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"How to Make Friends…"
Tessen von Heydebreck on Social Commitment to Culture and Corporate Citizenship

On January 20 2006, representatives from the worlds of culture, finance, and society met in the House of German Business in Berlin to discuss new ideas and strategies to fortify cultural commitment in membership and sponsoring groups. "How to Make Friends…" was the name of the symposium held by the Cultural Circle of German Business and Industry together with the Forum Future Berlin. The opening speech was held by Tessen von Heydebreck, member of the board responsible for art and cultural sponsorship at Deutsche Bank. We are documenting excerpts of his speech here.

Membership and sponsoring groups are an excellent example for a well-functioning citizens’ society. They provide an avenue for citizens to become involved out of a sense of joy or responsibility for a cultural institution or a certain cultural sector. The catchphrase "Citizens’ Commitment" was popular well before the "Year of the Honorary Position" in 2001 and the investigative commission held in this context. Particularly in the face of dwindling state support for the social and cultural fields, it sometimes comes across as a magic word.

Tessen von Heidebreck during his speech, Photo: Sophie Bertone / Kulturkreis der deutschen Wirtschaft

In Germany, we have, even by international comparison, an unusually rich and multi-faceted cultural landscape. Such a dense web of city and state theaters, museums, libraries, art galleries, and more would be inconceivable without this type of honorary support. It is of supreme importance to motivate, strengthen, and establish private commitment in the cultural sector in order to maintain this cultural diversity.

It’s not a matter of releasing the state from its responsibility to further art and culture. The discussion over juridically anchoring culture as a state goal has shown how important it is to establish this theme in society. Cultural diversity is an important factor not only for a region’s social welfare, but also for its economic well-being. And precisely in the context of the rising pluralization and individualization of our society, art and culture’s identity-generating potential takes on a heightened importance.

Yet even beyond these overarching questions, it enriches cultural life when people become interested or enthusiastic enough to chip in for "their" state theater or museum in their free time. Deutsche Bank is also a citizen of this country – and as a corporate citizen, we carry an additional social responsibility. For decades now, Deutsche Bank has demonstrated a high degree of social commitment both in Germany and on the international level, ranging from grants and sponsorship and the projects its foundations undertake to the personal commitment of its staff.

The exhibition 25 Years Deutsche Bank Collection at Deutsche Guggenheim (c) Deutsche Guggenheim, Berlin Photo: Mathias Schormann

Our experience and our understanding of ourselves tell us that supporting art and culture is not a random state of aesthetic rapture, but essential to corporate culture, including our own. Thus, for instance, the Deutsche Bank Art Collection, with over 50,000 works the largest corporate collection worldwide, has been continuously expanding since 1979 under the motto "Art at the Workplace." Again and again, we see that encountering art on the job becomes an enriching experience for numerous staff members and clients, while the presentation of contemporary and even difficult art in the unusual environment of a bank inspires people to engage in fertile discussion.

For a long time now, there’s been a growing awareness in the business world for the significance of the so-called "soft skills." Today, our information society depends on developing and utilizing people’s creative potential. It becomes increasingly clear that one-track thinking cannot do justice to our highly complex world.

Tessen von Heydebreck and Prof. Irina Antonowa, Director of the Pushkin Museum, at the opening of "Aus deutscher Sicht", an exhibition of works of the Deutsche Bank Collection

This is why we encourage our staff to get involved in projects that expand and enrich their own personal horizons. There’s a whole range of programs, for instance, in which bank staff can become involved as mentors for school children with difficult educational prospects.

In addition, with its "Initiative plus", the bank has created an instrument to support and recognize individual honorary involvement among its staff – and that on a worldwide basis. Whenever a bank staff member chips in for an institution or an initiative on his or her own free time, the bank donates 500 Euros to the institution. In this way, countless cultural initiatives and membership groups have become supported by Deutsche Bank.

Visitors at "Das MoMA in Berlin" in front of
"Dance " by Henri Matisse, Photo: Jens Liebchen

A further expression of our social commitment is the Deutsche Bank Foundation with its main areas of concentration in education, social concerns, music, and art. Among the foundation’s and bank’s numerous multi-faceted sponsoring activities are the support of membership and sponsoring groups.

The Association of the Friends of the National Gallery made one particularly prominent exhibition project possible in 2004: The MoMA in Berlin attracted 1.2 million visitors to the National Gallery. Deutsche Bank was the main sponsor of this spectacular show, whose effect on the public far exceeded all expectations. As sponsors, we learned how satisfying cooperation with the simple and unbureaucratic structures of membership groups can be.

Sol LeWitt Project I (ABCD), in the background
the line of visitors in front of the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin

Another example of our commitment has been the foundation’s support of the Faust membership group. This group was founded to enable Peter Stein to direct both parts of Faust in the context of the EXPO 2000 in Hanover. The Deutsche Bank Foundation supported the project together with the Capital Cultural Fund, the city of Vienna, the EXPO 2000, and additional private sponsors.

The Faust group offers its members several attractions, including visits to rehearsals, behind-the-scenes talks with Peter Stein, the possibility to order tickets prior to the official ticket sales, as well as several members’ meetings accompanying the project. One special feature of this membership group, however, was that it was directly linked to the Faust project, hence conceived as temporary from the very beginning.

It has been our experience that this temporal limitation made it easier for some to commit themselves to the Faust membership group. Indeed, the tendency today is that it is becoming increasingly difficult to win over long-term commitment to a membership group. The question arises as to how this commitment can still be achieved in the future, or, to return to the question posed in the event’s title: how do you keep the friends you’ve made?

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