100 years POSSEHL-Foundation
Interview with Max Schön
Lübeck is your hometown, what does this mean for you? How does it feel?
Lübeck means a lot to me. I used to travel a lot as an entrepreneur and loved coming home and seeing the silhouette of the seven spires from afar. That touched me again and again. Now, through my work at the Possehl Foundation, I travel a lot on the road and enjoy the privilege of living in Lübeck and being able to do almost all the trips by bike. So I can smell and taste Lübeck. Sometimes I get wet in the rain, but I can enjoy the city with all my senses and experience every day how easily graspable the city is in size and how beautiful my hometown is – including its not so chic corners and edges.
The Possehl Foundation will celebrate its100th anniversary in 2019. Do you plan a big birthday party?
We deliberately don't have a party where we celebrate ourselves. The anniversary year starts in May with a ceremony at the Lübeck Theatre, and we invite all our applicants to thank them for their commitment. Basically, we only provide the money – the ideas and the initiative for the funding projects always come from the citizens of this city. On the occasion of the foundation's birthday, there will be a very special donation: students from Lübeck schools will receive a grant from us to donate it to a good cause. In the schools, we will then reflect and discuss what the students think to be important. Is it a break hall in your school or maybe a social project in the neighbourhood? By doing so we believe that we can convey something about the idea of donating and motivate the students to start joint projects and get involved in a good cause – in the spirit of the active civil society of this city.
What is it like to sit in the front row when you can help? Are there any projects that are particularly close to you personally?
I think it is great that, on the one hand, we as a foundation can make great contributions, such as helping to integrate refugees and migrants in our city, but also when people are in a situation of need on the other. You can often hear in Lübeck: "If nothing works out, then you have to contact the Possehl Foundation." That is a good piece of praise, and the trust it contains is very much a tribute to us, although, despite our help, not all the problems can be solved. I don't have any favourite projects, especially the "normal" daily work is really close to my heart. Even if this may sound a bit boring to others, it gives me a lot of pleasure.
In recent decades, the Possehl Foundation has contributed a great deal to the preservation of historical monuments in Lübeck’s Old Town in order to preserve the World Heritage – the beautiful cityscape. Will this work really be "finished" at some point?
The number of applications to help preserving listed houses is in fact declining, the Old Town of Lübeck has already been renovated in many areas. The cityscape has become more and more beautiful since the 1980s, and I think we can be very proud of our UNESCO World Heritage Site today. What will never stop, however, is the restoration of the great cultural monuments. These include the brick churches of the Old Town, which, despite the great commitment of the church, will always need the help of foundations. Recent funding applications are increasingly concerned with the knowledge of our (construction) history, new media and the digitilization of cultural goods, so that future generations can also appreciate the world heritage and preserve it with pleasure.
The Foundation has achieved a lot and supported many projects in the last 100 years. Are there any plans for the future?
Well, our foundation's work always depends on the applications submitted, and our historical foundation goals still apply today. We help to preserve the beautiful cityscape, support charitable institutions in Lübeck, cultivate art and science, promote youth and alleviate the plight of those in need. This will not change in the future. But there is a new development: in the future, we also want to support projects that do not only work in Lübeck, but also beyond Lübeck's borders to draw attention to Lübeck from the outside. This year, for the first time, we are awarding the International Possehl Art Prize for Contemporary Artists, which, in conjunction with the Art Prize for Lübeck Artists, will make our city appear in a new light. We also support the youth network SAME, the Solidarity Action Day Movement Europe, which is based in Lübeck with its office and is committed to intercultural exchange and international solidarity in Europe. This makes Lübeck a meeting place for young people from all over Europe to exchange views on political and social issues for the future. This is a real pleasure for us as a foundation, as well as for me personally!