Changes #3: Marieke Ladru on the Talent Development Programme

In this period, like many institutions and fellow funds, the Creative Industries Fund NL is working on the plans for the 2025-2028 policy period. Earlier, director Syb Groeneveld kicked off a series of interviews under the heading Changes. In the coming weeks, colleagues will shine their light on the changes they expect to see within their domains in the coming years. This week, Talent Development programme manager Marieke Ladru.

Marieke Ladru has worked at the Creative Industries Fund NL since 2016 and has been Talent Development programme manager since 2018. In the past, she worked at several art institutions, including the Royal Academy of Art in The Hague. In her work, she finds it important to make connections between design and society in all sorts of ways, and she is also concerned with increasing the accessibility of the design sector.

What key trends do you see in the new generation of designers and makers?

‘A very clear aspect is the rise of makers who do not work from a particular discipline or a medium traditionally associated with it. They place themes and the narrative at the centre of their work, are less formalistic and work with different media. This stems from the shift some of the courses of study are making; the emphasis is on storytelling not an end product, and there is more focus on analytical rather than craft skills. But you also see this movement among self-taught makers who develop in practice. Traditional divisions such as graphic design, product design and fashion design are being blurred as a result. For example, the central focus is not on making a collection, but the starting point is to contribute to the fashion discourse in the area of sustainability or consumerism. Research has become a major big part of these young makers’ design practice. This is often approached across disciplines. Coalitions are forged, sometimes with other makers, but often with scientists or other knowledge partners as well. Young makers also feel a strong need to collaborate after Covid put the brakes on this for years.’

A person gives a presentation with accompanying display to a panel of judges
Pitch during the Scout nights 2022

What does that mean for the Fund?

‘Of course, the Fund has limited resources and we think it is important to support different kinds of makers. This is also necessary for a strong design field. We ensure that the Talent Development Grant Scheme provides the space needed to contribute to this, and are mindful of makers’ specific situations in the assessment. Through scout nights, MBO-educated and self-taught makers have had access to the grant scheme since 2021; before that, a university or college degree from a design school was a prerequisite for receiving a talent development grant. It is very important for starting makers to have the chance to focus on their professional development and establish their practice well, including in their approach to audiences. This applies to designers trained in practice as well as those with a more theoretical background. Both are looking for opportunities to deepen their artistic practice. Sometimes by experimenting with their craft, but also by entering into new collaborations. There are very few programmes in the Netherlands that allow emerging designers the space to chart their own path.’

You paint a picture of a field in which disciplines can no longer be so clearly defined and there is a certainform of interdisciplinarity. The Fund does however maintain a talent development programme based on different disciplines. How do you explain that?

‘It is too early to say goodbye to that. It’s true that we’re seeing the emergence of hybrid domains, but at the same time there are also architecture courses of study and academies that do still place craft skills at the heart of their curriculum. Some of the makers who apply for funding from us do not work from the traditional discipline. But design principles do still form the basis of their practice.’

Four people participate in a workshop and are embroidering
Workshop by STORE Rotterdam during Dutch Design Week 2023. Photo: Clara Gus

MBO-educated makers cannot simply move on to HBO education because the gap is often too big. Practically educated makers sometimes have different needs than what existing courses of study offer, and want to work independently in the field. That is why the Fund has broadened the formal requirements for a talent development grant. What other initiatives is the Fund launching to fill gaps in the talent development chain?

‘Last year, we started the programme Platforms for design-based learning. It responds to the rise of initiatives that familiarize young people with the Dutch maker and design culture. There is a great deal happening locally in that area and there are many young people, from a variety of backgrounds, who are keen to work on design issues and skills. But an established ecosystem that meets that need is insufficiently developed in the Netherlands. These platforms can be a valuable springboard. This year, 10 participants from the STORE educational programme that we supported in Rotterdam were apparently accepted at various art academies. To strengthen the connection of starting designers and makers with the field, we launched Building Talent in 2020. Since then, we have supported nearly 100 collaborations and a new group will start soon. And with the Open Call Fresh Perspectives, we give space to cross-sectoral collaborations that offer new perspectives on social issues. We started this call seven years ago and issue one or two new editions almost every year. The call underlines the plea by Marleen Stikker, Liesbeth Bik and Meta Knol to Deploy creativity for the future of the Netherlands (text in Dutch). Programme-wide, we also focus on fair practice and fair pay. We are also seeing greater awareness among makers in that area than a few years ago.’

Talent Platform – Maren Bang for Talent Platform

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Does regional distribution also play a role in the Talent Development Programme?

‘Absolutely. We organize scout nights in different regions, and next year we are also organizing a scout night in the Caribbean part of the Kingdom for the first time. At this moment, we have the Open Call BASE at Salone del Mobile open, offering starting makers the chance to present themselves internationally in a group exhibition for the first time. We are also seeing regional spread emerging in projects and collaborations. Local identity is increasingly taking a position in the practices of emerging makers. They are aware that their work is not generated in a vacuum and wonder, for example, how to set up a production chain locally, from a position of sustainability but also from a human point of view. In the past, designers sometimes still obtained knowledge from abroad, without thinking carefully about what that means in the local context. Awareness in this regard is currently higher. Young makers are reflecting on how they can set up equal partnerships. As a Fund, this is an aspect we also look at keenly in the assessment.’

The new application round of the Talent Development Grant Scheme opens on 18 December 2023 and closes on 19 February 2024. If you are curious about which emerging makers have been supported through this grant scheme in recent years, take a look at Talent Platform.