When I hear the word "forum" I think of "Forum Romanum", Ancient Rome, Julius Ceasar... But how can a forum be a forum in the real sense today? On 52nd Street in New York, just east of 5th Avenue there is such a place. It is the architectural pearl which is home to the Austrian Cultural Forum.
It is neither particularly tall and certainly not wide.
It cannot host thousands of people and still it is a forum in its very essence – a place of free encounters which lead to creativity and innovation.
In its gallery we find group exhibitions and installations of some of the most creative visual artists from both Austria and the U.S. The 75-seat auditorium has hosted great performers and is definitely the place to hear some of the most interesting music created today; it is the forum to discuss literature and to look for new ways to bring more quality literature in translation to the U.S.
You can discuss politics, poetics, or, for that matter, the latest scientific discoveries.
There are about 40 cultural centers in New York, presenting and representing that which is at the moment the best and the hottest in their respective countries – all of them deeply rooted in their respective cultural traditions and serving as cultural ambassadors for their home-countries. The ACFNY does all of that and more. That to me as the Director of Performing and Literary Arts at 92Y – the oldest cultural center in New York – is the most interesting part – it is the interactive, multicultural, creative part of its activity:
The people in the Austrian Cultural Forum certainly make things happen. During the preparations of the Celebration of the Arts and Culture in Theresienstadt in which ACFNY took an active part, I mentioned Viktor Ullmann's last work, Der Kaiser von Atlantis, which is the most allegorical opera Ullmann wrote while never seeing its complete performance. In keeping with the creative spirit of the Theresienstadt artists, Andreas Stadler initiated the collaboration between American musicians, the Opera Moderne, Austrian stage director Markus Kupferblum, and the Czech Center in New York. As a result, New York audiences benefited from a young, energetic, and excellent production of the opera. It completed and complemented the performance of Ullmann's Cornet Rilke which took place a year earlier at 92Y. There too we enjoyed a wonderful collaboration between the great Austrian singer Wolfgang Holzmair (thanks to ACFNY) and the excellent Israeli pianist Shai Wosner (thanks to the Israeli Consulate). And this is just one of the more recent examples. One could hardly find a more open and more relevant forum of cultural exchange. (Hanna Arie-Gaifman)