Open letter about the restructuring of the
Goethe-Institutes in Canada
Dear friends and partners of the Goethe-Institut
In recent weeks we have received a lot of letters,
emails and calls with regards to the upcoming changes at the Canadian
Goethe-Institutes in both Montréal and Toronto. Your interest in the
restructuring process of the Goethe-Institut Toronto is, of course, greatly
appreciated and we understand your concerns. Many of you have requested that
we should reconsider the decisions that have been taken.
There is even an online petition to this effect.
Others have told us, however, our plans make perfect
sense and might work very well. Whatever your personal position on this
matter, we would like to thank you for sharing your thoughts with us, and
particularly for your kind words of appreciation of the cultural
contributions of the Goethe-Institut Toronto. We are truly grateful for your
continued support, your partnership and collaboration and your overall
commitment to our work as part of the Canadian-German exchange.
The credit, however, goes to my colleagues who
have really done a great job in this city for so many years.
The Globe and Mail noted on April 18, 2007
that the Goethe-Institut Toronto
"has been a model of cultural diplomacy": "For more than 40
years, the Toronto Goethe-Institut has been a hub of activity and a centre
for dialogue between Canadian artists and their European counterparts." And
this compliment describes exactly how we intend to continue our work in the
future of bringing Canadians and Germans closer together. In addition to the
information you have gathered from our previous press release and recent
coverage in the Canadian media, please let me share some information with
you, in order to shed more light on developments here.
In the past, we have often successfully carried
out events together with Canadian partners in their venues. The decision to
transfer our own programs and integrate them entirely into Canadian
supporter and partner organizations certainly has positive aspects and
follows on previously proven experiences. Therefore, it's nothing new at all
to embed our programs in Canadian establishments. To name a few
3rd European Union
Film Festival 2007 at the Royal Cinema in Little Italy with Oskar
Roehler's grim, funny, moving and thought-provoking film Elementary
Particles, based on Michel Houellebecq's controversial novel which
has acquired cult status. As NOW magazine wrote the day of the festival
opening, it is hard to understand why this movie (like most films in our
festival) has never been screened in Canada before. That's exactly what
the Goethe-Institut is here for: to offer you a unique chance to see
German films you may have missed at the Toronto International Film
Festival, or which are otherwise unavailable.
In spring 2007, for the joint presentation
of the Canadian launch of Henckel von Donnersmarck's Academy Award
winner The Lives of Others along with Mongrel Media, we chose the
Isabel Bader Theatre.
These days visitors can marvel at Thomas Demand's amazing work
Gate on 9-11 as part of the exhibition The Constructed Image:
Photographic Culture during this year's CONTACT Photography
Festival, currently on view at the Museum of Contemporary Canadian Art.
It was our pleasure to make it possible to include Demand in this show.
Toronto has a great art and gallery scene, which is ideally suited to
present this work in a Canadian context.
Similarly, the Goethe-Institut Toronto contributed as a co-partner
on many levels to The Power Plant's recent shows on Daniel Richter
and Make Your Own Life: Artists In & Out Of Cologne which
focussed on Martin Kippenberger and his circle.
Likewise, our Mayors' Symposium during the Toronto Meets Berlin
series, which was part of the Canadian-German Festival, took place at
We celebrated World Theatre Day 2007 at the Gladstone Hotel, with
the Playwrights Guild of Canada and the
Consulate General of France.
Our Munk-Goethe Writers Residency is embedded in our cooperation
with the University of Toronto. We had celebrated Artists-in-Residence
from Germany at the Drake and the Gladstone Hotels as well as German
authors at various Authors Festivals across Canada.
Our New Music concerts with contemporary composer stars such as
Lachenmann and Kagel deserved to be presented in the prestigious Glenn
DJs like Paul van Dyck and Chris Liebing belong in the Guvernment
club, new German Pop in the Horseshoe or Lee's Palace.
Finally, all activities outside Toronto and
Montréal happen at Canadian venues anyway.
- This year we celebrated the highly successful launch of Eh! U -
Meet the Europeans!
We are thrilled to illustrate the richness,
creativity and diversity of German cultural life and to show a full slate of
exciting premieres from across the Atlantic. Having said that, we decided to
introduce a cost-cutting plan, allowing us to present future projects with a
higher degree of visibility in Canadian partner venues. As I have explained
before, to spend as much on rent for a German gallery
or our own theatre, concert hall and library as we currently do, just is not
viable anymore. This will also be the perspective for the Goethe-Institut in
Montréal. The exact time frame for Montréal, however, has yet to be
As we all know, restructuring always denotes
adaptation and change. The good news is that we will continue our work at
the Goethe-Institutes in Canada in full force on all operational levels. As
alluded to above, our budget for cultural and educational activities will
expand -thus also benefiting less centrally-located Canadian cities- when it
is no longer tied to the fixed costs of steadily increasing infrastructure
such as the rental of highly expensive event space. As you can see, we have
arrived at these decisions, which were not easy ones for us, not purely
through financial considerations, but rather via strong conceptual
Also of significance is the new alignment of our
institute's network in terms of our global strategy. Shifts on this level
are a completely normal and, indeed, a necessary process for "global
players", determined by overarching political perspectives rather than the
respective local viewpoint. In cooperation and agreement with the Department
of Foreign Affairs of Germany and members of the German parliament, the
Goethe-Institut has therefore decided to initiate the kinds of changes you
are observing in Canada. The decision has been made. Still we believe we
will turn this into a win-win situation for everyone.
On July 1, 2007 the Goethe-Institut Toronto will
change its mode of operation. As a result of this restructuring process
there will be some visible changes for the public on King St W:
We would like to take this opportunity to inform you that a new
Media Lounge will be opened on the second floor of the institute. Much
of the library's material will find its way upstairs into the Media
Lounge, and we will continue to add the latest and greatest in books,
DVDs, CDs, newspapers and magazines from Germany in the future. The
format for the Media Lounge will be somewhat different from what you are
currently used to. Reference resources, for the most part, will be
transferred into the hands of the Toronto Public Reference at Yonge &
Bloor. Children's materials will be transferred to the German School.
Otherwise, you can expect to find a fine selection of the very best of
what German writers, artists, musicians and filmmakers have to offer.
The dates for the opening of our Media Lounge will be announced shortly.
Please check our website for updates:
At the end of June 2007, the Goethe-Institut Toronto will give up
its gallery, its movie theatre, its library and reception area on King
- The Institut will remain on the second floor of its present
location. The new entrance is moving to the other side of the building
and the address is turning into 100 University Ave.
To sum it all up
Cassandra never was my favourite figure in Greek
mythology. When a door closes, a window opens.
Will the GI support art shows in Canada involving German artists?
Is it possible to present German movies and filmmakers in Toronto?
Can we establish new forms of collaborations with local Canadian
Are we saying "Mission accomplished"? No way.
The show will go on. We will continue to offer German
culture, language and information services in Canada. I would like to
invite our Canadian partners in the community and the arts scene to
arrange new long-term partnerships with us.
- Will this be the end of Canadian-German cultural exchange once we
have closed our gallery and the movie theatre? Of course not.
We would be happy to supply additional information
at any time should you have further questions. At the
same time, we encourage your future cooperation and ongoing connection with
the Goethe-Institut. Please, keep in touch with the Goethe-Institut! It's
never been easier. Would you like to receive regular updates about our
cultural programs and events? Would you like to receive regular updates
about our information and library services? All you need to do is to sign up
for our e-newsletters on our web site:
We offer an online newsletter covering current
topics related to contemporary Germany. To subscribe to the newsletter,
please send an email to
I am looking forward to seeing you soon at our
Dr. Arpad A. Sölter
163 King St. W.
Toronto, ON M5H 4C6