bridging  50 YEARS 1973 – 2023


The history of ‘Kunst in de Stad’ dates back as far as 1973, the year in which the non-profit organization was established. Over the years, it would thoroughly change the look of the city of Sint-Niklaas.

The name ‘Kunst in de Stad’ - ‘Art in the City’ - speaks for itself. It refers to the dreams, the ambition and the plans of its founders. Pros Matthys, alderman for culture (March 1970 – March 1974) cherished the dream of bringing art closer to the people by giving it a place in the streetscape. After introductory discussions with likeminded art lovers and the necessary preparations, on February 7th 1973 the city hall hosted the founding meeting. On July 19th 1973 the articles of association are published in the Belgian Official Journal and the non-profit association ‘Kunst in de Stad ’ is  born.


The objectives of ‘Kunst in de Stad’ are specified as follows:

  • developing the art collection of the city of Sint-Niklaas
  • transforming the city into an open art space by installing works of art in all suitable public places
  • promoting the work of local artists


These objectives created high expectations and after a couple of exploratory years the new association called an extraordinary general meeting in 1979. Theo Meert took control and, as an enthusiastic and energetic President, he set ‘Kunst in de Stad’ on a new track with a specific program for the immediate future and a clearly written format. Rik Bosteels took the post of  Vice-President. Founding members of the original board, city secretary Piet Elshout and city treasurer Maurice Rouvroy, continued to operate out of their own commitment.

The organization stuck to its vision of developing in full autonomy and independence. Nevertheless,  it maintained close ties with the city council and fully valued the benefits from well appreciated financial support from various sources. There were generous donators, artists provided work and graphic artists made prints. In the early years, the association of fairground merchants, market stall holders and hawkers donated a share of its revenues from the festive market to the association. All this support helped ‘Kunst in de Stad’ to realize its first project.


1980 saw the kick-off of the metamorphosis in Sint-Niklaas: in Station Square ‘Kunst in de Stad’ installed the group of sculptures ‘De Lopers – The runners’ by Mariette Teugels.

Organizing cultural manifestations, amongst which an annual concert, grew into a tradition. Fifty years on,  the association’s priority still is to involve as many people as possible in its activities on a membership basis. In this context, every year until 2015, members were offered the choice of a series of valuable prints from graphic artists. Over the years long time members acquired a beautiful collection of them.


The eighties and nineties showed a succession of realizations. A variety of sculptures were installed in Sint-Niklaas, most of them in the city center. In 1988, on the 15th anniversary of the organization, the huge sculpture ‘Het Woord – The Word’ by Idel Ianchelevici was inagurated on the corner of the Markt (Market square) and the Parklaan. Thus the first foreign sculptor is introduced.


‘Kunst in de Stad’ also committed  itself to decorating public buildings and residential institutions. Karel Mechiels, former director of the Academy of fine Arts and member of ‘Kunst in de Stad’, launched this initiative in 1991 to emphasize the organization’s social commitment. Attention is paid to give each work a suitable and appropriate place.

Since 2013 sixteen large drawings of Idel Ianchelevici adorn the corridors of the Academy for Word, Music and Dance. An inventory is made of all donations, they are published on the website and form part of the permanent cultural heritage of the city.




In 1997 ‘Kunst in de Stad’ decided that a sculpture of the patron saint of the city is a must-have in its collection and on November 30th the striking statue of Saint-Nicolas, made by Achiel Pauwels, obtained its place in front of the Town Hall. It remains one of the most photographed statues of the city.


A monumental work of art was chosen to mark the 25th anniversary of ‘Kunst in de Stad’. ‘Cirkel in Cirkel’ by Hilde Van Summere – one of the most important representatives of Constructivism in Belgium – became the focal point for everybody who drives into the center via the roundabout of the Koningin Astridlaan and the Parklaan.


Over the years attention was also paid to famous local personalities, by immortalizing them sculpturally. There are statues of priest-poet Anton Van Wilderode, teacher-priest Gordijn and artist Gerard Gaudaen; there are busts of mayors Hendrik Heyman and Romain De Vidts, alderman Pros Matthys, musician Albert Delvaux, artist Karel Mechiels and some ten local industrialists.


The humanitarian concern and mission is reflected in the locations chosen for the new sculptures in 2001. Residential care centers in Belsele and Nieuwkerken were adorned with an attractive and symbolic work. Moreover attention was paid to the surroundings of the city’s hospitals and the serene tranquility of a cemetery. This is illustrated  by the statue ‘Tussen vertwijfeling en hoop – Between despair and hope’ by Wenke Besard on the Heimolen cemetery.

Throughout the years, statues happened to be moved for infrastructural reasons, but never without thorough consultation with the city architect and in full respect of the sculpture in its surroundings.

In 2010 ‘Kunst in de Stad’ boasted about fifty statues. The city council showed its appreciation for the association by granting it the Culture Prize.


The fortieth anniversary of ‘Kunst in de Stad’ in 2013 was an excellent occasion to install three new statues.

The association also published its anniversary book ‘Kunst in de Stad – 40 jaar’. This book presents in an artistic and sophisticated way pictures of the statues, photographed by Paul De Malsche. More than half of the 40 pictures are accompanied by a poem, some by poets from the Waasland area.


In 2017, to mark the 800th anniversary of Sint-Niklaas, ‘Kunst in de Stad’ unveiled the group ‘Johanna en Margaretha van Constantinopel’ by Frans Heirbaut. It is a reference to the city’s history: in 1217 countess Johanna established a new parish and in 1241 she declared Sint-Niklaas to be the new administrative center of the ‘Land Van Waas’. Her sister, Margaretha, donated lands. With this creation the organization was awarded Culture Prize of the City once again.


October 17th 2020 was another highlight for ‘Kunst in de Stad’ and for Sint-Niklaas. In the midst of the corona crisis a new and monumental statue by princess Delphine van Saksen-Coburg sees the light of day, positioned next to the Welfare House on the ‘Gerda Site’. The steel sculpture is named ‘Ageless Love’. On the right moment and the correct spot it delivers a message – way beyond  the present -  of hope, nearness, togetherness and love.


In 2022 the sculptures ‘De Wassende Vrouwen – The washing women’, ‘de Klokkenlapper – the Clockter’ and ‘Olympische ringen – Olympic Rings’ all three unveiled in Belsele in 2009, were transferred from the association ‘’Kunst in Belsele’ to ‘Kunst in de Stad’.


Through multiple initiatives ‘Kunst in de Stad’ continues working on its mission. The organization often involves youngsters and children in its projects:

  • In 1997 children decided which of the four preliminary drafts for the Sint-Nicolaas statue, by Achiel Pauwels, was going to be executed. Apparently their decision was based on the ‘colour’ element.
  • In 2003 a photo contest was organized in collaboration with a local newspaper for the oldest pupils of primary and the youngest of secondary school. They had to take a picture at their favorite statue.
  • In 2013 the laureates and children-city poets of Sint-Niklaas wrote a poem illustrating a statue in the anniversary book ‘Kunst in de Stad – 40 jaar’.
  • During the lock-down of the corona-winter of 2020 primary school children drew and illustrated New Year's greetings based on the sculpture ‘Ageless Love’. These were presented to the inhabitants of the residential care centers.
  • To mark its 50th anniversary‘Kunst in de Stad’ commissioned the Child-city poet Aya Vanvinckenroye to write a poem.


The fact that ‘Kunst in de Stad’ has devoted itself for 50 years to the artistic embellishment of the city and its villages was only possible thanks to the lasting and consistent dedication of many people. In close collaboration with the city council, successive boards have enthusiastically responded to the unique challenge of providing added value under the chairmanship of motivated art lovers Theo Meert, Denise Kaspendakis, Rik Bosteels, Irene Vander Cruyssen and Dirk Van den Broeck.


‘Kunst in de Stad’ continually takes new initiatives to ensure lasting fame:

  • A photo-illustrated walking guide published in collaboration with the city, in 2014. It describes three different routes along the sculptures in the city. In 2018 this guide was updated.
  • In 2020 ‘Kunst in de Stad’ created an ‘Artsy bike route’, in collaboration with the Culturele Centrale (CC) Boontje, the city council and the Tourist Office. This bicycle route has two versions and also visits the surrounding villages.

Brochures of these routes are available at the Tourist Office and on the website of ‘Kunst in de Stad’.

  • All sculptures have been provided with a QR-code offering on the spot information for inquisitive viewers.
  • On a regular basis flyers are distributed to invite inhabitants and visitors of Sint-Niklaas and its villages to participate in initiatives.


2023 is a very special jubilee year! The inauguration of the sculpture ‘Trahiablauta’, a contemporary realization by Nick Ervinck, has been the crowning achievement of the 50th anniversary celebration on October 21st .


‘Kunst in de Stad’ thanks the city council, sponsors, members and sympathizers for their support over the years. Full of confidence it looks forward to the future of a sculpture-rich Sint-Niklaas.