Interview with Birgit Fleischmann of the Berlin-Weissensee School of Art

Berlin, 21 December 2011, Art Media Agency (AMA).

Germany offers a particularly fertile ground for art schools and art education in Europe, Art Media Agency went to meet Birgit Fleischmann, Communications of the Berlin-Weissensee School of Art.

Can you tell us a few words about Berlin-Weissensee School of Art, its history and its missions?

The Berlin-Weissensee School of Art was founded in 1946 soon after World War II. Today it is one of the most prestigious art schools in Germany and in Europe offering a very high teaching level.

The social and cultural upheavals, the structural changes in the economy, the technical and scientific developments along with environmental issues have all resulted to a radical transformation of the challenges faced by, but also of the possibilities offered by the production of art and design. Art and design contribute to the development of our civilisation. Through their creative and graphic processes, art and design can take an active part influencing and changing our social environment and the complex forms of communication that it uses. This in the view of art and design that Berlin-Weissensee School of Art intends to convey to students within various teaching techniques.

Where does the Berlin-Weissensee School of Art and Design stand in Germany and Europe ? What programme is offered to students?

The Berlin-Weissensee School of Art (that is the right Name in English) is one of the most prestigious state schools in Germany and Europe which holds a high (university) level. The program of the school is the following:

Study Courses: BA and MA in Fine Art (with sculpturing, painting and theatre design), product design, fashion design, textile and surface design, visual communication.

Postgraduate studies (MA): Art Therapy, Space strategies

Does the Berlin-Weissensee School of Art attract many foreign students or is it mainly addressed to young Germans?

The Berlin-Weissensee School of Art this year host 824 students; approximately 28 % of them are from abroad. Special programs like the European ERASMUS offer international exchanges for our students.

On which criteria do you select students? Do you receive many applications? How many students are admitted every year?

The students are selected via portfolios and three-day-examinations. The basic criterion is the outstanding artistic qualification. Our selection is extremely rigorous. We have about 2.000 applications and we admit only 120 students yearly.

Is teaching practical or theoretical? Do you offer a traditional academic education or are you open to new techniques of contemporary art?

A further special feature of the Berlin-Weissensee School of Art is the range of intensive academic courses running the entire duration of degree courses for all students. The focus on the teaching of theory aims to promote the many and varied opportunities offered by academic investigations by imparting skills in cultural theory, aesthetics, art history and media history, as well as by nurturing students’ communicative abilities.

We offer abilities from traditional techniques like hot type, nude drawing, and so on, as well as new techniques; for example rapid prototyping, as well as a laboratory available for interactive techniques. 11 workshop ensure an optimal chance for the students to work out their ideas.

Are the classes taught by professional teachers or do you invite artists to explain their work to your students?

Both. We combine the two types of instruction which are complementary. The classes are taught by professional teachers, professors mostly. But about 25% of the study courses are made by visiting teachers, designer or artists.

Do students present their work in fairs, shows, etc. in Berlin or elsewhere?

The examination works are shown in a special exhibition hall open to public during our school open days in Berlin, every year in July. Also works made by students throughout the academic year are shown.

When students graduate, do you prepare them for the art scene? Do you create links between the students and galleries, art world experts or fairs?

In order to prepare students for their post-graduate life, first of all, the departments invite ancient and experienced graduates or other people of the art world apart from artists. Then, students have to work one semester or three months as trainees during their studies. Finally, we have established this year a place, the “Kunsthalle am Hamburger Platz”, where students can show their works, and where we invite actors from the culture and art scene of Berlin and where we invite graduates to hold lectures.