One of the older, visionary yet young at heart residency centers this world has to offer is the ufaFabrik International Culture Centre in Berlin. Campbell Consultants Group affiliate Rudolf Bruenger is one of the Managers of ufaFabrik, and explains how it promotes the commitment to culture through exchange and education. In its mission, they combine local and international cultures and thereby create a dynamic field for the participation in the arts and culture for the young and old alike.
The center has been a leader in environmental awareness and sustainability. But to this brilliant organization of artists and creatives sustainability means to bringing environmental, economic, social, and cultural issues together in a single, coherent context. This process has been in development at ufaFabrik since as early as 1976, and it continues to this day.
To do their work they have a variety of diverse platforms that creates a true community that is a model I have always admired and wished many of the other residency centers worldwide would pay more attention to.
First, this is a more of a performing arts residency center and their Stage program is dynamic, and in part has to do with the history and architecture of the UFA, the historic old film studios in use since the 1920’s. Now with three stages and a conference center, almost every day artists come together on stage at the Berlin South venue. The program includes theater, music, cabaret, vaudeville, dance, world music, and children’s circus and theater. Day events, seminars, and conferences on artistic, social, and sustainability initiatives round out the offerings. There are three multi-functional stages with 90, 180, and 260 seats, as well as the summer stage with over 500 seats.
The ethos of community goes well beyond the art making. While art brings us together, there is a strong ethos at ufaFabrik to promote youth culture. The Cultural Centre supports young talent, and young international productions. UfaFabrik provides working spaces, stage equipment, logistical support, technical expertise and “human resources” to artists, various creative groups and ensembles. The team at the Cultural Centre arranges contacts with International Exchange Programs, festivals, and institutions to give young artists access to the global stage.
Most notable though for a “residency center” is their Neighborhood Centre or NUSZ. The aims of NUSZ are to help people live independent, self-reliant lives, and to foster acceptance and tolerance for different lifestyles. When I first came to visit ufaFabrik years ago I was struck by this commitment, especially to help single mothers with children. I hadn’t seen this before at a residency center. There is a family Meeting Place headquartered in ufaFabrik, which offers courses, support, and training for children, young mothers, and families. The NUSZ – Neighborhood Centre, developed in the early days of ufaFabrik, and has continued to grow. In 1987 a separate organization was founded. Today it operates over 30 facilities and projects in Berlin, with over 290 employees working together with volunteers. The charity is headquartered in the ufaFabrik building.
Germany has become a leader in green technology and national policy to move away from fossil fuels and nuclear power. UfaFabrik was doing this two decades ago, part of the sensibility that led to the shift in political climate that change energy policy in Germany. To the organizers at ufaFabrik, ‘Sustainability’ refers to taking responsible actions in order to not only preserve the environment, but also working toward the preservation of cultural diversity and exploring new strategies for improving life and economics in the future. Active cultural participation is a basis for society’s peaceful coexistence within ufaFabrik, and the promotion of culture and the arts it is a central concern for everyone here. Sustainability has grown to become a popular idea in today’s culture, but ufaFabrik has been involved with it for Decades. They have solar panels to create energy and heating, green roofs and facades planted for insulation, and toilets, which use biologically treated rainwater to flush.
A day at the center and you will enjoy the café, used by the entire regional neighborhood as a gathering place, a true hearth for the community. You will eat some of the bread baked on the premises as one of the businesses that operates out of the center to generate earned income, while watching the students at the Tai Kwon Do center, the writers in the gardens working on their laptops, or hear the children in the pre-school playing with the ponies in the petting zoo. You might attend one of the performances offered at one of the theaters by some of the international artists in residence. It is truly a remarkable place, and to think that it all began when it was “squatted” by artists in 1976, who saw a dream in a derelict series of old film studio buildings, and through the vision and energy of hundreds of world citizens manifested a truly remarkable international center for arts and culture.
To find out more about ufaFabrik, go to : www.ufafabrik.de