Groningen

Vision

GasTerra has translated the three well-known pillars of corporate social responsibility People, Planet, Profit into Gas, Green and Groningen. The choice of Groningen was obvious. We consider it very important to make a meaningful contribution to the local community of which we are part. We do this by participating in different projects and initiatives which focus on greening our society, such as Sustainable Ameland and EnTranCe. GasTerra also sponsors various activities in the areas of sports, culture and social life.

After the establishment of GasTerra as an independent company in 2005, the emphasis in sponsorship policy was on activities and projects that could increase the brand awareness of the new company in the region. The most important example of this is our financial support to Groningen’s professional basketball club Donar. By connecting the name of our company to the team (GasTerra Flames), we generated maximum publicity. Independent research has shown that this approach has been successful. GasTerra has become a fixed and known value in the Groningen community.

Now that the brand awareness has reached a high enough level, we are shifting our attention to emphasising our economic significance and promoting our vision of the energy and climate issue. One of the ways that we are doing this in practice is through the ‘GasTerra Doet’ (‘GasTerra Does’) campaign. Within this theme, five sub themes have been identified: GasTerra inspires, GasTerra sustains, GasTerra researches, GasTerra takes action and GasTerra connects. Depending on the activity, GasTerra expands on the sub themes on the website and elsewhere to raise awareness of its role in society.

In addition, we are gradually going to shift our focus to social sponsorship. This change of direction is related to changes in society and the demands we place on our role in society. The community is increasingly being asked to take responsibility for the quality and habitability of their living environment themselves. The nature of the welfare state is changing, it is becoming more austere. Enterprises cannot and should not fill the gap created by this, but they can help to ease the transition to what has become known as the participatory society.

In 2015, GasTerra also launched the GasTerra for Groningen project, in which we investigate how – apart from sponsorship and donations – we can make a contribution to strengthening the economy of the region in the long term. In launching this project we are also mindful of improving our image, the image of gas, and knowledge of the role of GasTerra in the province of Groningen.

Sponsorship

As a Groningen company, our main focus is on the city and region. We sponsor various sporting, cultural, educational and social activities. This serves a purpose for the company too. We wish to bring the name of the enterprise and the role that we play locally and internationally to people's attention.

GasTerra will have to reorganise over the next few years so that the company can continue to maximise the value of Dutch natural gas under changing market conditions. This means that the budget for sponsorship and donations in the coming years will have to be cut. Nonetheless we are receiving more and more requests for sponsorship, so we have to make choices about who we can support financially or in other ways. We also feel that it is important to support initiatives which can then go on to stand on their own two feet or continue with other partners. For this reason we said farewell to a number of partners in 2015 and started to work with others.

In 2015 we spent €700,000 on sponsorship and donations (€900,000 in 2014). Together with Gasunie, GasTerra is a permanent sponsor of the Groninger Museum through the Stichting Fondsbeheer Culturele Relatie Evenementen. We have also maintained a partnership with the Prince Claus Conservatorium since 2010. Initiatives that were able to count on financial support from GasTerra again in 2015 included the Walk for Life (fight against cancer), GasTerra Ladies Run (Pink Ribbon), various charitable institutions including the Food bank and Humanitas for fighting against poverty in Groningen and the Tschumi Pavilion, a public space where projects in the fields of art, image culture, video and architecture are put on show.

For the last time we sponsored Streetball Groningen and the pop festival Eurosonic Noorderslag. GasTerra supported the free open air festival Eurosonic Air on Grote Markt square in Groningen and a competition between local Groningen bands (Grunnsonic). After five years we also said goodbye to the Peter the Great Festival, a cultural event at which young talented musicians put on more than 50 chamber music concerts at various typical locations in the three northern provinces.

Last year we embarked on a partnership with the House for Sport, that facilitates movement education for primary schools in the Province of Groningen. In addition, GasTerra became a partner of The Bridge, a non-profit organisation that organises sporting activities for people with an intellectual disability, including the Special Olympics in Groningen. GasTerra staff lend a helping hand with this by working as volunteers.

Interview with Andreas Blühm, Director of the Groninger museum

Interview with Andreas Blühm, Director of the Groninger museum

Andreas Blühm was born in Berlin on 18 February 1959. He studied Art History at the Eberhard-Karls University in Tübingen and the VU University of Berlin. Since 2012 he has been director of the Groninger Museum. Before he came to Groningen he already had a long career in the museum world behind him. Blühm worked from 1993 to 2005 in the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, where he was head of presentations and responsible for exhibition policy. From 2005 he was director of the Wallraf-Richartz Museum & the Corboud Foundation in Cologne.

Read the interview with Andreas Blühm

Interview with Andreas Blühm, Director of the Groninger museum

We want to surprise and invite people to form opinions

Andreas Blühm

The City of Groningen has a museum with international appeal: the Groninger Museum. Visitors come from all over, not only for the collections and exhibitions , but also to gaze in admiration at the exceptional architecture of the buildings that give the museum its colourful and modern exterior and Groningen its landmark. Since its establishment GasTerra has been associated with the Groninger Museum as its main sponsor with Gasunie. We interviewed the director, Andreas Blühm.

As this text was being written, the David Bowie is … exhibition was on in the Groninger Museum. This exhibition had earlier done the rounds of cities such as London, Paris, Berlin and Melbourne. Anyone who thinks that Groningen is somewhat out-of-place in that list is obviously an outsider. The museum did not have to make any special effort to get the Bowie exhibition. It was offered to Andreas Blühm by the people at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London who put the exhibition together.

David Bowie is… is just one of the high-profile events that the Groninger Museum has put on over the years but smash hits like this are rare. It will bring in visitors who normally speaking do not find their way into a museum. And that is very much the ambition of the art historian Blühm who has been in charge here since 2012: to interest a new public. So when the offer reached him, he did not have to think about it for long.

 

What attracted you so much to the City of Groningen and its museum?

'I know Groningen well. As I grew up in Bremen, I came here when I was quite young. My best friend stayed here for a while after he graduated; my wife is from Groningen. I was here at the opening of the museum in 1994, as a guest. I was full of enthusiasm and amazement at the time: how could they have built a museum like this here?'

For those who are not familiar with it: the museum is a much talked-about work of art in itself, a striking mixture of different styles, which in fact is a symbol for the amazing things inside. Variety is the hallmark of the collection and exhibitions: from archaeology and old masters to porcelain and modern abstract art, from fashion to more traditional forms of the visual arts, from Werkman's graphic experiments to the chameleon Bowie. This is one of the reasons why this museum suits its director so well. As he says himself, he is interested in every aspect of art.

What brought you to move to Groningen?

'The opportunity, of course. My wife and I wanted to move back to the Netherlands and there was a vacancy here. The museum was going through a financial crisis at that time. Not great for the museum but good for a new director, because (laughing) things can only get better. A football manager should never take over a champion club, always a candidate for relegation.'

Was there a great deal of overdue maintenance?'

 'Not too bad. In fact I didn't need to change very much The museum was good, the creative policy was in good shape, the programme was exciting and varied. I've done my best to continue with that. I spent most of my time on relatively small things such as the signage in the museum, the explanations and use of language, and education of course. I firmly believe that museums have an educational role. Another thing that I'm very attentive to is balance. There may have been rather too much emphasis on modernity and design in the past. For example, I felt the need to pay a bit more attention to the region.

It has become more difficult to bring in distinctive exhibitions of work that does not belong to the museum's own collection, such as the exhibitions we did at the time on Russian fairy tales and Waterhouse. There are far more institutions doing this. Ten, twenty years ago Groningen was unique in that respect. That time is now gone.'

Still there have been some special collections to see recently, such as the old masters from the Gemäldegalerie in Dresden. And later this year Rodin comes to Groningen.

'Yes and it's good that we can still do this. We always try to find different forms of presentation, so that it doesn't become a standard narrative.'

To go back to the variety. Art movements often used to mark themselves out vehemently against what was called the established order. Artists can be very intolerant toward each other. In Groningen the former enemies hang together peacefully under one roof.

'Exactly. I think that all those battles have been fought. But there can still be controversy. This summer we'll be putting on an exhibition that illustrates this perfectly: The New Wild. It is about a group of artists in the 1980s who no longer wanted to have anything to do with the avant-garde. They returned to figurative painting, but deliberately "ugly", awkward, provocative. That was 30 years ago. And it is typical of the Groninger Museum and its then director Frans Haks that the museum was one of the first to buy this work. An exhibition of the work of this group of all groups fits well with the museum's mission: we want to surprise and invite people to form opinions. Controversy is part and parcel of that.'

One of your objectives is to attract a new kind of visitor. How do you get people who never go to a museum to come to the Groninger Museum. People in the Randstadt (the built-up area of western Holland) are so used to their own little bit of the earth and the distances between places there, they think Groningen is a long way away.

'That's right. Dutch people think Germany is a big country, while it is only half the size of Texas. Never mind, we still have much to gain in our own region. Residents of Groningen realise that this museum is not unimportant for the city. It has got through to the authorities, politicians and business that it is an important attraction. That's important. The Groninger Museum once had the reputation of facing away from the city but fortunately that's no longer the case. We are simply the museum of the City and Province of Groningen. All the same it's still difficult to get all Groningen residents to come in. I don't know how many people cycle over the bridge past the entrance every day but only a small percentage of them have been in the museum. There's clearly still a barrier.'

Large groups of people still steer clear of culture with a big C?

'Unfortunately yes. Anyway the opposite is also true. There are Groningen residents who have never been in the Euroborg (FC Groningen's football stadium). I can't understand that. You should try everything once. After that you can decide: that's not for me. But not before. Anyway we keep trying. As with David Bowie is…