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Conception of cultural reality

The German Federal Cultural Foundation

This article was commissioned by the  Korean Arts Management Services and originally published in Korean  for – a database website for the global exchange of performing arts, a project supported by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Republic of Korea.

Monica Antezana: “Babel Fish Moves”, Tanzplan Deutschland © Bo Lahola

“ Autonomy is of high value in the German cultural policy,” declares the press speaker of the Kulturstiftung des Bundes, Friederike Tappe-Hornbostel in full confidence. Established by the German Federal Government on 21 March 2002, the German Federal Cultural Foundation or Kulturstiftung des Bundes exercises full artistic autonomy in fulfilling its mission of promoting arts and culture within the scope of federal competence. One of its main priorities is to support innovative programmes and projects on an international level.  With a 35 Million Euro annual budget received from the Federal Ministry of Culture, the Foundation invests in projects, which develop new methods of fostering cultural heritage and tap into the knowledge of cultural and artistic potentials required in addressing social issues. It also focuses on cultural exchange and cross-border cooperation by initiating projects of its own and funding project proposals across various artistic disciplines, leaving the thematic approach to the decision of its proponents.  For the past 8 years, under the artistic and executive direction of Hortensia Völkers[i] and Alexander Farenholtz [ii]respectively, this civil-law foundation employs 40 full-time personnel that operates its headquarters in Halle an der Saale, Germany.

According to Tappe-Hornbostel who has been a part of the foundation’s team from its early beginnings, Kulturstiftung des Bundes “has grown and developed organically.” She continues, “There is no clear-cut definition on how to do things.  We develop programmes and projects. Every programme is different from the other.” And although the public relations expert asserts that the foundation is not shaped by any political agenda, the foundation maintains a structure by which its highest level of decision makers are composed greatly of powerful luminaries from the German government and some prominent cultural personalities/experts.  The Board of Trustees constitute the strategic agenda of the German Federal Cultural Foundation and its members are as follows: 1) Minister of State for Culture and the Media: Bernd Neumann[iii], Minister of State, Chair of the Board of Trustees
; 2) Representative of the Foreign Office: Cornelia Pieper, Minister of State
[iv] 3) representative of the Federal Ministry of Finance: Steffen Kampeter. State Secretary;[v] three representatives of the Bundestag

4) Prof. Dr. Norbert Lammert, President of the German Bundestag;[vi] 5) Wolfgang Thierse, Vice President of the German Bundestag;[vii] 6) Hans-Joachim Otto, Parliamentary State Secretary in the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology;[viii] two representatives of the federal states (Conference of the Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs)
7) Dr. Valentin Gramlich, State Secretary, Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs of Saxony-Anhalt[ix]; 8. Walter Schumacher, State Secretary, Ministry of Science, Education, Research and Culture of Rheinland-Pfalz;[x] two local government representatives, 9)Klaus Hebborn, Councillor for Education, Culture and Sports, German Association of Cities;[xi] 10) Uwe Lübking, Councilor, German Association of Cities[xii] ; the chairperson of the Board of Trustees of the “Kulturstiftung der Länder” (Cultural Foundation of the Federal States)
, 11) Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Böhmer, Minister-President of Saxony-Anhalt[xiii] ; 12) three leading cultural and artistic figures
, 13) Senta Berger, actress and president of the German Film Academy, Berlin (from 2003-2010),[xiv] 14) Durs Grünbein, poet, Berlin[xv] ; and 15) Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Wolf Lepenies, sociologist, Berlin.[xvi]

K3 Tanzplan Hamburg Residenzchoreografen 2010, HH_Choreografen 2010 © Thies Ratzke

Following a top-down approach, on the recommendation of the Executive
Board, the Board of Trustees assigns the jury or the Special Committee, who reviews and makes the selection for the General Project Funding Application of the foundation. The jury members, appointed on a three-year term, hold two annual sessions that examine all grants proposals from the different artistic fields. Apart from the jury, there is also the Advisory Committee that provides a consultative voice on varying focus areas and activities of the foundation.

General Project Funding and Programmes

“We receive a constant number of applications a year, averaging to 500 project proposals by which 10-20% are given funding. Depending on what we fund, about 5-8 Million Euro is spent on these initiatives,” says Tappe-Hornbostel.   In principle the foundation considers projects with proponents that have already secured at least 20% of its total costs either through personal investments or third party financing. The foundation’s general funding system, with a minimum of 50,000 Euro to a maximum grant of 250,000 Euro, embraces all artistic disciplines: fine arts, performing arts, literature, music, film, photography, architecture, cultural-historical exhibitions, new media and interdisciplinary actions.  It is essential that the project be realised cooperation with at least one foreign partner. Foreign institutions and organisations may also apply for the grant provided that they have collaborative partners in Germany and visibility is ensured in the federal state.  Once approved, its initiators independently implement projects. The Federal Cultural Foundation directs its support to those that have the capacity to heighten current artistic and social discourse in Germany. Moreover, even though it stresses on the international context of the projects – it patronage is not confined to the idea of sheer guest performances to and from abroad. As Tappe-Hornbostel points out, “We are looking for projects with cultural effects and those that contribute to social development. Our concern is how to develop projects, how to develop people.  We are not interested in import or export. Instead, we get impulses from abroad to combine it with people who work in Germany “We don’t intervene with their artistic work. The Bundeskulutrustiftung is a foundation that can stress upon artistic value and meaning.”

The German Federal Cultural Foundation likewise supports the German Cultural Promotion Funds, which include the following: 1) Arts Fund Foundation;[xvii]2) Performing Arts Fund[xviii]; 3) German Literature Fund[xix]; 4) German Translator Fund[xx]; 5) Socio-Cultural Fund[xxi] and 6) the World Cinema Fund[xxii]. Each of these funding schemes is connected under the umbrella of the foundation. However, all the speciliased artistic funding focused noted above has its own jury, facilitates its own reviews on the proposals and timeline.

Alongside the breadth of work related to grant giving, the foundation further designs its own programmes geared towards current cultural issues.  These programmes are comprised of various projects that generate a wide spectrum of cultural-political working and funding mechanisms. “For the programmes, proposal comes from the Artistic Director.  In this case, the German Federal Cultural Foundation follows an artistic vision transferred into tangible actions,” says Tappe-Hornbostel.  The Foundation for instance can decide to commission curators, initiate events or publications, or set up special application-based funds.  The current thematic focus are as follows: 1) German Unification; 2) Culture of Sustainability; 3) The Undead; 4) International Theatre Partnerships; 5) Cultural Education; 6) Central and Eastern Europe and 7) Restoration.

Klang!-Container im Hamburger Freihafe © Tanja Tangermann

Commemorating two of the most significant events of recent German history: the division of Germany 60 years ago and the fall of the Berlin Wall 20 years ago, the foundation invested on funding culture in the new German states under the theme of German UnificationCulture of Sustainability, on the other hand, addresses the global challenges of sustainable living through global justice and social reform.  Under this topic, a two-year programme entitled, Über Lebenskunst[xxiii], was set-up in April 2010 searching for initiatives that embrace new approaches for the future.  Whilst “the Undead” is a one off congress and theatre installation question the present life including complex issues on biotechnological advances and their ability to intervene in life processes.

The International Theatre Partnerships represent a number of funding schemes namely Wanderlust – Fund for International Theatre Partnerships, Home Game – Fund for Theatre Projects, the National Performance Network [xxiv]and the Tanzplan Deutschland[xxv]. These cover a range of concerns in the field of the performing arts from co-productions within Germany and international partnerships to touring, audience development to education. The programme area Art of Education includes projects that put extra weight on cultural education and aesthetic reflection.  “The New Music Network,” for example, aims to acquaint larger audiences with contemporary music, and “An Instrument for Every Child,” one of the largest projects ever funded by the Federal Cultural Foundation, offers children with musical instruction.

To encourage European artists to work together and establish permanent structures of cultural cooperation in Europe, touching on the memory of totalitarianism and issues of immigration, the foundation initiated cultural projects in Central and Eastern Europe. Finally, the support the programme on Restoration, which aims to safeguard Germany’s modern cultural heritage, concerns itself with education and establishment collaboration with national and international research institutes.

With such an extensive role to play in the cultural life in Germany, responding to the impetus from current global issues, the foundation manages to allocate its resources “1/3 project, 1/3 programmes and 1/3 institutions.” And in over less than a decade of its existence, Tappe-Hornbostel says, “the phase of growing up is finished” for the foundation.   Nonetheless, looking at the progression of its programmes alongside the various projects that it funds annually, although the budget may remain on the same level considering the artistic allowance it leaves for its constituents and partners, the growth or development is very likely to move from inside-out.  This means that whether funding is provided only on a project basis or through the programmes that are designed between 2-5 years, there lies a great opportunity for creative expansion from its recipients; giving birth to fresh ideas and more initiatives. When asked whether the German Federal Cultural Foundation can be seen as a model funding agency to international cultural institutions, Tappe-Hornbostel puts it simply by saying,  “It is difficult to say this is a model since it is based on conception of reality.”


[i] Hortensia Völckers<

[ii] Alexander Farenholtz<

[iii] Bernd Neumann<

[iv] Cornelia Pieper<

[v] Steffen Kampeter <

[vi]Prof. Dr. Norbert Lammert, < http://kulturstiftung

[vii] Wolfgang Thierse<

[viii] Hans-Joachim Otto,<

[ix] Dr. Valentin Gramlich<

[x] Walter Schumacher <

[xi] Klaus Hebborn<

[xii] Uwe Lübking,<

[xiii] Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Böhmer <

[xiv] Senta Berger<

[xv] Durs Grünbein <

[xvi] Prof. Dr. Dr. h.c. Wolf Lepenies<

[xvii] Arts Fund Foundation<

[xviii] Performing Arts Fund<

[xix] German Literature Fund<

[xx] German Translator Fund<

[xxi] Socio-Cultural Fund<

[xxii] World Cinema Fund<

[xxiii] Über Lebenskunst<

[xxiv] National Performance Network<

[xxv] Tanzplan Deutschland<

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