Public art space in a formerly closed public staircase

Date: May 2014 – October 2018

Location: Ulm, Germany

Role: Concept, curatorial program, graphic design, fundraising, organization, realization

Project Team: Petra Schmitt (space design), Stefan Bausenhart (bar)

Partners: Förderverein für junge Künstler e.V.

Supporters: City of Ulm

The staircase at Herdbrücke in Ulm is built into the historic city wall. It is located at the edge of the old town directly bordering the bank of the Danube river. The stairs had formerly served as a connection between the city and the river side and the space was equipped with public rest rooms. As measure of social control, access was restricted by the city since the 1980s and finally closed in the early 2000s. Since then, the place increasingly fell into disrepair and became infamous as “Müll-Loch” (garbage hole). In 2013, we included the site in the exhibition series “Kunst für Alle!”. A temporary installation by Nicolas Vionnet (CH) and Wouter Sibum (NL) played with the dynamics of the space in a humorous way. Instead of garbage falling down into the staircase, a 4m high fountain arose from it. During the project, the work met with a very positive response. The originally planned duration of 3 weeks turned into 3 months. During this time, the fountain became a meeting place for a small circle of the local cultural scene. This gave rise to the idea of continuing to use the staircase as an art venue with a bar. We carried this idea through the political authorities and initially got it approved for two years. In fact, the project called “Stiege” was run as an art venue from 2014 to 2019 and later continued as a bar.

A closed staircase in the historic city wall was turned into an art space with bar

Site specific work and artistic interventions in public space

In the first two years artists were invited to develop site specific installations for Stiege. In 2014 Sofia Dona had a broken street lamp from Athens repaired and shipped to Ulm. Installed in the staircase, the lighting was clocked in the Greek time zone. In 2015, Sil Kroll installed a mirror sculpture that played with the idea of surveillance but also different layers of visibility in public space. It opened new lines of sight as for example from inside the staircase to the street level and even to the river. Besides artistic projects, Stiege hosted events like readings, concerts and discussions. In the following years, we conceptually opened the space for different artistic approaches and extended public art interventions, that we commissioned, to the wider city scape.

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