LEIPZIG, Germany – Chives, a healthy, evergreen herb with a pleasant fragrance play an interesting role for Canadian artists selling their creations throughout Europe.
Canadians are designing, creating and displaying their art works at Spinnerai, a 25-acre art colony in this burgeoning city in the former East Germany.
For more than 100 years the colony was Europe’s largest cotton spinning mill spread throughout 20 red-rick buildings.
Today those buildings are home to art studios, galleries, theatres, plus residences for artists. And acres of chives are growing up on the flat roofs of the five-storey buildings, as they have been for a century.
The chives help control the temperature and environment in the buildings and were harvested as a food source for the 4,000 people who worked in the mill.
And the buildings are still standing today because the chives camouflaged them from the Allied bombers flying overhead during World War Two.
From 20,000 feet in the air the huge complex looked like farm fields and not worth dropping precious ordnance.
And yet these 20 buildings supplied most of the uniforms worn by Germany’s military during WW ll. More than 240,000 spindles spun cotton shipped in from the Southern United States into military uniforms. They had produced domestic clothes for European residents before war broke out.
The Communist government running East Germany after the war kept the spinning mill operating, but after the wall came down the huge operation could no longer compete in the free world, so the machinery was sold and the complex sat idol for several years.
Two brave entrepreneurs stepped in a few years later, bought the property and by offering reasonable rental rates have attracted more than 100 artists from around the world who paint, sculpt, carve wood, design wallpaper, produce movies, etc. in studios of various sizes, plus they can live in apartments in the complex.
Some tenants are selling their products for up to $1 million.
Art Mur of Montreal, Canada’s largest privately-owned art studio, has rented large space at Spinnerei to promote and display the work of Canadian artists.
The colony is open to the public to buy works of art, tour the galleries, buy art supplies, attend movies and watch some artists do their work.
Its success has attracted other tenants too, such as architects, jewelers, photographers and companies designing space technology. Leipzig, with a population of 582,000 has developed one of the most successful economies in the united Germany. It has some of Germany’s most impressive architecture despite heavy damage during WW ll.
The manager of the spinning mill was executed by the Nazis because he refused to use forced labour during the war.
Leipzig has been home to many creative minds. Martin Luther started the Protestant Reformation at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig in 1519. Johann Sebastian Bach was the organist and choir leader in St. Thomas Church from 1723 to his death in 1750. He is buried in the church..
Wolgang Amadeus Mozart played the organ in the church in 1789 and composer Richard Wagner attended the church from 1813 to 1828. Local boy Felix Mendelssohn was composing operas and symphonies by age 9. He founded the Leipzig Conservatory of Music and made Leipzig Germany’s music centre.
The city was a principal junction for Germany’s railroads during World War Two and was heavily damaged by Allied bombing – but not the huge spinning mill hiding under the chives.