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Two great supporters of the arts: Marlies Wünscher, Prof. Martin S. Fischer and others work behind the scenes to turn the old tram depot, time and again, into something special.

This article is an exception. Dr. Barbara Happe and Prof. Martin S. Fischer normally, however, like to avoid glossy paper. The married couple, who are active in bringing art events to Jena, like to leave the spotlight to the artists. The television report on the 2011 Frank Stella exhibition also made no mention of the duo. Yet, Martin S. Fischer still knows the words to the opening of the report by heart: “Not in New York and not in London but at a tram depot in Jena…”

Not in New York and not in London but at a tram depot in Jena…

Im Alten Straßenbahndepot in Jena hat Kunst zuweilen Vorfahrt – wie hier zur großen ROTRAUT-Ausstellung im Frühjahr 2016.

Traffic yields to the arts

A tram rumbles out of the shed, a street sweeper moves through, and the artwork makes its entrance. Stella was enchanted by the place, which smells of hard work and machine oil, illuminated by the sun itself through the skylights above. He even put his foot down to prevent any traces of industry from being removed from the scene. Peter Halley (2014) and ROTRAUT (2016) followed him, all with an impact in the region and beyond.

Art is a passion for the organizers

Martin S. Fischer’s interest in art does not exactly have a direct link to his career as a biology professor, or that of Barbara Happe as a cultural researcher, for that matter. As Fischer described their philosophy: “We may be complete amateurs but art is our lifeblood. Art is not a matter of observation but confrontation. Artists expose their innermost to the outside world. A more direct means of address is impossible to think of.”

Art always has a place at Jenoptik

It was former CEO Lothar Späth who started it all and placed it, together with the entire corporate sponsoring program, in the hands of Marlies Wünscher. As she explained: “Jenoptik CEO Dr. Michael Mertin also placed great store in the company’s commitment to the arts, while a handful of people connected to Happe and Fischer played a large role in the matter.” Michael Mertin for his part added: “Art puts us in touch with other worlds and opens our eyes to see beyond what we are accustomed to see.”

It’s all about the artists

Martin S. Fischer engages others to support the arts as in the 2016 exhibition of the work of the German-French artist ROTRAUT, including her exciting sculptures resembling moments captured from a dance routine. “Apart from funding to hire students from the university, it is all financed privately and without any red tape. Without Jenoptik, we never would have managed,” Fischer added. Barbara Happe and Martin S. Fischer are already working on their next project together with their small circle of collaborators behind the scenes.