The Landis & Gyr Foundation, a passionate participant in the cultural sphere, is celebrating its 50th anniversary. This traditional Zug-based cultural foundation has been headed by Nela Bunjevac since August.
The Landis & Gyr foundation is located at the heart of Zug, where it has been for the past 50 years. This foundation was established in 1971 by the electric company Landis & Gyr. Back then, the company was celebrating its 75th anniversary and was enjoying its heyday. ‘The company was highly successful, with an international reach and a global workforce of 13,000. With about 5,000 employees, Landis & Gyr was the largest employer in canton Zug,’ explains Nela Bunjevac. Within the prosperous environment of the company, the idea arose to set up a foundation for the company, in collaboration with the Gyr family. Neither a traditional family foundation nor a classic company foundation emerged, but instead a cultural foundation.
Connected to its employees and location
As its managing director emphasises: ‘The foundation was an expression of great responsibility towards its employees and the people of Zug. The company’s officers always had a very strong connection to their location.’ The aim was for employees and local people alike to enjoy some of the fruits of the company’s success. At the start, the activities were planned primarily to give something back to employees and enable them to access culture in the form of tickets to concerts, independently organised lectures, exhibitions and concerts. Its art collection was also expanded and artists working in central Switzerland were offered support in the form of grants and project funding. The term ‘culture’ was understood in the broadest sense, including funding for work in social, technical and scientific fields.
Two clear funding instruments
The foundation laid down its focal points at the start of the 1980s. ‘Since then, our funding has revolved around two clear instruments. We support individual creatives with studios, funding for their work and travel grants, and we offer financial support for production and projects,’ says Bunjevac.
Focus on eastern Europe
After the Berlin Wall fell in 1989, the foundation added a new focal point: eastern Europe. The aim was to promote cultural exchange, with investments made in the creation of institutes for the humanities and social sciences, such as institutes for advanced studies in Bucharest, Budapest and Sofia. Some of this involvement still continues today. ‘We have studio apartments in Bucharest, Budapest and Sofia that we advertise,’ adds the managing director, ‘and we have also had travel grants in the Balkans and Turkey for a few years now.’
Going with the times
‘We have a relatively new funding focus: interculturality,’ says Bunjevac happily. ‘We want to have a greater impact in this area and support cultural projects by people with a migrant background.’ A cultural foundation should be a living thing, responding to current events. During the coronavirus crisis, when everything came to a halt and theatres were empty, the foundation quickly and easily raised additional funds to support artists. The requests are now picking up again. People want to work; they are in the starting blocks and are looking forward to restarting after this enforced break.
From the commemorative publication: left, supported artists; top, the historic factory; right, the foundation’s headquarters.
Great commitment from the founding family
At the end of the 1980s, the Landis & Gyr Foundation split off from the company entirely. It has operated independently since then, but has remained in close contact with the founding family. The foundation has received substantial donations from its founding family time and again, and three of the nine members of the Board of Trustees represent the third generation. ‘The Board of Trustees is home to people from various backgrounds,’ says Bunjevac, ‘and that really enhances it.’
Bunjevac started in August and is yet to attend her first board meeting. However, thanks to her broad-based experience in supporting culture, she is already fully involved in daily life at the foundation, and is delighted to work with artists and maintain a close dialogue with them.