative sector. No less than 37 percent of Leuven's entrepreneurs are active in one of the many cultural and creative sectors. Anno 2021, Leuven has a tightly-knit, self-assured network of artists and creative minds ready to push the positive spiral even higher. The creative ambassadors are a new initiative of the city of Leuven and Leuven MindGate, and aim to highlight the strength and potential of this cultural and creative sector. The project builds on Leuven's great creative and cultural ambitions. After the urban renewal project Vaartopia, which provides more affordable physical space for creatives in the Vaartkom, the project is working towards the European Cultural Capital in 2030.
Mayor Mohamed Ridouani: "Leuven sees an increasingly important role for culture and creativity in our society. In the future, the social challenges will not get any smaller and every city will be faced with new problems that require new solutions. These will not only come from science and technology. The art of imagination and thinking far outside the box will also be indispensable. In our city, we are blessed with very strong and driven creative people who give Leuven a leading role in this. Each and every one of them is using their creativity to build a better society. They can show the outside world better than anyone how much Leuven is bustling and pushing back frontiers, and how much culture and creativity can be an engine for sustainable coexistence in a city."
Director Leuven MindGate Johan Merlevede stresses out the importance of the creativity sector for the ecosystem: "For Leuven MindGate, the creative sector is one of the pillars of the Leuven economy, alongside technology and health. We have a very active Leuven MindGate Creativity working group. It recently took the initiative to map out the sector in a creative database (creativity.leuvenmindgate.be) and also supported the initiative around the creative ambassadors. It is our mission to put the Leuven region on the international map, also as a top region for culture and creativity."
All eight ambassadors play a fundamental role in the creative landscape of Leuven and far beyond. The ambassadorship is first and foremost about a well-deserved recognition and visibility for these creative minds with international reach. Each of them comes from a different branch of the creative sector. This shows the diversity of cultural and creative Leuven, which provides a unique ecosystem in which cooperation and cross-pollination are central.
A nine-member jury of experts including Franky Devos, Isabel Lowyck and Jan Hautekiet selected the following creative ambassadors from a longlist of more than 100 names:
Book and video portraits
During the and& festival, the book Leuven? A Creative City in 8 Stories was presented. The book shows the world what cultural and creative Leuven has to offer.
It can also be read digitally at www.leuven.be/creativeambassadors. Besides the book, you will also find a video portrait of each ambassador.
Alderman for Culture Denise Vandevoort concludes: "Our cultural ambitions are great. Leuven is putting itself forward as a candidate as European Cultural Capital 2030. Even more than a big celebration that engulfs the city for a year, we see our candidacy as a springboard for our region, especially for its cultural, social and economic development. Another important development in the coming years is the Hertogensite, where by 2027 we will have transformed the former hospital site into a sustainable new arts venue, unique for Flanders and leading for Europe. These eight creative ambassadors share our ambitions and play a leading role in this. They are all beautiful, driven people who embody the Leuven of the future, a city full of courage and creativity. They will be able to inspire many."