This timeline lists key actions and events pertaining the name change deliberations and initiative at the institution. As of today, the timeline dates from 10 February 2017 to 8 April 2022. It is updated progressively; latest update was on 8 April 2022.

Jump to year:
2017 | 2018 | 2019 | 2020 | 2021 | 2022


10 February 2017

The first planning meeting is held with all initial participants of Cinema Olanda: Platform, a project scheduled for 17 June - 20 August 2017 at the then-named Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art. This project is initiated by artist Wendelien van Oldenborgh and curator Lucy Cotter and is organized by former Witte de With director Defne Ayas and curator Natasha Hoare.

The project proposes to transform the institution into an adaptable platform for groups and individuals who have informed Cinema Olanda, Wendelien Van Oldenborgh, and Lucy Cotter’s presentation in the Dutch Pavilion in the Venice Biennale in the summer of 2017. In her practice, Wendelien Van Oldenborgh focuses on questions surrounding the Netherlands’ (inter)national image vis-a-vis current transformations in the Dutch cultural and political landscape.

A series of changing presentations and six weeks of public events are planned for Summer 2017. A group of artists, writers, curators, and cultural critics participate in the program conceptualization for Cinema Olanda: Platform: Quinsy Gario; Charl Landvreugd; Egbert Alejandro Martina; Patricia Pisters en Esther Peeren from the Amsterdam School for Cultural Analysis (ASCA); Jessica de Abreu and Mitchell Esajas from New Urban Collective; Katayoun Arian, Louise Autar and Max de Ploeg from First Things First. Also participating are Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Lucy Cotter, and Natasha Hoare.

At this closed-door planning meeting, a discussion around the name of the street and the institution emerges. The attending participants pose critical questions about the institution’s objectives for hosting the project. The question of “What it means for a white institution to do critical work under the name of a colonizer?” is posed by one of the meeting’s participants, Egbert Alejandro Martina. A group discussion around this inquiry, and the question of how a white institution can avoid instrumentalizing black intellectual labor ensues. The participants also raise the issue that Witte de Withstraat is locally known as “Whiter than White Street.” (The Dutch word “witte” literally translates to “white” in English.) One of the suggestions the group makes is to change the name of the institution for the duration of the Cinema Olanda: Platform project. This suggestion, and other discussion topics, are considered by the institution internally and in conversation with Wendelien Van Oldenborgh and Lucy Cotter.

20 March 2017

Second planning meeting with Wendelien van Oldenborgh, Lucy Cotter, and Cinema Olanda: Platform participants. Participants attending: Katayoun Arian, Louise Autar, Max de Ploeg, and Amandla Awethu! from First Things First; Mitchell Esajas and Jessica de Abreu from The Black Archives; Charl Landvreugd; and, Egbert Alejandro Martina. Also attending were staff members: Defne Ayas; Natasha Hoare; Milou van Lieshout; Rosa de Graaf; and Yoeri Meessen.

2 April 2017

Leading up to the opening of Cinema Olanda: Platform, and inspired by the discussions in its planning meetings, the institution organizes an all-staff workshop about equal opportunities.

6 April 2017

The discussion around the name of the institution takes a public turn on social media. On Twitter, several tweets are posted by and between initial Cinema Olanda: Platform participants and some staff members at the institution.

10 April 2017

Responding to an email to all Cinema Olanda: Platform participants that was sent by the institution after the second planning meeting, Egbert Alejandro Martina sends an email to Witte de With stating that his main concern around the institution’s position about its name hasn’t been addressed, and withdraws from the Cinema Olanda: Platform project.

11 April 2017

Email from Witte de With to Egbert Alejandro Martina and all other Cinema Olanda: Platform participants, stating that the institution “will continue to research the figure Witte Corneliszoon de With and endeavor to make transparent his legacy as having been an instrumental part in the Dutch colonial history”, and that it will “consider ways in which to address the continued name of Witte Corneliszoon de With by the street, and the institution”. What follows is an email conversation between some participants and the institution, foregrounding that Egbert Alejandro Martina’s main question is still not answered in a meaningful way.

14 April 2017

The name of the institution and the critiques of its name are listed as a discussion topic on the agenda for the upcoming meeting of the institutions’ Supervisory Board, scheduled for 13 June 2017. These are the board members: Stijn Huijts, Gabriel Lester, Jeroen Princen, Nathalie de Vries, Kees Weeda (Chair), and Katarina Zdjelar.

From May 2017 onwards

Leading up to a presentation of the twelfth edition of the ongoing exhibition series Rotterdam Cultural Histories, scheduled to open on 7 September 2017, Witte de With engages in research around the history of Dutch naval officer Witte Corneliszoon de With; his biography and role in the Dutch colonial project; the naming of the street Witte de Withstraat in 1871, and; the namesake of the institution taken at its foundation in 1990.

12 June 2017

Witte de With publishes on its website the text Acknowledgement Witte Corneliszoon de With to express that “Attention has been drawn to our operating under such a name in a field of contemporary art practice that claims criticality, and the fact of this blind spot in our institutional history and self-awareness.”

13 June 2017

Quarterly meeting of the institution's Supervisory Board, where the Board members conclude that the questions raised, including the name, should be reflected upon. The summer is for self-education on this matter and the discussion will be taken up again in the next meeting, scheduled for 5 September 2017.

14 June 2017

Publication of an Open Letter to Witte de With authored by a group of cultural professionals, artists, and activists: Egbert Alejandro Martina, Ramona Sno, Hodan Warsame, Patricia Schor, Amal Alhaag, and Maria Guggenbichler. In the period that follows, it is signed by hundreds of people. Among the many signers of this Open Letter are prominent figures from the art world and the field of decolonial studies.

16 June 2017

The public opening of Cinema Olanda: Platform, a project with artist Wendelien van Oldenborgh and curator Lucy Cotter. The project involves an exhibition plus eleven public programs taking place from 17 June to 21 July 2017.

17 June 2017 to 21 July 2017

In different ways, the eleven public programs organized in conjunction to Cinema Olanda: Platform, attended by hundreds of people and involving over forty speakers and participants, address different aspects of decolonial studies, programmed by groups and individuals who have informed Wendelien van Oldenborgh’s work for the Cinema Olanda presentation in Venice. Here is a list of the programs.

20 June 2017

The AD Rotterdams Dagblad, the local edition of a national newspaper, publishes an article about the Open Letter and Witte de With’s Acknowledgment: “Should Witte de With change its name or not?” published online on 19 June under the title ‘Artists want name change of Witte de With’, written by Nadia Berkelder.

23 August 2017

Publication of ‘The announced death of Witte de With’, written by Koen Kleijn in magazine De Groene Amsterdammer. This is the first time a major national news platform publishes an article about the discussion around the name, leading to more articles published by the national and international press. All press-clippings on the matter collected to date can be accessed here.

5 September 2017

Quarterly meeting of the institution's Supervisory Board, where it is unanimously agreed "that a change needs to be made to the part of the name of the center that refers to the Dutch naval officer Witte Corneliszoon de With." They also decide this task will be assigned to the upcoming director, to be announced.

7 September 2017

Witte de With publishes a Public Announcement, stating the decision taken in the Board meeting of 5 September. This same day sees the opening of Rotterdam Cultural Histories #12: Witte de With; What’s in a Name?, a presentation which involves weekly lunch meetings for the next fifteen weeks, from 12 September to 19 December 2017. These meetings are open to the general public, and the discussions are moderated by one or two staff members.

On that same day, triggered by the article about the board decision that was published by newspaper AD Rotterdams Dagblad that morning, members of the local political party Leefbaar Rotterdam submit written questions on this matter to the City Council, with the request they are answered in the Council meeting scheduled for 3 October 2017. The questions and answers appear on that date in this timeline.

12 September 2017

The first open lunch of Rotterdam Cultural Histories #12: Witte de With; What’s in a Name?, this time moderated by line kramer (Senior Technical Supervisor), is hosted at the institution. 

18 September 2017

The Supervisory Board announces the appointment of Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy as its new director, effective from 1 January 2018.

19 September to 19 December 2017

Weekly open-lunch meetings take place during a period of 15 weeks, as part of Rotterdam Cultural Histories #12: Witte de With; What’s in a Name?. The staff and board members of Witte de With moderating these meetings are: line kramer; Sarah van Overeem-van der Tholen; Rosa de Graaf; Wendy van Slagmaat-Bos with Matthias Nothnagel; Gyonne Goedhoop; Defne Ayas; Kees Weeda; Docus van der Made; Yoeri Meessen; Jeroen Lavèn; Patrick C. Haas; Marjolijn Kok; Angélique Kool with Samuel Saelemakers; Emmelie Mijs with Ella Broek; Rosa de Graaf, and Yoeri Meessen. The lunches are attended by a total number of 96 people, plus Witte de With staff members.

3 October 2017

The answers to the questions that were submitted to the City Council by members of the local political party Leefbaar Rotterdam on 7 September are established in the Council meeting. The four questions and answers are as follows: 

Question 1: Do you share our bewilderment and irritation about this decision by the Supervisory Board of 'Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art'? If not, why not?

Answer 1:Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art is an independent foundation and as such controls its name. The naming of a foundation is not a matter of the Council. In recent years, more cultural institutions in Rotterdam have changed their names, without the involvement of the Council (Max, Siberia, and Rotjong became MAAS, Rotterdamse Schouwburg, RO Theater, and Production house became Theater Rotterdam, RCTH became Theater Babel Rotterdam, Rotterdam Chamber Orchestra became Sinfonia, etc.).

Question 2: Do you agree with us that Rotterdam tax money is not meant to erase our history? If not, why not? 

Answer 2: Witte de With receives subsidies as part of the Cultural Plan 2017-2020, established by the City Council in November 2016. A subsidy is granted based on performance agreements. Performances are subject to yearly tests. There is no change to those performance agreements with the proposed name change.

Question 3: Do you want to terminate the subsidy to this art center, which thinks it can judge and condemn our history, immediately? If not, why not?

Answer 3: The same answer applies here.

Question 4: Are you prepared to link the name of Witte de With to another institution in the city (one that deserves to bear his name) and advise the art center to change its name, for example to “Ella Vogelaar Institute”? If not, why not? (Editorial note: Ella Vogelaar is a Dutch politician most known for her work in emancipating disadvantaged neighborhoods.)

Answer 4: The Council is not concerned with the proposed name change of an independent foundation, and as such the Council can’t impose a new name on another institution either.

31 December 2017

Defne Ayas' tenure as director ends; her term was for six years, from 2012 to 2017, the maximum period a director has at the institution.


1 January 2018 onwards

Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy assumes the directorship of the institution, relocating to Rotterdam. Upon arrival, she commences meeting with the institution's staff and the members of its Supervisory Board, as well as with local artists, colleagues, civil servants, and cultural producers at large, collecting impressions and viewpoints on the institution and the name-change discussions begun in 2017. The notes of these meetings, as well as the 2017 open lunch sessions are assessed. A series of timelines are developed and published online. These are produced to clarify the debates and readily provide precise information. The assessments of the open lunch notes and organization of events through timelines makes evident the concrete factors that would inform the articulation of a vision for institutional transformation.

16 March 2018

In the first Supervisory Board meeting of the new director, she presents an agenda where the institution name change is addressed first and foremost through changes in working method and structurally within the institution, rather than as a merely symbolic gesture. The name change is devised as a special initiative organized in four phases: Acknowledging (2017), Learning (2018), Assessing (2019), and Expounding (2020). 

3 May 2018

A first name change report by the institution's director is published on the institution website; along with this, two timelines are published, including this one; a second one about the life and work of Witte Corneliszoon de With; a third one about the current cultural context in The Netherlands, which is still pending.

5 May 2018

The new director’s program commences, with exhibitions and program initiatives opening on this date. From here onwards, the exhibitions are unnamed; their titles follow a basic nomenclature including the names of the participating artists and the type of exhibition, e.g. solo exhibition, group exhibition, etcetera. Also, one of the initiatives launched is a new, publicly-focused, and socially oriented space, which is made free of admission to the public. The space is called Untitled. Untitled is made available through the redesign of the institution's ground floor gallery space, its most visible and directly public point of access. It is dedicated to inclusivity and the commitment to change how the institution works and how communities are engaged. A new position is also created at the institution, dedicated to community outreach and public engagement. The position is titled ‘Curator of Collective Learning’, and the newly hired staff member is Jessy Koeiman.

At Untitled, a series of vitrines present temporary archival displays on past projects and exhibitions at the institution that have dealt in the past with identity issues and community engagement. Two of these displays take place in 2018-2019: one is curated by Samuel Saelemakers and is on the 1993 exhibition At Home with Jef Geys; another is curated by Jessy Koeiman, and is about the 1991 project in the Cool district by artists John Ahearn and Rigoberto Torres. Two other displays are presented in 2019-2020: one is curated by Wendy van Slagmaat-Bos and is about the 2002-2003 project series called Arab Image Representations by the then institution director Catherine David; another one is curated by Stijn Kemper and is about Ken Lum’s 1990 solo exhibition at the institution, especially focusing on the artist’s billboard on the building facade, Melly Shum Hates Her Job, including its repercussion over the years in Rotterdam and internationally.

September 2018 onwards

In tandem with the opening of Untitled a new approach to programming, education, and public engagement are implemented called Collective Learning. A long-term work-study fellowship program is launched that brings together diverse participants ages 17-23: Gizem Adanur, Chloé Blansjaar, Tayler Calister, Mohamed Chajid, Sjoerd van Kampen, Stijn Kemper, Eva Langstraat, Joy Ravenswaaij, and Sytze van der Wolk.

From the start, the participants of the Collective Learning work-study program are assigned as a "final project" to rename Untitled, the new space at the institution, which is used as their core activity space. The participants renaming of the space is considered a case study in the 'Learning' phase of the institution’s name change initiative. Their work-study program involves lectures and workshops led by external facilitators and presenters; it is co-designed by Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy and Yoeri Meessen, and co-led by him and Jessy Koeiman.

Sited at Untitled, this program also involves developing new kinds of programming such as SESSIONS featuring storytelling, spoken-word, and live music, bringing the institution into engagement with new communities in Rotterdam. A new internal program of internal Collective Learning sessions commences among the general staff. 

The introductory text of the autumn/winter group exhibition at the institution, which focuses on epistolarity in contemporary art, begins with the line that the institution has received trailblazing letters, to acknowledge the impact of the 2017 Open Letter to Witte de With.

8 December 2019

On this date, Sofia Hernández Chong Cuy participates in a workshop of re-naming the space. The workshop is co-led by Yoeri Meessen and Jessy Koeiman. At this point, the participants have more than one hundred names, which are organized on the spot by naming typologies. By the end of the day, three tentative names are shortlisted collectively in a conversation moderated by the director.


11 January 2019

The participants of the Collective Learning work-study program present to the staff of the institution their three name proposals for renaming Untitled. The presentations involve description of motivations per name, as well as the pros-and-cons analysis of each proposal. The staff unanimously and enthusiastically agree with their proposal to rename the space to MELLY. (See a video by them here.) 

7 April 2019

In April 2019, Untitled officially gets renamed MELLY. This process is led by participants of the work-study fellowship program and the process becomes a case study in renaming. The name MELLY is selected, inspired by Ken Lum’s now-iconic artwork Melly Shum Hates Her Job in Rotterdam. An exhibition of posters inspired by MELLY accompanies the renaming of the space. (Read details here.)

Three new research projects begin. The first delves into the history of the building at Witte de Withstraat 50, commissioned to artist and architectural historian Michiel Huijben, curated by Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy. The second researched the history of the street upon which the institution is situated, curated by Wendy van Slagmaat-Bos. The third researches oral histories of the institution's neighbors, past and present, curated by Jessy Koeiman. The three research projects are to be presented throughout the building in 2020. 

19 April 2019

As part of the ongoing exhibition series Rotterdam Cultural Histories, Rosa de Graaf curates its sixteenth edition. This documentary-based exhibition is presented in conjunction to the exhibition retrospective of the Chilean artist Cecilia Vicuña, presented that spring and through the autumn at the institution. Rotterdam Cultural Histories #16 focuses on a solidarity movement that emerged in Rotterdam following the coup d’état in Chile on September 11, 1973, which ousted President Salvador Allende and his cabinet. A central figure in this movement was André van der Louw, mayor of Rotterdam from 1974 to 1981. This exhibition can also be seen as a conceptual cartography of the route between two locations in Rotterdam: the Salvador Allende Street in ‘s-Graveland-Oost and the André van der Louw Bridge in Wijnhaven. The names of this existing street and bridge were given in 1990 and 2015, respectively, recognizing the contributions of these politicians. In posing the question, How does one get from Salvador Allende Street to the André van der Louw Bridge?, this edition of Rotterdam Cultural Histories invites visitors to engage in the relationships between history, city-text and community.

20 June 2019

The AD newspaper in Rotterdam publishes 'Witte de With still wants to get rid of 'wrong' name, but not just yet', an article by Nadia Berkelder, for which the author interviews Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy and Jessy Koeiman. The institution’s director is cited speaking about the nineteenth century re-appraisal of the "Dutch Golden Age," indicating the re- assessment of that period at present. Hernández Chong Cuy underscores that it is in the nineteenth century that Witte de Withstraat was given its name, and also when the institution's building was constructed. Koeiman speaks about engaging new audiences at the institution.

8 July 2019

New members are voted in the institution's Supervisory Board, applying the Code of Cultural Diversity. The Supervisory Board members now include: Fariba Derakhshani, Stijn Huijts, Timme Geerlof, Annet Lekkerkerker, Gabriel Lester, Annuska Pronkhorst, and Katarina Zdjelar.

1 September 2019

Two new hires are realized applying the Code of Cultural Diversity, welcoming Vivian Ziherl as Research and Programs Manager, and Heba Soliman as MELLY Manager. 

Following these hires and team restructuring, a name change initiative Task Force is established to steer research, programs, and the completion of the name change initiative. The Task Force members include; Paul van Gennip (Deputy Director), Rosa de Graaf (Associate Curator), Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy (Director), Jessy Koeiman (Curator Collective Learning), Jeroen Lavèn (PR & Social Media Manager), Wendy van Slagmaat-Bos (Project Coordinator), and Vivian Ziherl (Research and Programs Manager), who is assigned the group related meetings and the initiative planning.

The second edition of the work-study fellowship program commences, engaging a group of young participants. The new MELLY’s Neighbours programs commence, which connect to stakeholders in the Witte de With street itself, for example, the neighborhood Barbershop ‘Barber Bob’. The participants are Yahaira Brito Morfe, Merel Drop, April Geoffery, Kid Feng, Ayumi Filippone, Eren Kalpoe, Merlijn Mollinga, Ban Tawfiq, Jemimah Vaughan, Aqueene Wilson.

11 October 2019 

A second name change report by the institution's director is published on the institution website. An update on institutional transformations are mentioned. It also mentions that the criteria of the institution's name change is on account of two key principles: (1) that the institution's name falls short of expressing its vocation, and (2) its current name impinges upon the institution's pursuit of inclusivity.

29 October 2019

Nina Siegal publishes the article 'A Dutch Golden Age? That’s Only Half The Story' in The New York Times, mentioning the renaming of MELLY. Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy is cited in the article saying that "the institution's current name creates a number of obstacles to reach the institution's goals."

By December 2019

The design and roadmap of the name change initiative's ‘Expounding’ phase is finalized by the Task Force. This roadmap to the selection and implementation of a new name aims to contribute to international best practice. The final selection and implementation of a new name include three key components: an Advisory Committee, Online Survey, and a series of Public Forums. These are planned to be announced in Spring 2020. The outcomes of the Online Survey and Public Forums, as well as notes from the 2017 open lunches, will inform the Advisory Committee in considering a short-list of naming possibilities; this committee is planned to convene in Summer 2020. Their advice informs the institution’s director and Supervisory Board; this is planned for Autumn 2020. A new name for the institution is planned to be had by the end of 2020 with a tentative date to be 27 January 2021, at the institution’s anniversary. The ongoing process is to be housed on a temporary micro-site. 

At the institution’s Supervisory Board meeting held on 12 December 2020, the director gives an update about this plan and roadmap. That meeting is largely devoted to reviewing and discussing the 2021-2024 Cultural Policy Plan for the institution, to be submitted for public funding request by 31 January 2021 to OCW and Gemeente Rotterdam.

Before the end of the year, photographer Jarmal Martis, filmmaker Enang Wattimena, writer Tina Rahimy, and storyteller Nelly Dos Reis are invited to respond to oral histories of the institution's neighbors, past and present, as curated by Jessy Koeiman. 


January to March 2020

Staff training is held, activating an internal consideration of naming topologies, and from which new names are collectively generated. The first training, led by art historian Julia Mullié, delves into questions of naming and representation within the work of Stanley Brouwn. The second, led by creative firm 75B, explores the creation of visual identities, specifically focusing on a great many 75B have worked within Rotterdam’s creative sector, such as De Doelen, IFFR, Sculpture International Rotterdam, TENT, Codarts, and Annabel. Further bi-monthly training on cultural bias and communications training is planned. 

14 January 2020

The Volkskrant publishes the article ‘Art centre Witte de With was going to change its name, but is still called Witte de With’, by Anna van Leeuwen. 

20 January 2020

The NCR Handelsblad publishes a column titled ‘Witte de With does not need a name change’ by Lotfi El Hamidi. 

9 March 2020

A meeting is held with the institution’s Supervisory Board, reviewing and supporting the name change initiative roadmap for 2020. Public Forum dates are set for May 2020, and announcement texts are prepared. The date on which the new name will come into effect is set for 27 January 2021, on the institution’s 31st anniversary. (The institution’s thirtieth anniversary celebration plans are also discussed and underway, with events scheduled for July and October 2020.) 

14 March 2020

The institution temporarily closes its doors amid the Covid19 Pandemic. Following RIVM guidelines, reopening is projected for 31 March 2020. The staff is asked to refrain from working at the offices; the galleries are not open to the general public; events scheduled during those weeks are postponed until further notice. 

19 March 2020 to 1 June 2020

This time period is marked by the Covid19 pandemic "intelligent lockdown" in The Netherlands. The institution is temporarily closed to the general public. The team is asked to work remotely, from home, if health and circumstances allow; this is possible for most staff members. 

On 19 March 2020, in the first of a series of weekly bulletins by the institution’s director to the staff, she informs that the general staff meeting scheduled for 24 March 2020, which agenda was to originally focus on the name change roadmap and activities, will instead focus on the impact of the pandemic in the team, its workplace and program. 

On 27 March 2020, following government regulations and RIVM guidelines, the institution’s public closure is extended to 1 June 2020. The staff is asked to continue working remotely until that date or further notice. Accordingly, all scheduled exhibitions and public activities of the spring are postponed until further notice, including those of the name change initiative. At this time, a digital strategy is devised to address the novel circumstances introduced by the Covid19 lockdown, with a new website that focuses on Rotterdam-based and freelance artists and that offers art content and activities inspired by the institution’s past and current exhibitions. (That website is launched on 5 May 2020.)

On 15 April 2020, a conversation on Zoom begins with Werkplaats Typografie in Arnhem and Wkshps in New York towards the joint realization of a Collective Learning work-study program from which new design tools can emerge with the new name and visual identity. From the institution, these meetings are attended by Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy and Jeroen Lavèn. (These meetings continue regularly throughout the spring and summer on Zoom and via email.)

On 17 April 2020, the director's weekly bulletin notes that work towards the name change initiative will resume until the following month. By this point, Wendy van Slagmaat-Bos steps down from the name change Task Force; she is to focus more concentratedly on [remotely] conducting research for the upcoming RCH project investigating the history of Witte de Withstraat.

During the week of 4-8 May 2020, work on the name change initiative resumes, with the first full member Task Force meeting held after two months of hiatus. At this time, the name change initiative Public Forums are envisioned to be held remotely in July 2020; this decision is inspired by the experience of group teleconferencing during the past eight weeks, as well as the development of the institution's new digital strategy in progress. Planning for this commences. The agenda of the general staff meeting set for 16 June 2020 will be the name change initiative.

By 20 May 2020, the name change initiative’s schedule was again reconsidered: Public Forums are set to be rescheduled to September 2020 to allow for in-person feedback and a more intimate and immediate consultation setting. (New government regulations permit group-based activities with up to 100 people in attendance, space allowing and social distancing permitting, starting 1 September 2020.) The first Advisory Committee meeting is also rescheduled for September 2020, while the re-naming date remains set for 27 January 2021. The announcement of the Online Survey, Public Forums, and renaming date are scheduled for July 2020. Planning for this begins, at the same time that planning towards re-opening of the institution to the public is underway. 

2 June 2020

The institution participates in the ‘Black Out Tuesday’ Instagram posting in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. 

3 June 2020

The institution reopens its doors to the general public. Under Covid19 regulations, the institution adopts a limited schedule, reception space refit, new appointments system, and staff training. Later that day, several staff members attend the Black Lives Matter protest in Rotterdam. 

4 June 2020

Mobilized by the Black Lives Matter movement, a meeting is held with the name change Task Force to consider ways in which to contribute to solidarity, speaking from the name change initiative. The planning and programming schedule is once again reconsidered. The date of the announcement of the Online Survey, Public Forums, and micro-site is rescheduled to 14 June 2020. This date is chosen to recognize the publication date of the Open Letter to Witte de With in 2017.

The Task Force resolve to announce the new name date with both a microsite and with a banner on Witte de Withstraat 50. This action is to coincide with announcements shared via social media channels and email newsletters. The micro-site is commissioned by Michelle Lin. This basic website houses the Online Survey, Public Forums Registration, and ongoing media and responses. The banner is designed by the studio Laumes and sent to print.

Throughout the week, the name change initiative Task Force works closely on these developments. For the first time in ten weeks, several staff members meet in person to work together. Additionally, two extraordinary Zoom meetings are held with the institution’s staff and Supervisory Board to inform them of the adjusted timeline of the name change activities; these take place on the morning of 10 June 2020 and 12 June 2020, respectively. 

10 June 2020

Simone Zeefuik publishes the article ‘Witte de With past niet meer in ons straatje’ on, stating “it’s about who deserves to be honored in the form of a street or a statue.” 

11 June 2020

Vincent van Velsen and Domeniek Ruyters published the article ‘De tijd van loze beloftes is voorbij’ in Metropolis M, asking “when will Witte de With change its name?”

12 June 2020

Overnight the activist group Helden van Nooit acts on the façade of the building Witte de Withstraat 50, covering the lower part of the new MELLY space in hand markings using red paint. The action is one of three in Rotterdam that target Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art, a sculpture of 17th Century VoC and WiC Sea Captain Piet Hein, and contemporary politician Pim Fortuyn. Police and representatives of the City Council attend the site and insist upon removing the paint. However, the institution’s director Sofia Hernández Chong Cuy requests the paint remain so as not to erase this action and the movement it participates in. 

The group Helden van Nooit publish an Open Letter on their Instagram account, here. In response, members of the local political party Leefbaar Rotterdam submit written questions to the City Council, inquiring into the City’s position concerning the mark making on the façade of the building.

The same afternoon, the announcement banner stating “Naamsverandering / Name Change, 27 

Jan 2021,” arrives at the institution and is immediately installed. An announcement is posted on social media and a newsletter is sent announcing the name change date and road map of the Online Survey, Public Forums, and Advisory Committee. 

13 June 2020

Quinsy Gario publishes the essay ‘The protracted renaming of Witte de With, and the capability of doing better’ on, stating ‘this is another call to the institution to do better, to stop dragging its feet and change that awful name already’. The essay is an updated version of a text published in the 2020 report from the European Race & Imagery Foundation on the presence and prevalence of Blackface imagery.

14 June 2020

The new website is launched,, detailing the activities and outcomes done to date, together with a call for public participation in the Public Forums and Online Surveys. The Online Survey is open and active for the period of 14 June - 19 September, designed for voicing ideas, creating perspectives, and identifying challenges as part of our name change. Registration for the Public Forums is open until 22 August. Two new reports on the institution’s name change initiative are published, now in this new website, which consolidates past published reports; one of the reports is by Jessy Koeiman and a second one by Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy. Also included is a page of Frequently Asked Questions, responding to long-standing and new questions brought to light amidst the Black Lives Matter movement, nationally and internationally. 

19 June 2020

The name change Task Force meets, and unanimously decides that the institution should enter a period of ‘namelessness’, symbolized by removing the name signage from the façade of the building. This includes removing the name from communications, announcements, and across all applications as extensively as possible. The date of the name cessation is set for 26 June. 

On this date, the institution's Senior Technical Supervisor, line kramer, joins the Task Force, in place of Paul van Gennip.

22 June 2020

The Supervisory Board meets and endorses the institution’s name cessation as of 27 June 2020, and until a new name is given to the institution, following the programming plans involving public consultation, which has been scheduled and announced for the autumn.

27 June 2020

The institution announces by newsletter and social media, “We hope our name cessation creates greater space for imagination as we enter into the final phases of our renaming.” Marking the start of this transitional juncture, the name insignia has been dismantled from the façade of the building; as well as being removed from our social media channels, letterhead, and elsewhere. The new social media handle during this time is @fkawdw. 

21 September 2020

The institution announces by press release: The Advisory Committee includes respected figures in the field of culture and emerging leaders in the arts: Jannelieke Aalstein, Leal Arazzi van Herwaarden, Clara Balaguer, Liesbeth Bik, Yahaira Brito Morfe, Willem de Rooij, Sasha Huber, Stijn Kemper, Iris Kensmil, Louise Mitchell, Tumelo Mosaka, Willem Philipse­n, and, Kees Weeda. (Biographies are available here.) This group is uniquely placed to guide FKA WDW in its process of institutional transformation and consult on the new name. The advice of this commission will also be presented at the public review.

26 September 2020

At this program, held live in Melly at 3, 5 and 7:30 pm, director Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy presented the findings of the Online Survey and Forums, as well as the report by the Advisory Committee, which was read by committee member Clara Balaguer. This presentation included the three names considered for the institution. The program was an occasion to ask questions and share thoughts with for further consideration. A written report summarizing the above was handed out that day to the public, and available here.

30 September 2020

In a Supervisory Board meeting, held on Zoom, the director presents the report above, and the findings of the Public Review, too; Following a group conversation about the name recommendations, the board ratified the institution’s new name as Kunstinstituut Melly. You can read here the Director and Supervisory Board’s Report on their discussion and selection. 

2 October 2020

The institution publishes a Press Release to make public the name selection ratified by the board, including quotes of participants in the process. At this time, the working group (task force) of the Name Change Initiative rotates and add new members, including Cye Wong-Loi Sing and Aqueene Wilson.

9 December 2020

The Name Change Initiative’s Advisory Committee meets again. Whereas their first meeting in September took place live at FKAWDW, this meeting is held on Zoom, because of the rise of the Covid-19 pandemic. At this meeting, the working group presented the plans for the name launch, and a draft for discussion of the institution’s new policy for diversity and inclusion. The meeting largely concentrated on discussing the policy draft, providing constructive critique and feedback. The working group confirmed taking note and will re-shape the draft considering their advice; this draft is considered finalized for implementation by Spring 2021. The advisory committee members voiced interest in remaining active, until then or further period, in the same or varied composition of the group.

11 December 2020

At this Supervisory Board meeting, the revised bylaws of the institution, with the name change officially stated, are presented; these were prepared in collaboration and accordance of legal support. The name Stichting Witte de With Center for Contemporary Art is officially changed in the bylaws to Stichting Kunstinstituut Melly. The new bylaws also mention that the institution can also be officially called Kunstinstituut Melly. After review and their notarized signature, scheduled for January 2021, the new name of institution will become official.

December 2020

Following months of meetings and workshops, which were held both online and on-site in Rotterdam, Arnhem and Amsterdam, the participants of the third edition of the Work Learn Program present to the institution their graphic design preliminary proposal for Kunstinstituut Melly. Their new visual identity for the institution is scheduled to launch on 27 January 2021, too.

The graphic designers are Callum Dean (1996, GB); Wooesok Jang (1982, KR); Nina Schouten (1992, NL); Alexander Tanazefti (1994, GB/AU); Emily Turner (1990, US), and Yan Zhihan (1995, CN). Their work-learn trajectory is overseen by Werkplaats Typografie in Arnhem and Wkshps in Berlin and New York, in conversation with the FKAWDW as part of a partnership set-up earlier in the Spring.

This month also marks the production of the promotional campaign for the name launch. It is commissioned to Brand New Guys from Rotterdam. The campaigns message is: New perspectives make me grow and consists of videoclips for social media. These video clips focus on inter-generational dialogue about culture and change. The videos feature a combination of longstanding and new collaborators and neighbors of the institution.


23 January 2021

The six graphic designers (Emily Turner, Callum Dean, Yan Zhihan, Wooseok Jang, and Nina Schouten) that were part of the Collective Learning in Practice Program 2020/2021 — and that were commissioned to design the new visual identity for our institution — wrote the Kunstinstituut Melly Design Statement. Read their statement here.

25 January 2021

At 10 am the banner that announced the launch date of our new name, and was installed on 8 June 2020, was removed from our building on Witte de Withstraat 50.

27 January 2021

At 8pm is the online launch of the institution’s renaming to Kunstinstituut Melly. (Since late-December, there is at present a nationwide lockdown to mitigate the Covid-19 pandemic.) The launch is via Melly TV, a three-episode television program with talk-shows, neighborhood guests and commissioned artworks for the screen. Melly TV is presented in partnership with Open Rotterdam and developed with consulting partners Lilith Magazine and Brand New Guys. The television program connects the institution’s transformation with commissioned art for the screen and timely conversations.

At 8 pm Melly TV Episode 1 - Vulnerability launched on local television Open Rotterdam, YouTube,, and E-Flux video.

3 February 2021

At 8 pm Melly TV Episode 2 - Learning launched on local television Open Rotterdam, YouTube,, and E-Flux video.

10 February 2021

At 8 pm Melly TV Episode 3 - Joy launched on local television Open Rotterdam, YouTube,, and E-Flux video.

Between January and June 2021

Below we included a press list of articles, interviews and radio shows that covered the launch of our new name, and the process of our name change initiative:

27 July 2021

Kunstinstituut Melly launched a new story-driven podcast called Name Takes, presenting stories and cultures of naming, from the names of streets and buildings to people and beyond. The podcast’s host, Kay Em, features artists' voices and cases from the art field, emphasizing ways in which art promotes meaning-making. Names Takes' pilot season includes four episodes about name giving, name taking, name changing, and name saying. All four are now available on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Anchor, Google Podcasts, and our institutional website.

The first four episodes of Name Takes tells of personal stories and historical references, and encompasses readings and interviews. Local and international artists from Hong Kong to Buenos Aires, and from Rotterdam to Stockholm, participate in its pilot season: Ayreen Anastas & Rene Gabri, Benvenuto Chavajay, Anais Duplain, Nicoline van Harskamp, Sasha Huber, Sara Rajaei, Wong Kit Yi, Fernanda Laguna, Every Ocean Hughes, and Andrea Valencia Aranda. Produced by Kunstinstituut Melly in Rotterdam, thanks to a grant from a donor who wishes to remain unnamed, the pilot season episodes of Name Takes were written by Sarah Demeuse and Sofía Hernández Chong Cuy. For summaries and information about each episode please visit the dedicated podcast page on our institutional website.

22 and 23 October 2021

Kunstinstituut Melly organized, together with the Jan van Eyck Academie, the two-day conference AFFECTIVE GRAPHIC DESIGN. Centering on the dialogues between visual arts and graphic design, this international conference included four online events and eight live programs, and involved more than 20 speakers from The Netherlands and abroad.

Among these live and online programs was a panel on Collective Design on Saturday 23 Ocotber that presented two design teams: the student collective Studio 4oo2 in Jakarta, who designed the visual identity for Documenta 15 in Kassel; and the group of graphic designers from Werkplaats Typografie in Arnhem who created the visual identity of Kunstinstituut Melly in 2021, represented in this program by Callum Dean, Wooseok Jang, Nina Schouten, and Yan Zhihan. Both teams spoke of their commissions and working processes. Re-watch the program here.


April 2022

A “live” exhibition, Home: An Unfinished Project opens to the public on 8 April, with new movements performed and physical elements added, removed, or transformed over two weeks. Staged in the second-floor galleries of Kunstinstituut Melly, the exhibition follows a choreographic score of movements and play. The project aims to foster reconnection; of being still while moving; as well as to express an array of feelings, from being pushed in-between things; of being pulled away from things; and of being eager to find air, roots, and balance. Read the curatorial statement on this page, below.

Home: An Unfinished Project is a project of the fourth annual edition of CLIP, a six-month work/study program for youth and emerging professionals in Rotterdam. Begun in 2018, the participants of this program have been crucial in Kunstinstituut Melly’s transformation, from inspiring its name change to developing new programming activities. Ten participants are enrolled in this year’s edition of CLIP: Alma Zijderveldt, Bianca Casaburi, Elisa De La Serna Gallego, Je-Anne Dirksz, Lara Silva Santos, Lola den Dunnen, Repelsteeltje, Seré, Simon Mensger, and Yoshi So.

Friday, 4 November 2022, 5:30–7:30 pm

The evening’s program will be opened with an address at 6 pm by our guest of honor, Rotterdam Alderman Said Kasmi, as we celebrate the launch of Tools for Collective Learning and honor the emerging professionals from Collective Learning in Practice (CLIP). CLIP engages people from Rotterdam aged 17 to 24 in the institution’s work-learn program and institutional decision-making. We also celebrate—for the first time in person—the participants of Melly TV. Produced during the lockdown, Melly TV is a three-part television series that launched the new name in January 2021. Melly TV was produced in collaboration with Lilith Magazine and Brand New Guys, and broadcast in partnership with Open Rotterdam and e-flux Video.
Click here for more info about the program.

Saturday, 5 November 2022, 3–6 pm

What does it take to change? This question will be addressed by our international KEYNOTE speaker Gaëtane Verna in response to our new publication, Tools for Collective Learning. Verna is the Executive Director of the Wexner Center for the Arts, Ohio, and former director of the Power Plant Contemporary Art Gallery, Toronto, and is a leader in the field of contemporary art and education. The KEYNOTE is moderated by Lilith Magazine’s Hasna el Maroudi, as well as guest respondent Sarah Robertson of Bristol Beacon, an institution that also changed its name from Colston Hall afterin a multi-year process from 2018 to 2020. The program will end with a performance by members of the CLIP participants of 2022, based on their “live” exhibition Home: An Unfinished Project.
Click here for more info about the program.