Renaming Phase
22 September 2020

List of contents

Introduction & Criteria

Name Change Initiative

Renaming Process

Forums & Online Survey

Reports on Public Forums

Report of Online Survey

NCI Work-group

About Our Institution


During the public input phase of the name change initiative, over 200 participants took part whether in person or online. This formed part as part of the broader Name Change Initiative, which undertakes institutional transformation, and which seeks to contribute to best practice in the Netherlands and internationally, lowering the threshold for further precedents.

The results of the public input phase were analysed in order to develop future-looking policies and processes as part of our institutional transformation, as well as towards establishing the name change criteria below. These findings were also provided to the external Advisory Committee, informing their assessment of three short-listed names that had also been developed through the Renaming Process.

The phase of Public Input was led by three key questions; How can our institution transform? How is this connected with social transformation? And what name can help to make this happen?


What do we stand for?
How did our old name call us to account for our position in regard to the past?

The old name excluded important parts of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and our communities.
How does the new name counteract this, and assert its audience relation?

Can a new name situate where we are in a meaningful way? The old name addressed our location but not our vocation.

Renaming gives the opportunity of reframing the role of art in society, and of what an art institution is and does.


Who does the name speak to, and how?
Our new name can better convey a relation with local and international audiences, and express that in the chosen language

How does it feel?
The new name should be energizing or imbued with energy, expressing our forward-looking, bold, and experimental reputation.

As we remove a name that caused us to be responsive to colonial history, how do we maintain accountability?

How do we remain vulnerable as an institution?
Being open, nimble, and determined to learn, adapt, and change.

Name Change Initiative

In 2017, a group of cultural practitioners publicly challenged the name of the institution. They pointed to the name’s association with unspoken narratives of Dutch colonialism. Their critiques catalyzed a public debate informed by larger decolonizing efforts underway in the Netherlands. These efforts foreground dissonant heritage and competing value systems. Their stance and activist work are shaped as much by new historical awareness, as by an increasingly multi-vocal society and a pressing concern of systemic racism. The institution acknowledged the critiques and, that year, decided to make a change to its name.

In January 2018, the institution launched a multi-faceted Name Change Initiative (see schematic summary below). The initiative proposed changing the character and composition of the institution. This was done so that the process of its new name would be informed by a more diversified team and group of stakeholders, both of which it had to develop and nurture. And, on the other hand, so that the institution’s renaming would be one among several other actions towards making a deeper institutional transformation. The Name Change Initiative has impacted the institution’s working culture and its artistic vision and program. Its tactics for arts mediation and public engagement have significantly changed, too.

Name Change Initiative

Renaming Process

The name ideas, criteria, and forward-looking policy development is based upon feedback coming from case-studies research, begun in 2018; naming-workshops, started in and held through 2020, with the team, as well as through working sessions with our name change initiative and collective learning partners, Brand New Guys, Werkplaats, and Wkshps; and, in 2020, a public input phase involving civic participation. The graph below details the steps and involvement of this public input phase.

In designing our initiative and processes, we have been inspired by two institutional case-studies: One is Yale University’s Calhoun College renaming to Hopper College in 2017; the other is the renaming of Bristol’s Colston Hall to Bristol Beacon, which took place from 2017 to 2020. Both institutions undertook a name change involving a research-based and years-long process. An internal case-study was undertaken in the 2019 renaming of Untitled to Melly, an art gallery at our institution turned multipurpose space. This process established our Collective Learning framework for welcoming and learning with multiple stand-points and knowledge bases.

Renaming Process

Forums & Open Survey

The Name Change Initiative Forums were focused and moderated sessions that directly impact our institutional transformation and the choice of a new name. Our big questions are: How can our institution transform? How is this connected with social transformation? And what name can help to make this happen?

The Forums had three focus areas:

  1. “Legacies and Futures”: These two forums were held in Rotterdam and focused on how historical awareness is part of our name change. When we remove the name “Witte de With”, how do we continue to be historically aware and how does historical awareness inform our transformation?

    Moderated (in NL) by marjolijn kok, who is a practicing archaeologist and archivist at FKA Witte de With; and (in EN) by Rolando Vázquez Melken, associate professor and diversity fellow at University College Roosevelt and affiliated researcher University of Utrecht.

  2. “Naming and Communication”: This forum focused on how the choice of name connects with institutional identity. What has the institutional identity looked like in the past, and what can perform in the future? How might a visual identity be part of social transformation and re-evaluation? This forum involved small break-out groups, and was held on Zoom.

    Moderated (in EN) by Prem Krishnamurthy, a designer, curator, writer and teacher, and partner in the multidisciplinary design studio Wkshps in New York and Berlin.

  3. “Engaging and Changing”: These two forums were held in Rotterdam and focus on how our institutional transformation is connected with social engagement and social change. Who have we engaged in the past, who can we engage in the future, and how is our name part of this change?

    Moderated by Quincy Mahangi from Guestwise, a consultancy that guides companies towards the creation of audience/guest experience through a people-driven mindset.

    The Online Survey was designed for voicing ideas, creating perspectives, and identifying challenges as part of our name change. The online survey invited feedback as to our institutional transformation, which characteristics of the institution should be held onto or let go, how to connect our institutional transformation with social change, as well as naming suggestions and responses to how the naming is significant moving forward.


Legacies and Futures

Participants: 8
Moderator: marjolijn kok
TaskforceRepresentative: Jessy Koeiman
Note-taker: Veronika Babayan
Overview/Accountability: Sofia Hernández Chong Cuy


Overall the forum discussed dominant historical narratives, their relation to the social curriculum of history and how that connects to people’s lives in the current society and our institutions.Forum held in Dutch, participants were from different cities of the Netherlands and included people who had never visited the institution before.

Findings assessed and summarized by Veronika Babayan, Sofia Hernández Chong Cuy, Jessy Koeiman, marjolijn kok and Vivian Ziherl.


Legacies and Futures

Participants: 13
Moderator: Rolando Vázquez Melken
Taskforce Representative: Vivian Ziherl
Note-taker: Veronika Babayan
Overview/Accountability: Sofia Hernández Chong Cuy


Overall the forum focused on how the old name had created accountability to colonial histories and their present-day legacy, how un-naming could also be a process of un-silencing, and how a re-naming can continue this process. The Forum was held in English, including participants residing in the Netherlands, who were originally from Iran, Poland, South Korea, Germany, Mexico, Indonesia, Spain, Barbados, United States of America, and the United Kingdom.

Findings are assessed and summarized by Veronika Babayan, Sofia Hernández Chong Cuy, Jeroen Lavèn, Rolando Vázquez, and Vivian Ziherl.


Naming and Communication

Participants: 23
Moderator: Prem Krishnamurthy
Taskforce Representative: Jeroen Lavèn
Note-taker: Veronika Babayan
Overview/Accountability: Sofia Hernández Chong Cuy


Overall the forum focused on the relation of the name change regarding positionality, how the institution can be reframed through the change of name, along with a future looking approach to the name change and the energetic aspect of moving forward. The Forum is held online and included residents from the Netherlands, Hong Kong, Brazil, Greece, the United States, and the United Kingdom.

Findings are assessed and summarized by Veronika Babayan, Sofia Hernández Chong Cuy, Prem Krishnamurthy, Jeroen Lavèn and Vivian Ziherl.


Engaging and Changing

Participants: 5
Moderator: Quincy Mahangi
TaskforceRepresentative: line kramer
Note-taker: Veronika Babayan
Overview/Accountability: Sofia Hernández Chong Cuy


The main thematic of the forum was the definition of art and the role of art in relation to education, and how this relates to inclusivity both in the role of the institution and in what kinds of art are considered ‘art’. This forum had a particularly engaged and intensive exchange. The Forum includes residents from Rotterdam and Den Haag.

Findings are assessed and summarized by Veronika Babayan, Sofia Hernández Chong Cuy, line kramer, Jeroen Lavèn, Quincy Mahangi and Vivian Ziherl.


Engaging and Changing

Participants: 8
Moderator: Quincy Mahangi
TaskforceRepresentative: Rosa de Graaf
Note-taker: Veronika Babayan
Overview/Accountability: Sofia Hernández Chong Cuy


This forum was very concerned with linguistics, in a manner that regards accessibility. The forum had a manner of ‘questioning the question’ and included many who are in the art-world and highly familiar with the institution. The Forum includes residents from Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Brussels, Den Haag, and cultural backgrounds including Albania, Croatia, Dubai, India, Lithuania, and Turkey.

Findings are assessed and summarized by Veronika Babayan, Rosa de Graaf, Quincy Mahangi and Vivian Ziherl.


Feedback examples, for when arriving to a new name:

“A change in programming that […] sets new boundaries and redefines culture.”

“Your record of pushing contemporary art; you are a place where new forms and thinking are nurtured and taking place; be mindful of your scale – you are smallish but not boutique nor do you wish to be big; international focus but with strong anchor in Rotterdam.”

“How and where the process of decolonization has been undertaken throughout the institution beyond the question of the name.”


Formed in October 2019, the Name Change Initiative (NCI) Task Force meets on a weekly basis to discuss ideas, assign tasks and report on actions completed and pending. Begun in November 2019, these NCI General Staff meetings are the first-degree source of potential long-list and name concept typologies. The Task Force is led by FKA WdW’s Director and chaired by its Research and Program Manager. These are the NCI Task Force members:


Rosa de Graaf

line kramer

Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy

Jessy Koeiman

Jeroen Laven

Vivian Ziherl


Associate Curator

Senior Technical Supervisor


Curator of Collective Learning

PR & Communications Manager

Research and Program Manager

Years servive







Earlier-phase Members:

Incoming-phase Members:

Public Input-phase Assistant:



Our institutional mission is to engage the public in experiencing, enjoying, and learning from the latest developments of contemporary art and theory. We consider that regarding artistic expressions and philosophical inquires creates critical thinking that fosters mutual understanding amongst people and cultures.

Core Values

We have a disposition to Evolve. We are determined to catalyze. Our program is a gateway to the World.


To exercise our commitment, we present exhibitions, publications and educational programs of artistic merit and cultural significance; we also commission new art, support innovative research, and advocate for cultural partnerships. We do this while being responsive to artistic questions and theoretical issues of our present. These matters are contextually informed but geographically boundless. 


To be experimental, we must engage artists that test matters as much as materials, even if their visions may not yet be fully comprehended now; to be contemporary, we must embrace diversified audiences, multiple forms of knowledge, and sustainable forms of production; to be meaningful, we must be responsive and responsible, insightful and eloquent, daring and sensible, lively and caring.