Introducing the Haarlem Art Room

The cosmopolitan and multi-cultural component in the classes also provides an opportunity for people (especially expatriates) to mix, mingle and associate in and outside the class. Street photography is particularly interesting to foreigners…

“Everybody can draw, if you think you cannot draw then that’s because you never really tried, it has nothing to do with talent”, Peter Dammers, founder and staff member at Haarlem Art Room and Vondelpark Atelier says to me.

I nod politely but I am really thinking, what a boldfaced lie! I cannot make passable drawings, paintings or photographs to save my life. I do not have an artistic or creative bone in me and I do not apologise for it. Fortunately I have other talents otherwise God would really have short-changed me given that I am poor in the sciences too. Anyway, my point is, they must have either tossed a coin or been inebriated when choosing me to write about their Art School. I will be objective. I warned them.

The Haarlem Art Room (H.A.R) is an art school that provides English spoken creative courses and workshops. H.A.R is a component of the renowned Vondelpark Atelier in Amsterdam. The Vondelpark Atelier has been around since the year 2000. Due to its large success, expansion was inevitable and hence the introduction of H.A.R. Expatriates, Dutch Nationals and Internationals abroad planning to visit the Netherlands make up the variety of interested parties in the creative courses offered.

The cosmopolitan and multi-cultural component in the classes also provides an opportunity for people (especially expatriates) to mix, mingle and associate in and outside the class. Street photography is particularly interesting to foreigners because of the discovery and learning of new places. The courses offered include fine arts, graphic arts, photography, audio-visual, digital, web design, clowning and language and literature. Workshops can also be organised on request.

My visit and experience at the Art School

As mentioned above, I am not an artist and not particularly interested to become one. I did, however visit the Haarlem Art Room and the Vondelpark Atelier to get closer to the subject, make observations and obtain information so that I can offer a fair and objective opinion before writing this article. I  write from an experiential and honest point. I am not a reporter, I am a communicator. The following is my short account of my visit to the school.

I have just arrived at H.A.R and the first thing I notice is the artistic warmth of the place. The wall is adorned with different art pieces that although quite different; complement each other. There are a couple of statues and what appears to be (to my untrained eye) classic furniture, graphics and books.   Peter Dammers (one of six teachers), offers me a drink and proceeds to explain the lesson plan to me.  His warm, unpretentious and unassuming nature makes it very easy to be comfortable and free around him. This is the reason why most students are drawn to him. I read the testimonials. 100% positive feedback. I believe this is a very good attribute for an art teacher because, in essence, it inspires the students to be themselves and that is when the creative juices flow.

We are joined by two students, a Spaniard and a Chinese. This is the second class in their Basic Drawing Course. The project today is to draw three distinctive chairs beginning with the most basic. I have been asked to take part in the class and despite my best efforts to decline; I am convinced to give it a try.  I silently bemoan my utter lack of artistic ability and await the laughter at the end of my hideous sketch.

Peter explains exactly how we should approach the subject matter, vantage points, how to hold the pencil, distance and measurement. I am taken aback because these seemingly simple points make a massive improvement and I am actually drawing something that makes sense! Peter easily makes all of us feel at ease. He speaks some Spanish to the Spanish student, discusses Manga comics with the Chinese student and discusses books with me.

We are freely drawing and having hearty conversations. I am enjoying this. Every now and then Peter gives advice and guides the students. His informal attitude does not take away the seriousness of the lesson. It is a type of teaching that loosens one up and makes one enjoy the time spent creating art. I certainly did.  Well, I suppose Peter was right, anyone can create art and enjoy it, even an incorrigible skeptic like me. It only took an hour and a half to prove this. My final thought, therefore is, it is a good art school and I would recommend it.


For actual information on the Haarlem Art Room activities see H.A.R Facebook page and or

Edna Kuipers