Marc Hildesheimer and Wies van Keppel

Putting a vital art center in jeopardy?
The 'Atelierhaus fuer Kunst Medien und Kommunikation' in Essen, faced with eager advocates of privatization

Since the 1990s, the 'Atelier House' for Art and Communication has been more than a structure housing the studios of artists, among them initially Mr.Lungwitz, a sculptor and later, above all, Doris Schoettler-Boll who does photographic collages and montages which have received considerable attention from both critics and colleagues.
The old school building, in the Steele neighborhood of Essen, in Germany, has become an informal civic center, and at least as importantly, a center of the arts, a meeting place for artists and non-artists, and a stage for film screenings, art exhibitions, poetry reading, and critical debates on the arts and their significance in our contemporary societies.
People from the neighborhood, both the young and the old, have collected signatures for the preservation of the building which some officials in the city administration have again and again targeted fror demolition, in order to enable them to sell the property to a developer.
People from the neighborhood, as well as artists, film-makers, poets have gravitated to this center of civic and artistic activities.
Since 1999, Doris Schoettler-Boll has attracted noteworthy artists and art critics, people from 'academia' and people with a practical involvement in the arts who have come to talk about and show their artistic work.
The 'Atelier House' homepage mentions her important series of projects, called "Persons - Projects - Perspectives" and informs in great detail about these activities.
Recently, the city of Essen - the future Cultural Capital of Europe - has shown in increased inclination to shed responsibility for the 'Atelier House' it owns. Probably, the treasurer considers the cost of maintaining the building in reasonably good shape as too much of a burden even though only very minor sums are at stake. The department of the city entrusted with the administration and, if possible, sale of city-owned properties seems to be keen to sell and realize a profit. Although there are those within the city administration who care for the arts and who highly value the cultural contribution of publicly engaged artists like Doris Schoettler-Boll, the future of the 'Atelier House' seems to be at risk. Chances are that a compromise will be suggested, a privatization of the building, and a so-called guarantee that some sort of cultural activities would still find room on its premises. As the advocates of privatization also seem to advocate a hefty reduction if not an almost complete end of subsidies to art houses, to artists, and for exhibitions and other events connected with the arts (or featuring the arts), this would mean the end of the 'Atelier House' as we now know it. Its activities, despite a small monetary and considerable work input by people like Doris Schoettler-Boll, was never self-sufficient in financial terms. They are not able to pay market rents. They need a public space owned by the city, in order to obtain solutions that amount to paying no rent at all or a small symbolic rent, plus their own water, gas, and electricity bill. They are in dire need of at least small subsidies, in order to (barely) survive. We take the present, decisive turn of events that indicates an impending attempt at privatization - that is to say, a search for a private buyer of the 'Atelier House' -  to be enough of a reason to issue a warning call, and at the same time an urgent call for support.

Check the homepage of this center of the arts, of media & communication. in Essen, the future cultural capital of Europe.

See the article by...    (in German), which contains additional information.