"Thorn in the unwieldy body of general indifference and in the eye of the official cultural chamber servants. Since every city possesses its cellars, attics or huts for its artists; since Dendermonde did not yet have that and was almost truly asleep with decency, we have, in order to bring this city back from its medieval forgetfulness, and perhaps to give it a fame again; established a HUT FOR AVANTGARDE ARTISTS."
With this announcement, Kunstkring Celbeton in Dendermonde was launched. On the initiative of the Dendermonde educator and writer Adolf Merckx and the Wichelse poet Werner Verstraeten, a special program of exhibitions, lectures, musical performances, theater and film shows is kicked off on July 21, 1957.
Thus, popular cafe ''t Zaaltje' (Gentse steenweg 110) soon became a pole of attraction and meeting place for thinkers and doers. Hugo Claus and Luc Peire, Louis Paul Boon and Roger Raveel, Simon Vinkenoog and Raoul De Keyser, these are just a few of the names of prominent artists and authors who have contributed to its operation. Celbeton also provides the stage for cutting-edge cultural and social debates, including on censorship, anarchism and environmental degradation. Due to the relocation of the Dender estuary, café 't Zaaltje is demolished in 1971. Celbeton moves to other locations but in 1975, after 19 years, it disappears as one of the most talked-about projects in Dendermonde's cultural history.
The exhibition carefully reconstructs the history of Celbeton. The expo includes a complete timeline from 1957 to 1975 and nineteen striking moments from as many years of operation.
Separate sections are set up for literature and visual art - the two main artistic disciplines covered by Celbeton. Finally, ample attention is paid to the figure of Adolf Merckx, co-founder and driving force of the Dendermond art circle.