Salzwedel is a bustling medieval town of 20,000. Its charming cobblestone streets wind between centuries-old stone buildings, with a river flowing through its center. Scarred remnants of the wall which once divided East from West Germany still remain. In the center of town, there is an abandoned four-story building covering most of a medieval block, with soaring ceilings, arched windows, and a looming clock tower. Throughout the 20th century it has been used as a private girls’ school in the early part of the century, a hospital during World War II, and a school for the Young Pioneers, part of The Free German Youth founded within the Soviet occupation zone of Germany. It has been reclaimed and is now known as Kunsthaus, an art center that features a permanent collection, visiting exhibits, and a floor dedicated to artists-in-residence and art courses.
While in residency at Hilmsen, a neighboring village, and while the renovations of Kunsthaus were under way, I invited residents who support the arts to have their portraits made. Each was asked why art is important to them, how it affects their lives, and which medium they would like to explore. Some brought their children and others arrived with their instruments. All brought enthusiasm and show of support for Kunsthaus.
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