About HOLY

The story of HOLY

1999. For the purposes of creating a work of art, Merel Mirage is observing young people in a public space. It strikes her that they are reluctant to show their individuality—dressed as they are in the right brand of clothing. Merel wonders what the world would look like, if they showed more of themselves. She imagines small pictures of individual youngsters. Each has his or her own moving or unusual story.

Following this experience, Merel came up with the idea of developing an online animation tool that makes it easy to create an animation video and to share it with others. In a time when YouTube did not yet exist and when it took minutes to upload a jpeg, this was not easy. But after months of toiling and refining, the tool was developed along with the public artwork in the form of the HOLY vending machine. With a built-in screen that plays animation clips, the vending machine finally allows young people to make their voice heard in public spaces and to show themselves.

In 2004, the first animation workshops took place. After the murder of the Dutch film maker Theo van Gogh in 2002, “Clips for Freedom” were created, which had a snowball effect. Today, HOLY facillitates more than 200 workshops a year, and more theme projects and initiatives are being added. For instance, HOLY recently started offering schools a partnership so that they could use the HOLY teaching method, adapt it to their own vision, and apply it in a multidisciplinary way. 

The name HOLY

The HOLY Foundation was founded in 2002 by Merel Mirage. The name HOLY was derived from the district of Vlaardingen-Holy where the first HOLY vending machine was installed in 2000. In that location, there used to be a castle, which belonged to the Knight Order of Holy. The entrance gate to the castle was decorated with the Holy coat of arms portraying seven blackbirds. Merel (the Dutch word for blackbird) is the founder of HOLY.

Inspired creativity

The HOLY Foundation is a dynamic organisation with a small project office. In addition, HOLY has a network of flexible and creative staff, including workshop leaders, camera/journalists, film makers, editors and coordinators for events, art projects, and workshops.


Culture education/participation: visual self-expression

Young people learn to express themselves creatively by making an animation clip. The HOLY Animator offers young people a user-friendly opportunity to create an artistic product: you don’t consume online; you create.

Encouraging social consciousness

HOLY encourages young people to form opinions about social issues and teaches them to communicate these ideas through today’s media. Using animation, they learn to think critically about social subjects together and to discuss them. Collaborating in the creation of animation clips makes young people aware what kind of impact their message has on the world around them. The discussions that emerge and the cooperation between young people from different backgrounds help youth gain more insight into a particular topic and help them reflect on themselves and others.

Contributions to the social debate

The messages created by youth are distributed through as many forums, events, and social media as possible. As a result, a mass audience is included in the debate about a particular topic. The clips are screened at festivals, on public transport, on TV, at schools, and on the Internet. The screening is often is followed by discussion.

Increasing media wisdom

Today’s youth live and breathe new media, online visual culture, and social media. They spend many hours a day—up to 11 hours—on these media. Learning the ins and outs of media is, therefore, important, especially because it has a tremendous impact. With HOLY, young people learn about the intended and unintended effects of visual messages and how to look at them analytically. This makes them more effective in a world where they are increasingly confronted with an overwhelming amount of media information.

Founder and director Merel Mirage

“When young people express their opinions, feelings, and thoughts in an animation clip, the results are often moving and creative. Everyone has something valuable to say and to show.”

Merel Mirage is the founder of HOLY. She graduated cum laude from the postgraduate programme at the Arts University for Media in Cologne. Her work focuses on establishing communication between different cultures.

“I think it’s important to show the voice and the imagination of young people, expressed in clips, in the public space.”

Merel is a pioneer in the field of new media. She made her first Internet artwork in 1993. Merel has made media installations, videos, and initiated Internet projects. HOLY is one example of this.

Her work has been shown internationally, including at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam and at three editions of the Venice Biennial. Merel has also won several awards. The HOLY project has been considered a pioneering project in recent years at national and international new-media exhibitions.


Chairman: Emile Fallaux

Documentary maker, writer, former editor-in-chief of the Dutch weekly Vrij Nederland, former director of the International Film Festival Rotterdam.

Secretary Tjeerd Overdijk

Lawyer specialising in intellectual property and IT for Vondst Advocaten

Treasurer John de Zwart

Former editor-in-chief/director of AT5


HOLY is supported by: