Goethe-Institut Libanons Emergency Relief Fund
The initiative is aimed at partner institutions and people affected by the August 4th explosion. The overarching goal is to support cultural institutions and individuals with a variety of measures enabling them to carry on their work.
The devastating explosion that hit the heart of Beirut on August 4th, 2020, coupled with the economic crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic, threatens the future of Lebanon as a cultural hub for the region. Operating in a context where there is barely any public infrastructure for cultural work, institutions and museums in the country have been struggling to provide spaces for freedom of expression and dissemination of culture and knowledge, and are facing existential challenges.
Moreover, the artistic and cultural practice of independent cultural workers and artists in Lebanon, depending on the support, infrastructure and network of these institutions, faces major challenges. Parallel to the loss of support from these institutions and other sources of income, many are struggling with significant losses on a personal level, such as the loss of their working spaces and the damage to their technical equipment and working materials caused by the explosion.
“Postpone, cancel, adapt and react: Action verbs that have been dominating our daily conversations within the team as well as our discussions with long-standing partner institutions of the institute for more than a year. Then the unthinkable occurs on August 4th, 2020. You stop and wonder; how does one adapt to this?
Building a network of solidarity within and around the Lebanese cultural sector was the only direct response we could consider within the program department of the Goethe-Institut.”
…underlines Konrad Siller, director of the Goethe-Institut Libanon, when explaining the idea behind the Emergency Relief Fund. This latest initiative of the institute - which has been continuously operating in Lebanon since 1955 - is directed at its long-term partner institutions and individuals in their networks. As the institute’s premises were heavily damaged in the explosion on August 4th, the initiative was launched by the whole team working from home.
The relief fund, which was designed to be broad and flexible to respond to needs in times of crisis, has been well received by the cultural sector;
Christine Tohmé, director of Ashkal Alwan, The Lebanese Association for Plastic Arts, emphasizes that “the severe and compounded crises the country is currently facing are threatening to undo decades worth of civic engagement. Thus, the Goethe-Institut’s initiative will first and foremost allow institutions such as Ashkal Alwan to consolidate their networks of care, providing urgent resources that will, in turn, be geared towards and redistributed to artists and cultural practitioners in the country facing conditions of precarity and isolation."
In the same vein, Zeina Arida, director of Sursock Museum, stresses that “in the aftermath of the explosion, the Goethe-Institut Emergency Relief Fund constitutes a useful and sensitive grant. The conditions and procedures are well-adapted to the context. As such, the flexibility of the grant will permit us to dedicate the fund to our specific needs of preserving and protecting the Sursock Museum’s collection and archives. We will be able to acquire specialized equipment and material for rehousing and preservation that are not available in Lebanon. In addition, the simplicity of the application and the helpfulness of the Goethe-Institut team, attune to the situation on the grounds, avoid adding any further burden in these tense times.
The Goethe-Institut Libanon has proven to be once again a perceptive and valuable actor within the Lebanese cultural sector. We are thankful to be able to count on their solidarity through this hardship.”
A total budget of more than 75.000 EUR has been made available under two funding schemes:
The first, “Goethe-Institut for Partners”, concerns direct support for institutions. Details about each institution and the support provided are given below.
While for the second, “Goethe-Institut and Partner”, a list of independent cultural practitioners and artists who have been materially affected by the explosion has been drawn up in cooperation between the partner institutions and the Goethe-Institut and their needs were identified to best support them.
Details about the supported institutions and projects
• Sursock Museum's Dusting Campaign (https://sursock.museum)
In the wake of the explosion and faced with a badly damaged archive collection, the need for proper archiving and preservation of the museum collection emerged.
The museum has decided to use the available funds to acquire the necessary archival and conservation material from Germany, for the proper storage and preservation of photographs, paintings and postcards from the Fouad Debbas Collection, while operating with interns as a main support and on a rotational basis.
• Irtijal's Technical Equipment for the Offices (http://irtijal.org/irtijal)
Preparing Irtijal's new chapter in its 20-year history, the team is determined to play an active role in supporting the local music scene, now more than ever.
Planning a series of online and live events, as well as workshops and commissions for Lebanese composers, as a way to keep the creative process going while providing musicians and technicians with much needed work, Irtijal will thus acquire with the available funds the technical equipment it needs to be able to achieve its goal.
• Beirut Art Residency's Small Grants for Fine Art Students (https://www.beirutartresidency.com)
BAR has made it its priority to provide financial support for students of fine arts from several universities in Lebanon, as these students have access to limited resources, if not none.
Ensuring the continuity of their creative work throughout their education is an urgent priority for BAR's team. The fund will be divided into several small grants, enabling students to cover the material and logistical costs associated with the production and publication of their works.
• Maqamat Beit el Raqs Dance Theater's Space for Dance (https://www.maqamat.org)
Organizer of the Beirut International Platform of Dance (Bipod), Maqamat wants to support and secure the artistic progress and cultural development that has been achieved so far in the field of dance and dance theater, all the while supporting individuals from their network.
In the hope of giving the younger generation the opportunity to discover dance and its creative potential, Maqamat will use the allocated fund to develop Free Dance Space, a program which aims to offer free dance lessons to the public, and across different locations in Lebanon.
• Beirut Art Center's Online Directory (http://www.beirutartcenter.org)
In the midst of local and regional uprisings further amplified by a global health crisis, Beirut Art Center (BAC) is exploring this new reality through initiatives that go beyond its halls.
The allocated funds will thus be used to launch an online directory that will link the network of cultural workers, skilled technicians, academics, and various collaborators and interlocutors involved in BAC projects.
• Hammana Artist House (HAH)'s Restoring Connections (https://www.hah-lb.org)
As a direct reaction to the explosion, the HAH decided to create opportunities for concrete work and action and to provide a space for work in an environment that had been in a state of crisis long before the devastating event.
The allocated funds will thus be used to make HAH's space available for a series of project-based short residencies for locally based artists. Each artist will be invited to spend a week at the HAH, where they will be provided with work space and support.
• ASSABIL’s Technical Equipment and Books for the Libraries (http://www.assabil.com)
ASSABIL, whose financial resources have already been cut in an unprecedented manner, has suffered enormous material loss as a result of the explosion, with the three public libraries of the Beirut municipality it administers being severely damaged.
Faced with such a deadlock, ASSABIL has decided to divide the allocated fund between the acquisition of necessary books from local writers and translators and the purchase of stationary and technical equipment to resume its outreach activities and to reopen its three spaces as fully functional libraries.
• Arab Center for Architecture (ACA)'s Archiving Operation of Modern Heritage Buildings (http://www.arab-architecture.org)
In response to the explosion, ACA had to react on two fronts: firstly, to repair the damage that had been done to its offices, and secondly, to quickly address what needed to be done on site to best preserve the city's modern heritage.
ACA will thus use the allocated fund to pursue both the documentation and archiving work and, at a later stage, to develop an outreach program to further shed light on the current state of the damaged but yet neglected buildings, while at the same time advocating specific repair methods.
• Ashkal Alwan's Technical Equipment for the Space (https://www.ashkalalwan.org)
Ashkal Alwan's team is currently working on the urgent restoration of the space as a response to the emergency situation in which it finds itself and to support the urgent needs of the artists, collectives and cultural workers affected by the explosion.
The relief fund will help cover the costs for repairing and replacing damaged equipment, with the aim of providing suitable working spaces for collectives and independent cultural practitioners and artists who have lost their work spaces as a result to the explosion or who have been unable to secure a space for this purpose due to the financial crisis.
• Seenaryo’s Theater Micro-Projects (http://www.seenaryo.org)
In view of the many crises Lebanon has been facing, Seenaryo launched a series of five emergency theater micro-projects in September 2020, working with young people from different areas in Beirut. The projects provided space for children to create, imagine and play; to process the trauma they have been through, come together and learn.
After collating evaluation from these five pilot projects, Seenaryo was staggered by the positive impact of these projects, which have provided a crucial lifeline for many of the beneficiaries. Seenaryo therefore proposed to deliver five more micro-projects within the framework of the emergency relief fund.