Open Embassy for Democracy
The Open Embassy for Democracy (the “EMBASSY”): an open and protected space for working on the challenges to democracy, openness, inclusion and tolerance, a home for democracy and the arts. That is the vision for this historic place of democracy, the former American Club in Bonn Bad Godesberg. There is now a chance to make this vision a reality –but we can only do it together.
How can that work?
The idea to halt the decay of the former American Club and to create a unique place came from civil society. Together with the Montag Foundations, a project group developed initial guiding principles that will be further developed with a growing community:
This special place for democracy and the arts can only become a reality if a responsible civil society organization develops to run the EMBASSY in the long term and become the main tenant. For a funding model like this, a strong community of active project makers (“community”) needs to grow. They bring with them experience with issues of democracy such as inclusion or migration, as well as all art forms from music to action art. What counts is the shared approach: openness and commitment to dialogue and autonomous cooperation. The Montag Foundations support suitable participation formats for community growth – in terms of both funding and ideals.
Anyone who would like to get involved in one of the above-mentioned processes, who has an interest or experience in the operation of cultural institutions, or who has ideas about sustainable, future-oriented operating models – or who knows people who might be interested – can get in touch here! Contact: embassy(at)montag-stiftungen.de
Public events: current dates to follow.
For almost 50 years, the America Club was the heart of the American community and an open meeting place for formal and informal events in Bonn. The bungalow was built in 1951 as part of the HiCoG settlement in Plittersdorf in the style of the “prairie houses” of the American Midwest. With its spacious 2,000 m² on the basement and ground floors and its park-like outdoor space, the club was representative of the American lifestyle – a symbol of international relations and democratic education.
Following the decision regarding the capital city in 1991 and the relocation of the American Embassy to Berlin in 1999, the American Club was sold to Vereinigte Bonner Wohnungsbau AG (Vebowag). Thus far there have been no viable concepts for the listed building, and it is now in a very poor state and in need of renovation. The renovation costs are currently estimated at approximately 8-10 million euros.
The impulse for the project came from citizens of Bonn who have a personal connection to this special place (see also: “What is so special about the former American Club?”). They were and are concerned with saving the real estate from further decay and giving it a new, contemporary function. They approached the Montag Foundations, who took up this idea. Together with a growing community, the ideas for the EMBASSY are now being developed further.
The EMBASSY is something different and is far more than that. As an open, protected space for democracy, inclusion and tolerance, here a unique place of work – an ideas workshop – is taking shape that facilitates and enlivens the discourse between all social groups. The specific format this takes is up to the future sponsor, who will bear lasting responsibility for operation of the EMBASSY.
The Bonn-based UN organizations and sites are under special protection, as is the Bonn International School. The EMBASSY in their immediate vicinity respects these requirements. At the same time, it sets a high standard for working for democracy, openness, inclusion and tolerance. The generous frontage on the Rhine and a new solution for developing the site open up the EMBASSY to anyone wanting to get involved locally. The aim is to create a working atmosphere that is welcoming to visitors, easy to access, and at the same time offers a protected space.
The project development by the Montag Foundations follows the values formulated in the charter – the mission statement of the founder of the foundation – and is aligned with its guiding principle of “Acting and shaping with social responsibility”.
Be it through active involvement or financial support – the EMBASSY lives through the diversity of its participants and their willingness to get involved and take responsibility. In the planning, design and organization of the future artistic operation, in the development of the funding model with its form, statutes and mode of operation, and in small projects and fundraising: There are many different ways to contribute.
The contextualization of arts and democracy offers a universe of possibilities. Artists can contribute with their own artistic interventions and formats, help to develop the model for future artistic operation, and bring on board more fellow collaborators from their own networks.
The EMBASSY relies primarily on voluntary, autonomous engagement and offers a wide range of possibilities. Since the community will take responsibility for running the EMBASSY in the long term, funds for program content and rental costs need to be raised, estimated at 500,000 euros a year. Project organizers are therefore considering potential funding channels already in the planning of the project. They are checking out potential donors and discussing possible points for critique, e.g., discrimination, environmental pollution, exploitation, or warmongering.
The Montag Foundations are covering the costs of 8-10 million euro for the acquisition and renovation of the building and site, and are supporting participation formats for community building as well as the start phase of the EMBASSY’s operation after the opening. Any surpluses from the operation of the EMBASSY will flow exclusively into projects for the common good.
Many people in Bonn still have fond memories of the American Club’s past, whether of visits by high-ranking state figures such as Kennedy, their first original American hamburger, or exuberant celebrations. In what was then the German capital, during the Cold War the American Club embodied individualism, liberality and personal responsibility. Not least the American intention to promote democratic education in Germany in the sense of a “re-education” makes this place a cradle of democracy work and international friendship. Internationality has shaped the character of what is now a UN city ever since.
Bonn, with its significant history in the context of reconstruction, stands for the democratic development of the young Federal Republic of Germany, for a diverse civil society commitment, for culture and art. Bonn is home to numerous foundations, associations and societies, including Welthungerhilfe and Aktion Mensch e.V. It’s the perfect environment for the EMBASSY.