What’s your favourite activity to do when you move to a new city? Mine is to get out and wander around, always opting to take the road less travelled – to not follow the crowds and instead head down the back streets and quirky small lanes to see what I’ll discover. Spotting street art on such saunters is the icing on the cake!
It took me a few months after I moved to Haarlem before I got myself a bike; I was happy exploring by foot, especially in the centre of town where it can be so crowded. Every weekend, I’d give myself a mission of travelling along new streets and finding somewhere new-to-me. Finally, about two months into lockdown, I thought enough was enough – it was time to get myself some wheels. Suddenly, I was exploring new neighbourhoods of Haarlem that I had never ventured to before.
Spotting street art
One of my first journey’s took me way out west – okay, not at all that far west as it is still technically the central zone and just a small hop over the Kinderhuissingel. I took a spin one sunny evening after a day working in a boiling hot flat. Specifically, I was heading out to satisfy a curiosity, hunting for a street where my friend had just closed the deal on a house, which I did find in the end but only after I had befriended the local cat lazing around trying to keep cool under a tree. Before I got there though, I had a little pit stop for the sake of art.
Cycling down a meandering street, wondering should I head straight on or take this right turn, I suddenly got excited by an unexpected discovery. One of those moments where you cycle along and spot something of interest, then take a few more pedals while thinking, should I or shouldn’t I? Thankfully, I listened to my inner voice that was saying, of course you should stop and turn back for a closer look, and I’m so glad I did.
Murals by Sidney Waerts in Haarlem
The sides of not one but two houses, standing opposite each other on a side street, had been adorned by magnificent sepia scenes. Maybe it helped that they had an otherworldly air that I was drawn to them so much, as anything to do with the moon literally has me transfixed straight away. These two massive tableaux stood there exuding some sort of outer space planetary vibe, maybe the result of the imaginations of the kids that starred in each – it is as if the regular neighbourhood of the bunch of kids morphs into a universe (house on one side of the street; pictured above) which inspires them to conjour up a plan for one intrepid traveller to go and investigate the surface of an unexplored planet (house on the other side of the street; pictured below and in the main image at the top).
Naturally, at the time, I didn’t have a clue about the story behind either of these works of street art or who had created them, apart from the artist’s tag (signature) that I could see on one of the buildings. A quick search on my return home put my mind at rest. These murals are both by Sidney Waerts and, I was happy to discover, these are not the only murals of his to be found in Haarlem.
Connection and togetherness
I was also happy to discover more about the artist from an interview published by Haerlems Bodem in April this year. It turns out it was on a meandering bike ride similar to mine that Sidney discovered the location of these buildings and he obviously saw their potential as urban canvases. What to do next? How about just popping a note through the mailbox and hoping a like-minded soul is drawn to your idea? That’s more-or-less what happened by the sounds of it. Well – if you don’t ask, you don’t get!
‘Mural art helps increase community solidarity,’ Sidney comments in the interview. ‘Neighbourhoods are put in the spotlight more positively because an open-air gallery is created in which entire communities are involved. Art represents the community and this creates a sense of security and togetherness.’