Welcome Address of Michael Haerdter

Ladies and Gentlemen, Friends and Colleagues,
Welcome to India and at the Sanskriti Foundation!

Let me state right away on my behalf – but maybe on behalf of all of you as well – that I am very happy to be here and very grateful for O.P. Jain's invitation to his marvellous Sanskriti Kendra of Sanskriti Pratishthan.
 
We are glad to see old friends and colleagues again and glad to welcome a good number of new members.
 
O.P. Jain belongs to the "primary rock" of Res Artis. Over the past four years he has been an untiring member of our board and one of the most creative contributors to developing our Association. Most exactly three years ago, O.P. Jain hosted a meeting of our Executive Committee at Sanskriti Kendra. Thank you, O.P., that you have taken upon yourself and your organization to host the large Res Artis family this year!
 
None of our former five General Meetings have been just another meeting. Every single one – the inaugural one in Berlin; the 2nd in Catalonia/Spain; the 3rd in Hungary; the 4th at The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Ireland, of our Secretary Bernard Loughlin (whose absence here we much regret); in Cassis/France last year: every single one had its own specific character and charm and brought us forward in our work, sometimes – as in Hungary – by making us aware of our deficiencies. It is no exaggeration to state that our AGM's are the most valuable product Res Artis has realized to date.
 
Saying to be happy being here, in India and at Sanskriti's, is not just a formula of politeness.
 
We had a most attractive invitation by Suzanne Fetscher to join the Atlantic Center for the Arts in Florida with our 1998 AGM. However, when discussing among our members where to go, the argument proved to be strongest that in our sixth year of existence Res Artis should definitely leave the Euro-American cultural sphere and become visibly and practically what we claimed to be from the start: a global organization. We belong to the world at large, even if that is at the expense of some of our members who could not afford to travel as far as India. Let me gratefully mention here the assistance granted by our US affiliate Res Artis America, the Bedminster Fund and Bill Smart who launched an initiative assisting some of our members by contributing half of their travel costs. Thank you, Bill and Christine Allen! And thank you, Nadia Khromchenko and Clayton Campbell for combining your efforts and generosity – of UNESCO's International Fund for the Promotion of Culture and the 18th Street Arts Complex – in granting the travels and stay of Phillda from Nairobi and LaoZhu from Beijing.
 
Let me sum up some of the events since our last AGM at the picturesque Camargo Foundation in Cassis/France on the Mediterranean.
 
In Cassis, Res Artis left behind its pioneer years by our holding the first formal elections to the Executive Committee of the Association. As a result of its previous opening toward Central Europe with our Kaleidoscope scheme, Aneta Szylak, driving spirit within the Wyspa Progress Foundation in Gdansk/Poland, became an executive member.
 
Our affiliate Res Artis America gets a concrete dimension with three members of the Alliance of Artists' Communities being voted into our Board – Kathryn Reasoner, Tricia Snell and Clayton Campbell.
 
It is the beginning of a closer co-operation of the two sister organizations. As a guest of the annual conference of the Alliance in San Antonio/Texas at the end of September, I had the opportunity to learn more about our US-American relatives and their policies and procedures, and to make them aware of our international congregation by presenting a number of our member centres with slides and by speaking shortly about the ,philosophy' behind our work. As a result some new American members have joined Res Artis or they are on their way to do so.
 
In February of this year, another national group of residential arts centres have recognized their coherence and formalized their co-operation: a representative number of Künstlerhäuser – or artists' centres – in Germany gathered in Lauenburg on the river Elbe and adopted the Lauenburg Declaration as a sign of their identity and as a weapon against political and economic threat. The first meeting of this group had been hosted by the Akademie Schloss Solitude in 97. The third meeting will be held early next year in the Palatinate where some of the best german wines are growing. There is quite some work yet to do in order to actually develop co-operation, but some tasty bottles will make the job easier. You will learn about the place and dates in time. Guests from among the larger Res Artis membership will of course be most welcome.
 
Mutual information and communication with and among the general Res Artis membership are still underdeveloped, we have to admit.
 
The main reason being the lack of funds and funding since the beginning of our network in 1993. A transnational organization like ours finds itself by definition between at least two stools: national sponsors, private or public, do not respond when it comes to institutional funding which Res Artis so badly needs; supranational ones, as mainly the relevant bodies of the European Union, are not recognizing so far the existence and impact of the many cultural networks that have come to light during the past decade, let alone providing substantial means for their survival or prosperity. Thus we do very much rely on ourselves, and on private sponsors whose interest and affection for what we are and what we do we still hope to rouse in the near future.
 
With the exception of some occasional part-time assistants financed through limited special funds, Res Artis' activities continue to be steered by a small group of member centres as a subplot to the main and central drama of our organizations where we all see ourselves under various pressures and to which we have to grant our full attention and responsibility.
 
However, a very constructive and harmonious meeting of our Executive Committee earlier this year in Vienna (generously hosted by Werner Hartmann and the Art Department of the Austrian Chancellery) made us recharge our ,batteries' and go on working with renewed energy for Res Artis. This is not least due to Miro Zahra, director of Schloss Plüschow, an artists' residency in Northern Germany, who joined us in Vienna.
 
Beside the preparations for this Sanskriti Conference, we concentrated mainly on improving our deficient tools of information and communication. Supported by a working group of our members, Schloss Plüschow has set up the Res Artis' Website, designed by Udo Rathke. It is active since August 1st and a good number of individual sites of member centres and programmes have meanwhile been installed. It will not only serve as the label and an advertisement of Res Artis. In a special session devoted to communication in the coming days , Miro Zahra and Laurens Schumacher will present the Website and explain how this instrument may and shall be used as a year-round forum for exchange and interaction within our membership, among our member centres.
 
In a common effort, Schloss Plüschow and Künstlerhaus Bethanien have made and published the Res Artis' Leaflet which is available to you here in New Delhi.
 
And we are in charge of editing the Res Artis' Newsletter including the presentation of new member centres, some of which we will collect here, the presentation of our Kaleidoscope Project, the report on the meeting of the German section, and a series of other important Res Artis matters. You are all cordially invited to send us (by e-mail) interesting news and contributions in connection with your actual internationl programmes for this Newsletter which we expect to be out by June 1999. The Report of this AGM will be sent to you early next year.
 
All of these measures shall get us definitely ahead in matters of information and communication.
 
I have already mentioned our Kaleidoscope Project sponsored by the European Commission, Directorate General X (ten) of the Union. A first phase of the project, funded in 1995/96, served to extend our network in central and Eastern Europe by identifying orgnizations, programmes and initiatives targeted at establishing residential centres there.
 
Having done our job, we had to be patient for two consecutive years as support for phase 2 of the project was not granted. It happened, finally, this year. Now, with a grant of almost 50.000 ECU we are already in full swing of realizing the project's second, central and practical dimension: to create and live partnerships between member centres of Res Artis in Central and Western Europe launching exchange programmes for artists and entering into hopefully long-term cultural co-operation. The eastern residential arts centres and programmes identified in the course of the Kaleidoscope Project became members of Res Artis in 1996.
 
Since then, Res Artis has assisted many of them in their effort to get securely established and funded in their home countries and cities. There is often a long and painful way to go.
 
Yet, I am proud to say that common efforts have been successful in the case of the Wyspa Progress Foundation in Gdansk/Poland whose recycled historical bathhouse has meanwhile been recognized as an official foundation for arts and artists receiving public funding from the municipality.
 
The six formal Partnerships between Res Artis members are:

  1. The National Sculpture Factory, Cork, Ireland with the Estonian Artists' Association, Tallinn, Estonia
  2. The Tyrone Guthrie Centre, Annaghmakerrig, Ireland with the Open-Air Museum and Sculpture Park, Pedvale, Latvia
  3. The Civitella Ranieri Center, Umbertide, Italy with the Studio Gallery and League of Non-Profit Art Spaces in Budapest, Hungary.
  4. The Nordic Institute for Contemporary Art, Helsinki, Finland with The Bathhouse - Wyspa Progress Foundation, Gdansk, Poland
  5. Mecklenburgisches Künstlerhaus Schloss Plüschow, Plüschow, Germany with The Centre for Meta Media, Plasy, Czech Republic
  6. Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, Germany with the International Artists Centre, Poznan, Poland.

 
Again: I am happy that we are able to gather here, in the wonderful property and under the care of the Sanskriti Foundation. O.P. Jain and his team have done a great job in organizing our meeting in its practical order of events, in terms of the earthly and the spiritual food we will be served.
 
According to suggestions from our general membership and responding to our being in India, surrounded by one of the most ancient cultures and spiritual traditions of the world, we decided to grant most of the time we will spend together to artistic and philosophical issues at the expense of the more practical or matter-of-fact topics.
 
It is our experience that these questions – including funding, fundraising, programming etc. – will be exchanged between us anyway during our informal gettings together which are such a precious element of our meetings and to which enough time will be granted. Let me wish you a memorable stay in India!