Access to art for all the people of Utrecht

In his younger days, Appie Alferink would cheer himself up by making music whenever he was feeling ill, angry or sad. ‘Art makes our lives happier and healthier. Unfortunately, some people don’t necessarily have access to art. I want everyone living in Utrecht to have the opportunity to create and experience art, be it music, theatre, literature or painting. The ZIMIHC Foundation is trying to achieve this through community theatres and art initiatives.’

Appie Alferink (Dutch Language and Literature, 1984 and Theatre Studies, 1988) is director of the ZIMIHC foundation.

Zat Ik maar In Hoog Catharijne

ZIMIHC stands for ‘Zat Ik Maar In Hoog Catharijne’ (I Wish I Was in Hoog Catherijne). They took the name from a billboard slogan in Hoog Catharijne shopping centre: Appie, Frans-Willem Korsten, Rob Bekker and Roland Kip did an impromptu performance under the billboard after a cloudburst disrupted their outdoor concert and left them soaking wet. They jokingly decided the slogan should become their new band name, and the moniker stuck. The four met in 1983 when they set up a theatre group for a work week in their Dutch degree programme.

‘Cultural playgrounds’

Over time, the student band eventually evolved into the ZIMIHC foundation. Under the leadership of its new managing director Appie, ZIMIHC eventually opened three theatres in Utrecht– or ‘cultural playgrounds’ as Appie likes to call them, offering artists from various cultures a space to take the stage and develop their creativity. Performers have ranged from Turkish dance groups to Dutch artists and Moroccan poets. ‘The communal experience of enjoying each other’s art can bridge differences and build respect for each other’s cultures. Art also improves our health and brain function. It’s a good fit for our city: Utrecht is committed to Healthy Urban Living.’

Susan Hermanussen (Art Policy and Management, 2017) is coordinator at ZIMIHC theatre Zuilen. She has used her creativity to ensure that ZIMIHC can continue its initiatives in an alternative format during the coronavirus pandemic.
Frans-Willem Korsten (Dutch Language and Literature, 1984) is one of the founders of the original ZIMIHC band. He is now a professor in Leiden and Rotterdam, and regularly stirs up social debate within the band.

Source of inspiration

The band ZIMIHC is still alive and kicking. ‘Our love for Dutch language, poetry and music connects us to this day.’ ZIMIHC’s music and lyrics have changed along with the men’s lives. ‘Frans-Willem is now a professor in Leiden and Rotterdam, Rob works forIthaka Internationale Schakelklassen helping young people with a migration background and Roland is general director at Stichting IZZ. This unique mix of socially oriented jobs, opinions and strong personalities can cause some friction, but it produces great music. Frans-Willem in particular regularly challenges our views and stirs up debate with his critical questions about society. He is also a source of creativity and inspiration for me. For example, he tinkered with one of those old-fashioned music boxes so that people can still enjoy our music at home.’


Appie also sees that same creativity and entrepreneurial spirit in one of his younger employees: Susan Hermanussen, a fellow alumnus.  ‘Susan never sees obstacles on the road, not even when the coronavirus forced us to close. She came up with the idea of one-on-one sessions, in which people go on a walking tour past six performances – improv, comedy, music and exhibitions – which they can then watch at a safe distance. She also came up with the idea of delivering art to people’s doors. You need young people like Susan around to stay in touch and make good decisions. They contribute new knowledge, and are our future.’

The joined experience of enjoying each other’s art can bridge differences

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