Smoke ’em if you got ’em

headshop mural
Everyone knows about the “coffee shops” in the Netherlands (and yes, it’s not just Amsterdam), where you can purchase various forms of hash, weed, pot, marijuana, etc. Voorstraat/Wittevrouwenstraat have a couple of places where you can purchase, but there are also places in town where you can buy your own paraphernalia, AKA headshops.

Conveniently, perhaps, Magic Mind is a long-standing one at the corner of Voorstraat and Hardebollenstraat. Hardebollenstraat used to be the inner-city red-light district here in Utrecht, but no longer. It’s now a trendy shopping street with lots of great indie shops. More about that tomorrow.

With the new shop fronts on Hardebollenstraat comes a new wall mural. (OK, it’s been there for a few months at this point.) Philip Lindeman, a young graphic artist/illustrator is the artist of this latest wall art to enhance Utrecht. I really like his style and a copy of his book The Cover Art Catalog is on my wishlist. Give the mural a look-see the next time you’re in the neighborhood.
headshop mural

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In Search of Art

Portrait of Amalia van Solms
The Centraal Museum has undergone some renovations and expansions recently and they’ll be officially unveiling them this coming Friday and over the weekend, as part of the National Museum Weekend. To raise awareness about the museum and it’s collection of Utrecht artists, they have put up murals of some of the museum’s collection on walls around the city. Today, I went in search of one.

Charlie and I headed out for a nice walk in sunny weather with deep blue skies overhead. I took a slightly different route than I usually do to end up at the Van Asch van Wijckskade. When I got to where I thought it was supposed to be, I was clearly in the wrong spot. There was a building with a painting on it, but it wasn’t the one I was thinking of. Slightly confused, I decided to keep walking. Turns out I had stopped a block too soon.
Portrait of Amalia van SolmsBut there she was, the Portrait of Amalia van Solms (1602-1675) by Gerard van Honthorst. With the trees starting to bloom and the glorious blue sky, she was in the perfect setting. Nor was I the only one admiring her. Another girl had approached just as we did and she walked up close to pause for a moment and admire Amalia.

There are two other murals to see, but they’ll have to wait for another outing. I do have two tickets for the museum’s grand opening on Friday. I would take Charlie, as he seemed quite interested, but I suspect he may not be so welcome. I guess I’ll just have to take G instead. Charlie is disappointed.
Portrait of Amalia van Solms

Love in Pictures

The Art of Making Peace
So yeah, still in a bit of a funk and lacking the energy/enthusiasm to do the research for most blog post ideas I’ve had. Thus, it’s been pretty quiet around here other than easy wordless Wednesday posts. This post is really no different, just with a few more words. As it’s Valentine’s Day, I thought I’d post a couple of my favorite heart-related photos taken here in Utrecht.
LoveAnd one that is appropriate to the Olympics, taken at the Keukenhof Flower Garden a few years ago. I am loving the success that the Netherlands is having at speed skating!From Russia With Love

Icons of Utrecht

Wittevrouwen Muur Kunst
I took these photos back in December, but forgot to post about them. Today, however, one of the stars of this fantastic bit of wall art reminded me that it was time to post them. You see, Sheriff, the black and white cat at the center of the painting, performed his usual task of escorting us to and from our home today. He prowls the neighborhood, keeping an eye on things, and I think perhaps he courts one of the neighborhood cats, although from the sounds of things, I’m not sure how successfully.

The mural is a mix of Utrecht icons. As well as Sheriff, another neighborhood icon is the white building, which is now a lawyer’s office but was once a police station. It has a clock tower that rings out the hour and half hour throughout the neighborhood. Of course, the mural also features a couple of other Utrecht icons, namely the Domtoren and the city’s notable canals with wharves below street level.

I always love these creative uses of large blank wall spaces. The artists who fill them explore a fantastic range of subjects and styles, and they’re always worth admiring.
Wittevrouwen Muur KunstWittevrouwen Muur Kunst
Wittevrouwen Muur KunstSherrif

Art Inspired by Utrecht’s Patron Saint

Sint Maarten
Throughout Utrecht, references to Sint Maarten (St. Martin) pop up everywhere. Perhaps not surprising, since he is Utrecht’s patron saint. The cathedral (where the above image is found) was dedicated to Sint Maarten,and the city’s coat of arms/flag is a visual reference to the saint’s history.

I’ve mentioned the city’s red and white flag in the past and how it relates to Sint Maarten. The story goes that Maarten was approached by a beggar on the street. As a poor soldier, Maarten had no money to give and was not allowed to give away his military coat, so he got creative and cut his red coat in half in order to at least share it with the beggar. That night, in a dream, the grateful beggar revealed himself to be Jesus.

The city’s coat of arms (a shield divided diagonally into red and white) and flag (the same diagonal red and white) represent the red cloak and the white undershirt of Maarten.

Although the story may be old, it seems to hold a special place in the heart of one local resident in the Wittevrouwen neighborhood. He recently commissioned a large mural of the saint for the side of his house. At the corner of Zandhofsestraat and Bladstraat, the story of Sint Maarten cutting his coat for the beggar is depicted against the backdrop of the historic old Wittevrouwen city gate.

The mural was created by artists Zinzi Rozema and Marij Nielen (of the Makershuis Maanzaad), along with Jos Peeters. It’s a simple but striking image of two of Utrecht’s great symbols. Rather appropriately, you can even see the Utrecht flag hanging to the left of the mural.
Sint Maarten bij Stadspoort Wittevrouwen

Mapping Street Art

Building Art
Although technically street art is illegal, it has become an art form in itself, to the point that some people are now decorating their own buildings/homes intentionally in this urban art style. The building above is an example of this, I believe. It’s along the northern part of the Oudegracht, outside the city center, just north of the Weerdsluis. I’m pretty sure this building was decorated like this by choice, otherwise, there must have been an impressively large, speedy group doing this!

Of course, not all street art is commissioned, but that doesn’t stop some of it from being truly fantastic. While Banksy is probably the best known street artist these days, there are plenty of people doing thought-provoking and visually interesting pieces. AVRO, a Dutch public broadcasting group that puts a lot of focus on art and culture, is putting together a map of some of the great street art of the Netherlands. So far, only one piece from Utrecht seems to be on the list. Hopefully more will be added, though. I suppose I should send them some photos!

Toot Toot

Blast