The Künstlerhäuser Worpswede (Worpswede Artists’ Residences) were created in 1971 as studio apartments of the non-profit Atelierhaus Verein (Studio House Society) under the guidance of the graphic designer and book designer Martin Kausche. They were the first of their kind in West Germany. The residences were built in accordance with designs by Walter Müller of Worpswede, and were conceived as living and working spaces for international contemporary artists from the disciplines of visual arts, sound art and literature.
At the centre of the studio houses founded in Worpswede by Martin Kausche was the idea that artists should be able to work undisturbed in a calm environment for a certain period. The artists’ village of Worpswede provides the perfect infrastructure for this. The significant proportion of artists among the population ensures that visitors will be able to connect with others, while at the same time providing a certain anonymity and a relatively high level of understanding for very diverse artistic positions.
In return, the stipend-holders help to remind the village that it is in no way an open-air museum, but is instead a location that has an above-average interest in art and literature thanks to its particular history. Although contemporary art has not always been permanently visible here, it does play a role in the location’s understanding of itself.
Since 1996, over 400 international artists have been visitors here, and up until the end of 2009 they received stipends from the German federal state of Lower Saxony. The stipend-holders have included many renowned artists such as Lili Fischer, Yuri Leiderman, Dan Perjovschi, Katharina Sieverding, Nairy Baghramian, Daniel Knorr, Kurt Drawert, Dani Gal, Terry Fox, Egill Saebjoernsson and many more. The artistic heads in this time were Dr. Annette Hulek, Anne Frechen and Bernd Milla.
In 2009, the state ministry suddenly stopped providing funding for international stipends for Worpswede despite strong protests. The Barkenhoff studios were converted from museum facilities into exhibition spaces. Since 2010, only the regionally advertised Lower Saxony stipends for visual arts, sound art/composition and literature have been available for the five Martin Kausche studios. Alongside this, the Künstlerhäuser Worpswede have offered additional residential stipends to artists from all fields.
Between 2013 and 2017 visitors have been selected for the studios on a thematic basis under the project-cycle Die Kolonie (The Collony) by the artistic director Tim Voss. Workshops and symposia ensured that individual ideas came into exchange with one another, while academies and groups work on their own projects. Tim Voss has given the Künstlerhäuser Worpswede a new direction: it became internationally networked, but its work solidified on a local level. Artists, academics and activists from various disciplines were invited to use this unusual site at the edge of the Teufelsmoor as the planning fulcrum for their ideas.
Since Summer 2017 the boardmembers of the Künstlerhäuser Worpswede are heading for a new direction. Katharina Groth was appointed Artistic Director in 2017 with the project "Ausnahmezustand" ("State of Emergency"), while the partially newly elected board is involved in the realignment.