The art of learning

Future through education – with art as motor

Judith Eisler, Gheri Sackler and Christine König (f. l. t. r.) / photo: Marlene Rahmann

Art collector Gheri Sackler founded the private initiative platform Wiener Lerntafel, which offers free learning aid for children in need. Art also plays a major role.

“Art is all very well, but it makes a lot of work,” said the comedian Karl Valentin. Yet art can and should have a social and political impact as well. At least, this is how the art collector Gheri Sackler sees it. She is Austrian by birth but for decades has lived mainly in the USA. She is founder of the Wiener Lerntafel, a platform offering constructive educational support for schoolchildren from socially deprived families. This is sorely needed: “We have many children living here in the second or third generation who still can’t speak a word of German.” This is where the Wiener Lerntafel comes in, which is financed almost exclusively from private sources: in the meantime there are two learning centers in Vienna’s “problem districts,” also two more in Wels and Linz, where basic skills such as German, English and Mathematics are the main subjects.

However, art, too, is playing an ever more important role: “In early 2013,” relates Gheri Sackler, “the Gewista company made us the generous gift of putting up posters for us free of charge in the Vienna area.” There was no subject as yet, so the initiator of the Wiener Lerntafel had the idea along with Judith Eisler, professor at the University of Applied Arts Vienna, of organizing a poster competition for her students. The winning designs were awarded prizes and placed more of a public spotlight on the private educational institution and its agenda.But the dialog was by no means finished: Judith Eisler’s students also started to teach at the Wiener Lerntafel. Meanwhile, other supporters have stepped in. Artists represented by the Christine König Galerie on Schleifmühlgasse, including Ovidiu Anton, Natalia Zal⁄ uska, the artist duo Fulterer/Scherrer and Valentin Ruhry sensitized the pupils of the private educational facility for art and guided them in their works, which were sold at an annual Christmas market. The takings profited the Wiener Lerntafel. “We have to make it clear,” says the gallerist Christine König, “that art is not only for edification, but is a social responsibility. People who have sufficient means, whether collectors or artists, should use them for generating a social added value – especially where there are deficits. In this respect, we can learn from the USA.”

Text by Thomas Miessgang:

Thomas Miessgang, studied German philology at the University of Vienna. He worked as a journalist for many years and various media and was a curator at Kunsthalle Wien from 2000 to 2011. Since 2011, he has produced regular shows for the “Radiokolleg” and “Diagonal” programs on Radio Ö1, written for the weekly “Die Zeit” and worked as curator for numerous institutions, including the ongoing “Vienna Calling. A History of Pop Pusic” exhibition at the Wien Museum.

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