'Pigeon lady' back from Rotterdam

Arie Bijl 26.02.2019
Arie Bijl

Starting with the 1957 - 1958 course year, a long-cherished wish was fulfilled for the Koningin Wilhelmina Kweekschool, a training course for teachers. A new building was moved into the heart of the city. For more than thirty years the course had been located in a patrician house on Haringvliet 84, but the course in September 1957 started in a building on Binnenrotte 85 in which the requirements that were then imposed on course education were met. The location of the school building was favorable in the heart of the city, next to the Laurenskerk, between Hoogstraat and Meent and a stone's throw from the Coolsingel and Blaak station. The location was easy to reach by public transport and that was important because a number of people were sometimes from the distant surroundings of Rotterdam. The architecture of the building was certainly not striking, rather austere (the war was not so long in the past), but the requirements set in the Breeding School Act of 1952 were amply met. There was a well-designed crafts room, a drawing room, a practically furnished physics room and a gym. On the top floor there was a spacious auditorium with a raised stage and behind the stage there were changing rooms and of course there were regular classrooms. The year 1957 was memorable for another reason: it was fifty years ago that the Queen Wilhelmina Breeding School was founded and started on Tuinstraat. The Bond van Oudleerlingen did not want this memorable fact to go unnoticed and started a fundraising campaign to realize a pipe organ in the auditorium in the new building. Singing together in the auditorium with Piet van den Kerkhoff or Bram Sintnicolaas, the music teachers, was seen as an ideal to be pursued. But the realization of such an organ was too high financially, it soon became apparent. The Bond van Oudleerlingen naturally wanted to spend the donations received on the school. This opportunity arose when two classrooms were added in 1962 due to a lack of space. The board of the "Association for the Foundation and Maintenance of a Christian Breeding School for Rotterdam and environs for the education of teachers and teachers" thought it desirable that decorative decorations should be applied to a blank wall of the extension. The board of the Bond van Oudleerlingen then suggested using the amount of money that had been acquired from the school at the fiftieth anniversary and that it had still not been spent, because the realization of a pipe organ in the auditorium was about five times that in cash . This resulted in an assignment from the Board of the Nursery School to the Rotterdam artist Adri Blok (1919-1990) to design a plastic that could be applied to the bare wall. In the report on the 1961-1962 course year, the director of the school, Mr. De Boom, writes: "We look forward to the result with confidence and interest." In the annual report of the following course year, De Boom writes: "The block produced by Miss Blok plastic represents a pigeon-feeding female surrounded by six pigeon figures. For former Rotterdammers it will be a reminder of the female who fed pigeons on the Grote Kerkplein before the war, but it also wants to, or first of all, symbolize the pedagogical motives "care for" and "care", which are so important in education . The necessary funds were raised by former students on the occasion of the 50 anniversary of the school in 1957. The transfer took place in June (1963) through Mr Te Slaa, chairman of the Association of former students. "

The Pigeon female van Adri Blok adorned the wall of the extension until July 2000. The 2000-2001 course year started in a new building on Posthumalaan 90 on the Kop van Zuid. It was soon clear that there were works of art like it Pigeon female there would be no room in the new building. The building on the Binnenrotte 85 came under the control of the Rotterdam Development Company (OBR) and would be demolished in due course for new construction (De Hofdame). The building on the Binnenrotte was evacuated for the major holiday of 2000. A few teachers involved (Huib van der Steen, Henk Barg and Arie Bijl) were concerned that the upcoming demolition would involve dealing with, among other things, the plastic of Adri Blok. They took it off the wall on a quiet afternoon in the summer of the same year and made it safe by storing it in their own garage. The school was empty for a few more years, cracked by tramps, but the end of 2002 and beginning of 2003 struck the demolition hammer mercilessly. The OBR had in the meantime learned of the disappearance of the sculpture by Adri Blok and threatened with a claim of 25.000 euro if the plastic was not exposed. Henk Barg personally handed it in to Posthumalaan, after which the artwork came into the hands of the OBR around 2002.

After the redesign of the square in front of the Laurenskerk, Huib van der Steen considered it a nice plan to put the artwork of Adri Blok on one of the walls of the adjacent buildings. The area around the church was, after all, closely related to the activities of the Pigeon female in the past. A search began that lasted for years for the plastic of Adri Blok that was managed by the OBR. Huib van der Steen has done everything to get it out of the water. The artwork remained untraceable. Letters to the OBR, mayor Aboutaleb, alderman Laan, the municipal ombudsman mr. Zwaneveld yielded nothing. In a letter from 8 October 2012, the PvdA asked written questions about the "disappeared bronze wall plastic" to the Mayor and Aldermen College. In the Algemeen Dagblad of 10 October 2012 an article appeared with the title “Pigeon female turns out to be without a trace. In vain search for images ”. Former colleague Huib van der Steen slowly gave up.

At the end of November 2018 came as a total surprise to me an email that reported it Pigeon female was found by chance in a depot in Zuid and now adorns a building on the corner of the Meent and Oppert in the center of Rotterdam. That message made me happy as a former youngster and a former teacher at the Kweekschool and I immediately went to look. It is sad that this message has come too late for my former colleagues Henk Barg and Huib van der Steen.

Arie Bijl, Gouda

Related artwork

Pigeon female (1962) Adri Blok