In the years before COVID 19 the cultural tourism to Transylvania increased steadily. Main destinations had been the Church Fortresses and cities of Transylvanian Saxons as Brasov, Sighisoara and of course Sibiu, who had been European Cultural Capital 2007. Aside the public museums and their offers Kunsthaus 7B in Cisnadioara near Sibiu developed as a center for international contemporary art. It became an important factor in the cultural tourism to Transylvaina with increasing numbers of international exhibitions and visitors. Together with the Evanghelical Church Congregation of the German speaking minority in Transylvania, we transformed the old abandoned School House into an art-space. Surprisingly, the project did not start in one of the big cities with their urban culture, but in a village where values and traditions from the 13th Century are sustaining unbroken.
How does it came to this project and why seems it to be necessary for Transylvania, Romania and Central-Europe?
My ancestors came from Transylvania, from the German speaking minority in the country between the Carpathian Mountains. I had been born in Germany, grew up in Germany and lived most of my life in Germany, not being so much aware of my roots on the Northern Balkan Peninsula.
In summer 1999 I had been first time in Romania. For me this journey had been very intensive, now I started to understand a lot about the structures and behaviors in our family and even in myself. Aside finding my roots, the trip caused new questions. The breath-taking landscape, the warmhearted politeness of the people, the awesome tasting food, all this had been a surprise for me. And then I asked myself, why people (now from Germany) go for holiday to North of Italy, in autumn for “Törgelen” to taste the new grape-juice and young wine? Why they are not coming to Transylvania?
After some years of travelling through Romania I remarked something particular: It seems to me that Romanian people don’t take culture for serious. They don’t take their own culture for serious. It seems to me, that the reason for that lack of believing in the own cultural productivity lies deeper in history, then in the years of communism. Of course, in times when intellectuals landed up in the Danube-Black Sea Channel, shoveling soil without any protection walls, then it is better no one is aware of the interest in sciences and culture. And on the other side, the officially declared intellectuals of Ceaucescu-Regime appeared helpless – they simply didn’t know how to be intellectual.
The countries along the river Danube are regions with enormous outstanding cultural skills as talents in music, literature, theater and visual arts. There is a long tradition of appreciating this. The Danube Area is one of the most creative areas in the world, evoking genius talents on almost all fields of cultural activities.
I decided to support contemporary-artists especially from Romania. I felt responsible for the people of my country and still I am convinced, that art from Central Europe should be placed again, where it belongs to, into the Center of Europe. Aside taking historical sites as castles and church-fortresses for serious, it is highest time that the Romanians taking their contemporary culture for serious. Art is transporting values and the culture of a land always describes the codes how people are behaving. Who is not caring about the contemporary culture of a country is not taking care, how its people are behaving.
Especially in Romania I found enormous skilled young artists, who preserved the values of the “homo europaeus” as Prof. Victor Neumann called him. The “homo europaeus” is well educated, world-open, travelling, studying abroad, caring friendships all over the world, speaking several languages, empathic and blessed by a natural courtesy, understanding art in the meaning of enlightenment as something higher focusing the human being and the human reason.
This new generation of Romanian artists stayed abroad. They know how life could be. They are free of suffering from communist or post-communist trauma, and they are free of the urge in coping western experimentalism. They believe in enlightenment and responsibility and creating a new, more refined time-less and space-less art. I think it is worth to support this artistic movement.
In 2017 I decided together with the Evanghelical Church Congregation of the German speaking minority to transform the old German speaking schoolhouse of the Transylvanian Saxons into an art-space, in order to create an exhibition space for Romanian and international artists. The idea is, that in Kunsthaus 7B as we called it, (the title of the project is a short version of the German word for Transylvania “Siebenbürgen”), artists from the Danube area and other regions of Europe are meeting with cultural interested people from all over the world, collectors, curators, journalists or just tourists appreciating art. With our global network of contacts in the art-world, that had been created through my activities as a collector, Kunsthaus 7B wants to be a stepping stone for artists from the Danube region to international careers. This project would not be possible without the support by the people from the village and the members of the Evanghelical Church Congregation in Cisnadioara.
The project is financially sustained by earnings from art-sales, contributions by the Church Congregation and me. Of course, the Corona caused travelling restrictions in 2020 creates a horrible financial situation for our artists and us. At this moment we are depending more and more on the philanthropic support of families, who support the idea of Kunsthaus 7B and who understand, that it is important for Transylvania, Romania and Central Europe that private cultural projects sustain this period. They are giving us hope and motivation to continue.
This article was published first on October 25th, 2020 on the blog of Thomas Emmerling. The original article can be found here.