Museum & exhibitions

Galleries & art spaces where English is no problem

When I moved to Utrecht six years ago, I was on the hunt for galleries where a 26-year-old non-Dutch-speaking cultural journalist could fulfil her art needs. And I have to say, it wasn’t easy. While the city is brimming with international art students, art events for foreigners are slightly hidden from the international eyes. Since then, my mission is to find these places and bring them to the attention of the international community.

By Anita Nánási

The Creative Playground

Did you ever notice the colourful train car next to the big mosque on Westplein, behind Utrecht Centraal station? As the name suggests, The Creative Playground – and Perron West – wants to offer a space for creatives and locals to come together and work on amazing and impactful projects. Besides art, they also focus on sustainability and nature. Angelina, one of the founders, tells me that they aim to create a place where artists can meet up and show their work outside of the ‘white cube’ gallery setting. So if you wish to turn your idea into reality but don’t yet know how, The Creative Playground is the best place to start. Using their social networks and community-based experience, they can help anyone – not just artists – to set up a new programme or event for international locals. For this reason, they also host an Artist Residency programme for local and locally-based foreign artists. The Creative Playground’s season is short and intense: their kick-off event, The Oasis Festival, takes place on 9 July. After that, there is plenty to do until the end of October: from an art route event on 10 and 11 September to silent disco and film and open mic nights on Fridays. There are also possibilities to follow various workshops and there’s a pluktuin to fulfil the gardening needs of those missing nature while living in a cement jungle. Remember you can always stop by The Creative Playground train to take a peek. The general rule of thumb is: if the flag is up, there’s someone to show you around. But if the flag is not up, don’t hesitate to call or WhatsApp because the founders live nearby and are always happy to grab a cup of coffee with you!
> Westplein 1001
Open: when the flags are up or by appointment (send an email to

Galerie SANAA

As opposed to The Creative Playground, Galerie SANAA does have a classic gallery setting: it’s an airy space with pristinely white walls that showcase colourful works of art. My first visit here left me speechless and hopeful: the opening of the exhibition was in English and the crowd was a mix of art enthusiasts, locals and tourists. With its location between the Dom Tower and Janskerkhof, Galerie SANAA is an ideal place to just walk in and get lost between the paintings and drawings of international artists.
The goal of owner Berthe Schoonheim is to welcome artists from Africa, the Middle-East, Europe and the Netherlands to showcase the differences between these various cultural backgrounds. We all have different histories when we arrive in Utrecht, and that’s exactly what Galerie SANAA focuses on: telling the stories behind the artists and their artworks. This message is widely spread as the gallery participates in most of Utrecht’s cultural events such as Uitfeest and Culturele Zondagen, and organises multi-language artist talks in English, Arabic and more so everyone can join in. During the summer months, Galerie SANAA will have a stock exhibition, showing you the highlights of the last years, and a new exhibition that presents the work of a new contemporary artist from the African continent.
> Jansdam 2
Open: Wednesday to Saturday from 12:00 to 18:00 or by appointment

BAK – basis voor actuele kunst

My hunt was greatly satisfied when I joined a group of volunteers at BAK in 2019. Language was and still is no problem whatsoever: Dutch people and internationals are always participating in equal amounts during the events they organise. BAK is a melting pot of art, activism and knowledge.
Exhibition topics are always swirling around themes like society, freedom and acceptance, and are aiming to start a conversation about these themes. How do we live as a society? How does politics play a role in our daily lives? What impact do we have on each other under various circumstances? How do we treat each other? And how can we be equals? Because there are so many different perspectives, neither of these questions are easy to answer. This means you have to visit BAK with an open mind and an open heart. And even though the place looks small, it’s wise to have a whole afternoon to be able to fully enjoy and understand the ongoing exhibition. My personal favourite attribute is that they are open until 19:00, so you can even stop by after work!
> Pauwstraat 13A
Open: Wednesday to Sunday from 13:00 to 19:00

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