How one artist’s creativity is keeping Leeuwarden’s spirits up

Whilst COVID-19 sweeps across the world and brings fear and panic through the Netherlands, it’s important now more than ever to search for those glimmers of light in the darkness. When we stop and take a look around us, it’s clear that people are trying to spread happiness and positivity in any way they can, and are managing to bring hope and goodness to us in bleak and uncertain times.

One person making a difference to her city and community is Cote Veragua. The Chilean born artist has not only taken to the streets of Leeuwarden to spread positive messages and mottos for Leeuwarders’ to come across on their walks, but she’s given her artistic services for free to small business owners, become the inspiration for posters that have been strewn throughout the city, and even co-created a stunning wall mural.

Artist Cote Veragua. Image: Lieuwe Terpstra

Messages to the people

What began as mottos chalked on pavements and cobblestones has become something much bigger. Cote spend her first weekend after lockdown spreading colourful and positive messages through empty streets.

“These days are a rollercoaster for everybody,” she writes in her Instagram caption, where her art is on display for all to see. “I spent a lot of time asking myself what I could do to be helpful in this moment. One of the ideas was to write beautiful sentences through our city to make people smile and remind everyone that they are not alone.”

Leeuwarden is a multicultural city that’s home to people from all over the world, so Cote wrote her messages in Dutch, Frisian and English, a choice that shows that we really are all in this together. Now you’ll find tiny supportive texts to help give you that little boost of positivity all over the city: ‘Samen staan we sterk’ covers cobblestones down the main streets, ‘Ik bin der foar dy’ on roads, the reminder to ‘bel je oma en opa’ covers the floor tiles down smaller streets, and the famous ‘this too shall pass’ lies at the foot of the Pearl of Leeuwarden, the Oldehove.

An example of the lovely messages Cote is drawing all over the city. Image: Benjamin Egerland @project.lifeee

Cote even chalked a message to some of the heroes of the city in front of Leeuwarden’s hospital, “with the intention of cheering up the people who are working hard every day to keep us safe and healthy”.

With the words: ‘onze helden, die over de mensen waken, jullie zijn het die ons land beter maken’, Cote hoped to spread the positivity to the men and women who wake up every morning to help fight this virus, and she did just that. “I see how people smile with my messages, and I’ve received many pictures [of people] with the sentences that I made in the city. That’s strong enough to make me go outside every day to write something to make you smile.”

Of course, these messages aren’t permanent, instead inscribed by colourful chalks that will weather the storm for the time being, but be gone by the time life resumes to normal. This is, somewhat comfortingly, another message that shows that not everything is permanent, even in these tough times. For now, however, they’ll remain in place, as bright reminders of hope and happiness that we need now more than ever.

Helping her community

On March 30th, Cote put out a call to her Instagram followers to help reach out to the locals of Leeuwarden and promised five local businesses free window art to help send their message to anyone wandering the streets. “Remember, our locals are super important, they give movement and life to our streets. They started with a dream and now they need our support to keep going” she stated in her post.

Her idea was simple: she hoped to promote services or products that businesses were offering during the pandemic, that otherwise wouldn’t have been seen by locals without a social media presence: people who may have thought that they were simply closed for business altogether. Cote says that her “idea is to show the human side of the business and to become closer to our community, to our citizens”, an idea that has no doubt helped smaller businesses reach their whole audience during such a worrying time.

Since her call to action, she’s helped multiple businesses with her window art, including the speelcafe Stenen Tijdperk and concept store Meet Mister Fred, who both appear on her Instagram page, and her plan is to keep going.

Making waves

Clearly, Cote’s inspiring and community building artwork have made an impact on the city of Leeuwarden. So much so, in fact, that she was hired by Leeuwarden’s own marketing sector to transform one of her drawings into a poster, which is now displayed in all its glory on multiple streets in the city.

Image: Danjel Sijtsma

That’s not her only claim to fame though, because her latest mission has been to co-create a giant piece of artwork alongside 10 other Leeuwarden artists that stands tall on the NDC Media Group building’s wall.

Commissioned by Writer’s Block, a group that organises numerous events as well as the creation of graffiti and street art, Cote has been spray painting her addition to the wall’s new artwork, which spells out “we’ll meet again”. This is yet another positive message for Leeuwarders currently in self-isolation. Cote writes: “This artwork is dedicated to everybody in the world. This crisis is hard for all of us. Today we can’t meet each other, but soon that will change and that day will be memorable”.

Image: Danjel Sijtsma

Cote’s words are mirrored by Writer’s Block on their own Instagram page, as they suggest that their new installation is ‘een hart onder de riem voor de inwoners van Leeuwarden in deze onzekere tijden’, or, in English, ‘a little bit of support for the people of Leeuwarden in these uncertain times.’

They’re right. This crisis is hard on us all, and we certainly need all the support and love that we can muster up right now. But with their help along with someone like Cote offering their services to keep the spirits of her city’s people alive, these uncertain times are certainly a little easier to bear.

With thanks

Thank you to Cote Veragua, who allowed me to write this piece on her and use her words. If you would like to check out her Instagram page, you can find her here: @cotecreate. If you’d like to check out Writer’s Block Instagram page, you can do so here: @writersblockmurals

What inspiring things have been going on in your cities during coronavirus? Share some feel-good stories with us down in the comments below. 

Feature Image: Lieuwe Terpstra/Supplied

Simone Kynaston
Simone lives way up north, where the wind blows harder and there’s an extra language to learn. She’s the world’s slowest cyclist because confident Dutch cyclists scare her and her screams can be heard for miles. When she’s not exploring the country and collecting expat friends along the way, she’s obsessed with finding the most delicious Dutch snacks, and she thinks that joppiesaus is the best invention ever.


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