Int. Künstlerhaus Villa Concordia / Bamberg, Bavaria, Germany

Int. Künstlerhaus Villa Concordia / Bamberg, Bavaria, Germany

for writers, composers and fine artists

‘We believe that new art should be talked about, should be read, seen, heard and experienced.

…Art exists and lives not just through the artists themselves, but also through those who read it, look at it and listen to it.’

According to this credo the very dedicated cultural and art supportive people of the Künstlerhaus Villa Concordia realise a truly intercultural exchange and open house programme.
It is boosted by a spectacular place, a baroque-classicistic palace itself located at the old town of the Bavarian trade city of Bamberg, and well-sustained by the Ministry of Culture of the Free State of Bavaria.
The Artist Residence is in its 16th year of existence, also introducing the new European candidate countries, like the Czech Republic in 1999. The fix personnel comprises five persons who are taking care of organisational matters, communication
and also of the publications such as yearbooks and CD’s.
The director of the Künstlerhaus herself is not only manager, but also artist herself: the writer and poet Nora-Eugenie Gomringer. She is in charge of this position since nearly five years, bringing in not only managing skills, but also a vivid artistic side and art connections.

Before, head of the institution was Bernd Goldmann – of course in that period the focus of his work was mainly the construction of an emerging AIR and the rehabilitation of the buildings.
Yes, plural, as it is not only the building of Villa Concordia with it’s new glass building
attached in the garden, which is hosting six double storey artists’ apartments with view to the beautiful baroque garden and the river Regnitz.
The first residential year after their construction was 1999, before there were two other buildings hosting, a rented one at Schillerplatz and one of them still serves
as a residence and working place:
At the building at Neuer Ebracher Hof, in short walking distance, the other six apartments, studios and working ateliers are to be found. The administrative offices are located at Villa Concordia since 2003, after completing the renovation works there.

It is a dream spot working in these wide and high stuck decorated premises, including a library, the exhibition area flooded with natural light, where at present the former resident fine artist Ryszard Kajzer is presenting his poster works.
Some pick up regional symbols and icons Bamberg is known for, like he did with the city contour of ‘seven mountaintops and eight church spires’. Ryszard Kajzer also
brought three large banners of a former artistic project, which were hanged on the garden wall.
All fine artists have the chance to present their works in an up to six weeks long exhibition. If collectors want to purchase a piece of art, the AIR is commissioning without charging any fee.
But Villa Concordia is not only taking care of the current artists, the colleagues take a lot of efforts to stay in touch with their alumni and to keep the collaboration alive. From time to time artists keep coming back for realising an art or educational project in interaction with the Künstlerhaus and other institutions of the region.

Special about this AIR is that the residency term is nearly one year for all 12 annual fellows. The cast always consists of half German artist and half are representatives / nationalities of one selected country, a country to be introduced in the cultural fields of literature, music and fine arts during this year.
So, the assembly is always four writers, four composers/musicians and four fine artists of all sectors. Usually the authors get to live at the biggest ateliers as they mainly work in their place, but surely there is no need for complaints regarding accommodation or any other need. All residents receive 1.500 Euro per month, free accommodation where also family and friends are welcome, only pets have to stay away (which is more about allergies than not wanting animals).
But unfortunately it is an issue for some artists of any league to leave their dogs or cats at home for so long. And for sure the residents can be convinced to receive any possible support in realising their projects.
Not only that the fellows will be introduced in a common welcoming evening, moreover solo events are organised if time and budget allow.

Residents of 2014/2015
The group photo shows (from left to right): Jesús Palomino (fine artist), Javier Salinas (author), Steffen Wick (composer), Michaela Eichwald (fine artist), Brigitta Muntendorf (composer), Michele Di Menna (fine artist), Christine Pitzke (author), José María Sánchez-Verdù (composer), Kerstin Specht (author), Alberto Posadas (composer), Ricardo Menéndez Salmón (author).
Fine artist Antonio R. Montesinos is missing on this photo taken on 15th of April 2014 as he arrived for his fellowship at Villa Concordia later in June.
(photo by Tobias Bohm)

Selection and Board
The fellows cannot apply, but are selected only – fitting the high reputation approach.
The invitation is pronounced by the Cultural Ministry of the State Chancellery of Bavaria, as well as all official letters are sent via this office in Munich.
So, the renowned and high range institution usually welcomes well-situated artists with a lot of award winners amongst them. The selection committee includes representatives of the Free State of Bavaria, the town council (the mayor Dr. Christian Lange), the Villa Concordia board, and artists. The complete Board of Governors is registered on the homepage.
The former owner
The renovation of this former Böttinger building, constructed out of sandstone 1716-1722 and appearing like a Venetian water palais, is truly remarkable. The house was the second one constructed for his 12-headed family, the first one is just down the little cobble stone street towards the city centre, passing by an ancient beer brewery.
Johann Ignatz Tobias Böttinger (1675-1730) was a counsellor of the archbishop and made his fortune also through arms trade. This also had an influence on the wall and ceiling decors showing tribute to this fact e.g. in the representative stairs and hallway to the auditorium.

The main goal of the AIR is to get in touch and interact with one another via the arts. To bond with the locals, to enable the fellows to realise projects at municipal locations or public spaces and to collaborate with residents of Bamberg, this is what the staff indeed succeeds to realise. Not only to present the Villa as an open house with exhibitions and evening events as lectures, concerts and round tables, in the hall as well as in the garden, but to really carry out the art productions created during this 11 months of their stay, beginning in April each year.
Example Jesús Palomino:
In September 2014 he will set up an installation next to the info flyers at the town hall with the topic of gender discrimination and equal rights, based on researches of a Scandinavian philosopher. You can see all current residents here.
In summertime, parallel to when the Festspiele Bayreuth take place not far from Bamberg, there is a special collaboration with the local antiques-shops.
This liaison was established years ago and  is happening during the ‘Bamberger Kunst- und Antiquitätenwochen’ where contemporary art is shown to mark a reflectable contrast.
Many visitors and short-term guests are in town and take profit of the intercultural exchange with the national and international fellows.

 Neighborhood of Villa Concordia.

Actually, it is a true gift to be invited for spending creative time whether hiding away within this idyllic decelerated atmosphere at the dead end of Concordia Street of the medieval old town. Surely it is a place where an artist can find inspiration and muse, having the freedom of interacting with the citizens. Famous Icelandic writer Einar Kárason joined one of the local soccer clubs, for example.
Just walking around these hilly meandering roads, rolling along the river Regnitz, crossed by many bridges, and passing the well-obtained half-timbered houses from the 13th/14th century is so inspiring. On this sunny summers’ day life in this city seems to be full of ease and joy – all the cafés and terraces are loaded, people strolling along the many, many fruit and vegetable market stalls and eating ice-cream. The townscape is typical for the region of Franken, quite alike to Nuremberg just a one hours’ drive further south.
View from one of the many bridges towards the Künstlerhaus.
And left: the old town hall of Bamberg.

Who wonders that until now a large amount of artworks created during the residency or after are fruits of the residency, as there can be named e.g. Mariana Leky with her book ‘Erste Hilfe’ or the Rondi at the Sala Terrena painted by Miron Schmückle.
There is the agreement that no paintings or artworks of the nearly 60 fine artist residents stay at the house – this would be just too much to take care of, in terms of insurance etc., but Schmückle’s work is the only exception.
This artwork was purchased by the Rotary Club of Bamberg and given to the Villa as a present.
All facilities are open and usable for the residents. A boat pier has been set up to connect the riverbanks.
Well, another, a rather practical artwork remained at the Villa:  Stephanie Weiß, deputy director, shows the BBQ grill constructed by Ognian Petkov from Burga, Bulgaria, who was recycling old metal pieces for constructing it which he collected in Bamberg. Who would not love it and imagine an entertaining garden party in good company?

The audience coming to the events are a dedicated strain of spectators plus friends of the resident artists. Mostly the cultural programme is offered admission free.
Also the architect who planned the additional sections of the building, Olaf Struck, by now retired, is coming over regularly to enjoy the programme, but also to get honest feedback about the practicalities of his construction.
The institution is in the comfortable situation of being relatively safe in terms of finances. Anyway, there is a sponsoring association (Förderverein). The house is grateful to be not entirely dependent on grants and funding from third parties, but is welcoming support wholeheartedly.
AIR collaboration meeting
Also in terms of collaborating with other AIRs, the Villa Concordia is engaged in fostering and setting up common projects. For example the house was hosting the annual meeting of directors of residencies this year, welcoming colleagues of about ten other AIRs, like the Villa Massimo, Rome, Centro Tedesco Di Studi Veneziani, Venice, Künstlerhaus Villa Waldberta in Feldafing am Starnberger See, European House of Art Schafhof in Freising/Munich, Künstlerhaus Schloss Balmoral in Bad Ems or the Heinrich-Böll-Haus in Cologne.
Together with the ‘Künstlerhaus Schwandorf-Fronberg’ there is the tradition of commonly setting up annual concerts at Schwandorf.

Nora-Eugenie Gomringer, director of Villa Concordia, Bamberg
(photo by Tobias Bohm)

More info you can find on the website and on the Facebook-page of Villa Concordia.

Photos: Tobias Bohm, A.M.;
Interview with Stephanie Weiß, deputy director, and Felix Liedel, trainee,
International Künstlerhaus Villa Concordia, 1st August 2014