New head of the Federal Cultural Foundation: resilience is required in the permanent crisis
A European career. She studied theater studies at the FU Berlin, influenced by the Volksbühne during the strong Castorf period. But she wrote her master’s thesis about Heiner Müller. “He was my key to understanding Germany,” says Katarzyna Wielga-Skolimowska, the former head of the Polish Cultural Institute in Berlin. Since the beginning of the year she has been artistic director of the German Federal Cultural Foundation.
Heiner Müller as a signpost? For all his pathos, the playwright, who died in 1995, was a hard realist. His gaze was global when the word didn’t sound so trite. For a cultural manager, these are good qualities that are also necessary in this phase of world history. “Our cultural institutions need resilience”: This is what she wants to work for, which she sees as a primary task at the Federal Cultural Foundation, which was founded in 2002 and is based in Halle an der Saale.
Teamwork is important
Money will be scarce in culture, climate change plays a role there, and in many places around the world there has been and is a swing to the right, in Hungary, Brazil, the USA, in Poland. She experienced it herself – how quickly the political direction changes. Resilience means preparing the institutes for a “permanent crisis”, making them resilient and opening up internationally.
She is concerned with the colonial legacy in the post-Soviet space, which basically stretches from the former GDR to Central Asia. That could become an issue for the foundation. “But we’re not an organizer,” says Katarzyna Wielga-Skolimowska. The civil law foundation supports contemporary art and culture projects – 4,000 since the beginning. This year, 40 million euros from the budget of the Minister of State for Culture are available for this purpose.
This appointment is a stroke of luck and a political sign. Katarzyna Wielga-Skolimowska has a hands-on, pragmatic manner. When she talks about diversity, sustainability and the problems of rural areas, there is nothing ideological about it. These are almost traditional themes of the Federal Cultural Foundation. She is concerned with enabling what is actually self-evident and necessary in the institutions. And that only works in a team, as she repeatedly emphasizes. She manages the foundation together with Administrative Director Kirsten Hass.
Katarzyna Wielga-Skolimowska was born in Warsaw in 1976. From 2006 to 2009 she was the curator of the Polish Year in Israel, after which she prepared the cultural program for Poland’s EU Council Presidency, under the optimistic motto “Art for Social Change”.
She also made a name for herself as a cultural ambassador in Berlin. So when the nationalist party took power in Poland, she switched to the Federal Agency for Civic Education and then to the Goethe Institute in Munich. In 2020 she went to Riyadh, set up the Goethe branch in Saudi Arabia, a job for a pioneer.
She is now taking over a well-ordered house at the Federal Cultural Foundation. Her predecessor Hortensia Völckers was also the founding director. Völckers built up the program and the identity of the foundation with its numerous cooperation partners. Wielga-Skolimowska wants to connect the topics, which also include inclusion and the promotion of young audiences. Everything is there, an excellent starting position.
Continuity. That means a new experience for them. Much in the working life of curators inevitably remains something temporary, slightly ephemeral. The Federal Cultural Foundation allows funding over several years, especially for so-called beacons such as the Berlin Theatertreffen, the Donaueschinger Musiktage, the Tanzkongress and the Documenta. Planning security in uncertain times. The summer in Kassel showed just how shaky towers can be.
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I have been working in the news industry for over 10 years now and I have worked for some of the biggest news websites in the world. My focus has always been on entertainment news, but I also cover a range of other topics. I am currently an author at Global happenings and I love writing about all things pop-culture related.
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