The Schneeberg School of Applied Arts in the Ore Mountains has a new international touch: Hannes Vereecke has been the Dean of the Faculty of the West Saxon University of Zwickau since the end of June. The predecessor Jacob Strobel no longer stood for election. Until now, Vereecke led the musical instrument making course at the school. Katharina Leuoth spoke to him.

Free press: Are you more pragmatic or visionary?

Hannes Vereecke: (laughs briefly, then thinks for a few seconds) I like making well-founded decisions. If that means I’m pragmatic, then I guess so.

Do you still have some sort of general idea of ​​where the Faculty of Applied Arts should grow?

Sure. It is important for me that we show a lot more in public what is great about us. Second, I want to strengthen research. Whether it’s a textile designer or a manufacturer of musical instruments: it’s not just about training our students in the practice. We also need to research with them and incorporate new scientific findings into our work. Third, we must become more sustainable: the material we use must be, just like the products developed by our students. It works great in our wood design course. And we must continue to position ourselves well internationally.

This means?

When our students leave our school, they have to assert themselves in an international market. It works best when you’ve learned different ways of thinking and approaching. That is why we must offer our students even more semesters abroad and internships in other countries. It also helps bring other influences to the school. We already have a relatively large number of foreign students, for example from Korea and China, in our musical instrument making course at our branch in Markneukirchen, which I have led so far and continue to teach. lead. I also have an Iranian student. After finishing his studies, he would like to return to Tehran and open a violin making workshop there. I am Belgian and European convinced.

Are there already English lessons at school?

Not in general. However, we value the individual support of our students; if necessary, I can switch to English, French or my mother tongue, Dutch. However, Corona has slowed down our international trade.

How do you plan to relaunch it?

There are ideas for various collaborations. For example, I am aiming for a closer collaboration with a violin making school in Cheb in the Czech Republic. I also want to cooperate more closely with international vocational schools. Because our future students should in fact come to us with a completed apprenticeship. But it is becoming more and more rare.

We hear again and again that it is getting harder and harder to win students for Schneeberg.

The number of students is stable.

But aren’t there always vacancies?

We stand for quality, not quantity. In order to maintain the quality, we would like to accept qualified candidates and not just everyone. I am satisfied with the number of students. When it comes to making musical instruments, for example, we have more applicants than we can accept, and they are very good applicants. Our goal must also be that all graduates can survive in the market.

On the Chemnitz cultural scene, it is repeatedly said that the applied arts should move from Schneeberg to Chemnitz – because a big city would attract more applicants and there would be younger artists on hand in Chemnitz. How do you see it

Both places have their pros and cons. For Schneeberg, however, there is a big advantage: you can study here in peace, and you receive training in workshops on site. Students live here and have short distances. Of course, you shouldn’t expect Schneeberg to have the same range of leisure activities as Leipzig. But that’s why we are creative minds. There are graduates who stay in Schneeberg or in the region after finishing their studies in order to build something here.

You studied in the Belgian city of Ghent. It’s also a bit bigger than Schneeberg.

Yes, but honestly? I didn’t see much of the city, studying was more important to me. It’s good that Corona has stepped up digitization. At first we were very confused with the online courses. Our strength is in fact the analogy, the human contact, the training in the workshops, where there is really someone next to the students who shows how we do it. But now it’s not uncommon to join us for an online conference in Paris, where speakers from the United States pass on their expert knowledge. They don’t meet such experts in Ghent or Leipzig in the same way.

And what will happen to the gallery in which the students’ works are exhibited? So far there are some in Lichtenwalde. But now the houses of the Schneeberger Zentrum on Fürstenplatz are also being discussed, where students are already sometimes showing works.

Both places – Lichtenwalde and Schneeberg – have advantages. We are not deciding that only the University of Zwickau and the corresponding cities are also involved. Discussions are already underway.

Wouldn’t a gallery in Schneeberg make more sense because it also makes the school much more visible in the city center?

As I said, the talks are ongoing. I don’t want to anticipate this. It is clear, however, that we as a faculty not only want to position ourselves internationally, but also to remain rooted regionally and continue to work with the local economy. And the mayor of Schneeberg is very open to us and shows a lot of interest.

Chemnitz will become European Capital of Culture in 2025 and will also integrate the region into the process. Does this affect Schneeberg’s faculty?

We hope that this will lead to new projects and contacts. There is a good chance that this region will be highlighted. That we can show what knowledge has been built here over the centuries. Carving, turning, lace making, weaving, etc., our work is based on such traditions. Our faculty is able to prepare things for mass production, but also to produce unique pieces by hand. Take the example of violin making: you cannot machine the interior ceiling of the violin. Each piece of spruce wood used for this is different. We feel our way with our fingers, essentially creating a sculpture. Such handmade things have a completely different aura, it has nothing to do with ready-made products, and far too few people know that such great things are made here.

How did you come to Saxony as a Belgian?

If you research violin making like me, you cannot ignore instrument making in Markneukirchen. It is one of the main centers in Europe in this field. That’s why I wanted to work here too.

And your wife is from Chemnitz, isn’t she?

Yes, it’s true. We met in Leipzig. I have been there several times because Leipzig has one of the best musical instrument museums in Europe. And my wife studied in Leipzig.

Also making musical instruments?

(laughs) No, the humanities. (kil)

Hannes Vereecke

The 37-year-old Belgian studied violin making in Ghent and obtained his doctorate at the University of Music and Performing Arts in Vienna. Then he went to Ludwigsburg to the Federal College of Musical Instrument Manufacturing. In the fall of 2020 he moved to Markneukirchen, where he took over the management of the Musical Instrument Making Course, which is part of the applied arts at Schneeberg, a faculty of the University of West Saxon in Zwickau . Vereecke is also the dean of the faculty. (kil)