For artists, and with artists

Give the space required

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.

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