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Hauptstadtkultufonds: Cultural Capital Funds Berlin

Seeding a breed of creative community

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.

HAU-Production “Hell on Earth” by Constanza Macras, Photo: Thomas Aurin

Whether you speak German or not, if you are an artist, producer or curator wishing to secure some funding for an upcoming project in Berlin, I would recommend you to recite these words three times and make it your mantra: Hauptstadtkulturfonds, Haupstadkuturfonds, Hauptstadtkulturfonds.  If you are having difficulty pronouncing it, you can fondly use its nickname: HKF (ha-ka-ef, as articulated in the German alphabet) instead.  You also ought to mark in your calendar the 15th of April and 1st October every year, as the ultimate period of collating 11 sets of HKF’s Antrags Formular[i], photocopied concept and project background, CV, letters of intent from your partner venues and institutions, participating artists, your dream budget carefully stapled with two holes punched on the left hand side of the document.  This compilation should illustrate your capacity and available resources to realise the project.  Remember to follow instructions and go down to Brunnenstrasse 188, before 18:00 to hand in your documents.  You are free to propose whatever you want as long as you follow the set guidelines. After that, head home or to a nearby café and treat yourself for a job well done. Keep reciting the words until they make the announcement two months following the deadline.  Remember to consistently perform the mantra and implement this exercise until you succeed in securing funds from the Cultural Capital Funds of Berlin.  Bear in mind that there are hundreds or even thousands of fellow creative minds seeking for support for what they think are necessary for the cultural life in the German capital.

Following the German reunification twenty years ago, Berlin has gained prominence as a haven for artists and creative activists coming from all over the world. It can be said that HKF has been greatly instrumental to the influx of artists and creative activist as well the as explosion of cultural ideas in the past decade. The fundamental openness of the HKF and absence of a definitive theme by which one can propose an idea empowered the grassroots community to take part in the shaping of the city’s creative environment. Since the Berlin Cultural Senate installed it in 1999, the Capital Cultural Funds of Berlin has evaluated 4,955 applications and funded 1,205 projects with a volume of around € 103 million. Administered by the Senate department responsible for culture of the city-state of Berlin, the Capital Cultural Fund finances individual projects and events of special significance for Berlin in its role as the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany.  In 2009 alone, Haupstadkulturfonds supported 129 cultural activities.

Berlin has a different need, different structure, explains HKF’s newly appointed curator, Hans Helmut Prinsler[ii] as he speaks about the complexity of the cultural affairs governing the 16 regions of Germany. He continues, “ Within two months from the April 2010 deadline, we’ll have to decide which projects will be given funding in the city. This is also when we get an overview on the current trends and thinking from the Berlin cultural community.” Together with a jury of cultural experts namely Sigrid Gareis,[iii]Dr. Dirk Luckow,[iv]Peter Riegelbauer,[v] Barbara Sichtermann,[vi]Dr. Mark Terkessidis,[vii] and Christine Wahl,[viii] Prinsler will select and evaluate proposals that cover a gamut of artistic disciplines. This team appointed by the city’s Joint Committee will take on the responsibility of reviewing bi-annually multi-faceted proposals from various cultural practitioners in Berlin over a two-year term in 2010 and 2011.

Haupstadtkulturfonds has a budget of 10.2 Million Euros available for the following artistic activities: architecture, design, exhibitions, visual arts, film series, literature, music, music theatre, performance art, dance, theatre, a combination of the above, interdisciplinary projects or those that promote cultural exchange.  Projects may be large or small, focus on innovative approaches contributing to the further development of the arts or build on and add to important traditions. According to Prinsler, “It is important to have the balance for the newcomers and institutions.  My vision is to take risks and at one point the jury has to decide collectively. After this process, I’ll have to go to the commission and defend the projects, and its relevance to Germany.”

Funding decisions are made by the Joint Committee for the Capital Cultural Fund in Berlin, which consists of two federal representatives and two representatives of the Berlin Senate.  Excellence in content and artistic realisation is the decisive criterion for selection. Any legal person in Germany and abroad are eligible to apply for funding as long as projects are carried out by or in cooperation with a local partner. As a rule, no institutional funding or successive project support is available. Thus, institutions and individuals may be granted funding only once every three years. However, exceptional cases apply where the Joint Committee may decide to fund recurring events organised by Berlin institutions upon the jury’s recommendation. Currently, this applies to the Karneval der Kulturen[ix], the internationales literaturfestival berlin[x], the dance company, Sasha Waltz & Guests, [xi] the international dance festival, Tanz im August,[xii]Musik Festival Young.Euro.Classic[xiii] and Tanzschwerpunkt. [xiv]The aforementioned receives three-year annual funding, which represents approximately 30% of the HKF budget (total 3,350,000 Million Euro).  This leaves a substantial sum of 6,850,000 for all general applicants.

Solistenensemble Kaleidoskop production “Fluktuation 09: Teil 1: FREMDE ORTE”, Stage Design& Direction: Anna Kubelik Photo: Adam Berry.

A closer look into the HKF funded projects reflect an interesting balance of those that come from established cultural bodies and those who have yet to make a mark in the Berlin landscape.[xv] When asked about the process of achieving a fair proportion of HKF grants that go directly to public institutions rated alongside those from the independent scene, Prinsler comments  “a lot of the institutions in Berlin are not rich. They have the space but no money to realise projects.” Ideally, HKF awards should be combined with other grants.  Projects already receiving federal funding through other institutions are not eligible for Fund awards. The relevant institutions are the German Federal Cultural Foundation (Halle an der Saale)[xvi], the Fonds Darstellende Künste e.V.[xvii], the Fonds Soziokultur[xviii], the Deutscher Literaturfonds (Darmstadt)[xix], the Deutscher Übersetzerfonds (Berlin) [xx]and the Kunstfonds e.V. (Bonn). [xxi]

Indeed, HKF has opened great opportunities for the many freelance artists to flourish, maintain and set-up their own structures over time.  Performing arts companies like Contanza Macras/Dorky Park[xxii], Rimini Protokoll[xxiii], Post Theater (New York/Berlin/Tokyo), The Opera Ensemble Novoflot[xxiv], Two Fish[xxv], Solistensemble Kaleidoskop [xxvi]are among those who’ve succeeded in making a mark in Berlin and continue to resonate their works to the different parts of the world. Despite the limitations of providing fixed or stable financing for artistic groups, HKF has enabled these young creative people to start building their portfolio, network and gain access as well as exposure, initially within the city that eventually rippled off to bigger opportunities. Many of these art initiatives have been created through an open call innovative and progressive process whereby the independent compete alongside institutional bodies and collectively win parts of the funding allocated by the city.  These initiatives have shaped the reputation of Berlin as a center of contemporary arts and transported in critical developments across Germany, Europe and the world at large. As noted by Post Theatre’s Max Schumacher and Matthias Böttger, “The uncomplicated, visionary and generous support of the Capital Cultural Fund is of great help and the envy of artists in many countries. The Capital Cultural Fund enables not only to develop and present our productions in Berlin, but also to forge contacts and lead discussions with artists and institutions in cities around the world. We are the mobile ambassadors of Berlin’s cultural scene abroad.[xxvii]

post theater’s Express Fight Club , Photo: Marcus Lieberenz

Since the impetus comes from the artists themselves, the range of funded projects reflects the breadth of cultural life in the capital. This has been an essential element in testing new themes and aesthetics.  In recent years concepts that deal with pressing issues on the rapid changes in a globalised society have become prevalent. Concerns on guidance and declining values, changes in work and living conditions, new religion, idolatry, tradition or their loss, migration and national identity, the question of urban redevelopment, and the redefinition through artistic interventions are among the concrete themes that have emerged. The complexity of such issues often require interdisciplinary approaches and flexible structures involving an international team of artists, which is predominantly feasible with the independent scene. With the support of the HKF in Berlin arose a cultural climate that continually produce a large number of very different art forms of the highest quality, which has won great attention internationally.

The film scientist who will lead HKF in the next two years is optimistic to welcome fresh ideas that will surface from the hybrid artistic community of Berlin, “In the past, my main topic was film.  As a member of the Akademie der Kuenste[xxviii] I am familiar with theatre and the other arts. However, with my position as the Curator of Haupstadtkulutfonds, I have to go deeper into the arts. I am born in Berlin and curious to hear how others perceive the city. I’m interested to know what’s happening. Let’s see what’s on the table.”


[i] Antrags Formular is the German term for application form.

[ii] Hans Helmut Prinsler is a German film scholar and author. From 1 April 2010 he will assume the post of curator at the Capital Cultural Fund Berlin.

[iii] Sigrid Gareis, Curator for Dance and Theaters, Born 1959 in Illertissen. Lives and works in Vienna, Artistic Director Tanzquartier Vienna (2000 – summer 2009).

[iv] Dr. Dirk Luckow is a German Art Historian and Curator. He is the Director of Deichtorhallen Hamburg <

[v] Peter Riegelbauer  is a musician and member of the Berliner Philharmoniker

[vi] Barbara Sichtermann is a German Scriptwriter<

[vii] Dr. Mark Terkessidisis a German Psychologist, journalist, author and migration researcher. His main focus is on youth and pop culture, migration and racism. <

[viii] Christine Wahl is a German journalist. She has been a member of various juries, including that of the Mülheimer Theatertage and the Berlin Senate. Source <

[ix] Karneval der Kulturen<

[x] the internationales literaturfestival berlin<

[xi] Sasha Waltz & Guests<

[xii] Tanz im August<

[xiii] Musik Festival Young.Euro.Classic<

[xiv] Tanzschwerpunkt<

[xv] To view the HKF statistics for 2010, visit <

[xvi] Kulturstiftung des Bundes

[xvii] the Fonds Darstellende Künste e.V.<

[xviii] the Fonds Soziokultur<

[xix] Deutscher Literaturfonds (Darmstadt)<

[xx] Deutscher Übersetzerfonds (Berlin)<

[xxi] Kunstfonds e.V. (Bonn)<

[xxii] Contanza Macras/Dorky Park<

[xxiii] Rimini Protokoll<

[xxiv] The Opera Ensemble Novoflot<

[xxv] Two Fish<

[xxvi] Solistenenensemble Kaleidoskop<

[xxvii] Matthias Böttger und Max Schumacher, post theater, source: Haupstadtkulturfonds website: Resonanz<

[xxviii] Akademie der Kuenste<

Other Useful Links:

Beauftragter der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien

Der Regierende Bürgermeister von Berlin – Senatskanzlei – Kulturelle Angelegenheiten

Fonds Darstellende Künste <

Stiftung Kunstfonds <

Goethe-Institut <

Schering Stiftung <

Allianz-Kulturstiftung <

Stiftungssuchdienst des Bundesverbandes Deutscher Stiftungen

Kultus- und Wissenschaftsministerien der Länder (Überblick) <

Fonds Darstellende Künste <

Stiftung Kunstfonds <

Goethe-Institut <

Schering Stiftung <


Stiftungssuchdienst des Bundesverbandes Deutscher Stiftungen

Kultus- und Wissenschaftsministerien der Länder (Überblick)

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