Creative Lab is a yearly educational structure that Casco organizes for a working group of third-year students at the Utrecht art academy HKU. Each group is comprised of a variety of disciplines, from fine art and design to fashion and art management. Usually, the students work with commercial enterprises that approach HKU with a specific question, for instance to design a tool, a product, or develop a business strategy. As a non-profit organization that focuses on artistic research and collaboration, Casco offers a platform for young artists, designers, and practitioners to actively contribute and partake in its program, in close collaboration with the Casco team.
Creative Lab evolved out of a half year of collective research, conducted by HKU students and commissioned and accompanied by Casco in February 2009. We started with the question: “How can we view the city of Utrecht from an alternative cultural perspective?” Students then mapped out various self-organized spots for informal gatherings where exchanges of resources and stories take place.
The first “official” edition of Creative Lab took place in the framework of Stadtstaat. A Scenario for Merging Cities - Episode 2 (September–November 2012), a project by Amsterdam-based graphic designers Metahaven in collaboration with Casco. During one semester, students teamed up to develop a new visual identity for HKU. They used the apartment that hosted residents for Casco’s long-term project the Grand Domestic Revolution (GDR) as a “temporary faculty”, occupying it 24 hours a day, for 5 consecutive days.
At the end of 2009, Creative Lab became more involved in the GDR project asking: “What can we achieve by getting to know our neighbors?” Students responded by conducting field research on the development of student life in Wijk C, the area in which Casco was located. The result, consisting of video interviews, photographs, and archive materials, was exhibited in the final exhibition of GDR (November 2011–27 February 2012).
In 2013, the fourth edition of Creative Lab took place at the Casco Storefront, located in the dynamic shopping street De Voorstraat in Utrecht. The students collaborated with (Un)usual Business, Casco’s long-term research collaboration with Kritische Studenten [Critical Students Utrecht] who explore “community economies”. With the Storefront as their point of departure, the students conducted interviews with local shop owners and mapped out all the alternative economies that were already taking place in the area. Their common research, and singular objects made for sale, was presented in the Casco Storefront in the context of the exhibition The Wealth of the Voorstraat (December 2013–February 2014).