Van Heeswijk’s projects distinguish themselves by their strong social involvement, often including hundreds of participants and over an extended period. She sees herself as a mediator who generates “interspaces,” contexts, and crossovers where new relationships are established between groups of people and institutions. These connections lead to public improvements, the self-organization of local groups, self-sustaining enterprises, and a stronger community identity.
Her work often attempts to unravel invisible legislation, governmental codes, and social institutions, gradually preparing areas for their futures.
A turning point in her career was the 2002 De Strip project in Vlaardingen, the Netherlands where she turned shops left vacant by unrealized development into galleries, artist’s studios, and workshop spaces for different community groups.
In her 2008 project, Freehouse–Market of Tomorrow, van Heeswijk sought to revitalize Rotterdam’s Afrikaande Market. Working with vendors, artists, designers, and local shopkeepers, she developed a detailed sketch of the ideal market of the future, devoting more attention to diverse high-quality goods and services, and new skill-based collaborative projects. The master plan challenged government regulations that were preventing vendors and the community from establishing sustainable sources of income. The renewal of the market is ongoing, but it has already become the “beating heart” of the Afrikaner district.
In 2020, Heeswijk introduced Trainings for the Not-Yet, an exhibition that evolves through a series of training sessions organized in weekly chapters. The sessions range from “dreamscaping” to radical listening, from creating a sanctuary to enacting radical care, from fighting housing struggles to building solidarity economies, and from composing intersectional alliances to become collective. They take place amid and with artworks by van Heeswijk as well as an array of international artists engaged in social change and modeling collectivity.
More recently, in the fall of 2021, Jeanne van Heeswijk and Bobby Sayers invited residents of Wester Hailes to Public Faculty No 14: “What are you invested in?” a four-day event in which the artists held informal conversations with both invited community members and passers-by about forms of investment—both financial and non-financial, personal, and city-wide.