8. November, shortly before 2 p.m., courtyard of the ministry of economics in berlin. Yvonne and matthias engel from mittelwasungen park their car next to that of economics minister peter altmaier. in the car there is a portrait of angela merkel, one of konrad adenauer and a painting of the fall of the wall 30 years ago, which yvonne engel painted. Apart from the couple, the spacious courtyard of the former invalid court, inaugurated in 1748, is deserted. How did they get there?
They are impressed and nervous. In a few minutes they will meet the minister. Engel is an art teacher at arnold-gymnasium in neustadt, Germany. "I paint at school with the kids, I paint at home", she says. She considers it an honor to have been invited to Berlin. This was made possible by her art.
A special gift
When peter altmaier was in neustadt during the discussion about another power line through the district, the then district administrator michael busch (SPD) and she had come up with a special gift for the minister. Because even though engel is not at all against the energy transition, she doesn’t want it to burden people.
she herself and her family are personally affected by this turn of events. They may have to move out of the house they literally built with their own hands for health reasons. But the teacher leaves this aspect aside. Again and again, she returns to art and emphasizes that her approach to local energy policy is not a general rejection of what is needed.
So, as a present, she painted a portrait of altmaier, which was presented to him during his visit to the coburg district office. For engel, her art means finding a different approach to issues than the political, often all-too-ambiguous one. And that’s not all: "the art project is something to take your mind off home. That’s something that does you good."
First impression with consequences
As the artist later learned, the minister is said to have said that this was the most beautiful painting he had ever received. An impression that altmaier soon followed up with action. Yvonne engel has saved the e-mails from the economics ministry that led to the meeting on her cell phone. On the day before christ’s ascension, the call came. Despite altmaier’s fall a week earlier, he wanted to keep the appointment with the Franconian couple.
For the minister it was not a compulsory appointment. The couple quickly realized that. In the anteroom, they were still nervous and worried. But they evaporated after the greeting. "We were pleasantly surprised," she says, says engel. It quickly felt as if they had known each other forever, says engel.
There she also gave him the picture of the anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall. Altmaier was really interested in the picture, he kept looking at it during the conversation and emphasized the red in the middle of the picture, in the outline of the Federal Republic of Germany. "It will have a place of honor in the ministry," he said, the minister said.
"He has a very good understanding of art, says the art teacher. But they didn’t just talk about art. Altmaier asked about the personal history, which in the case of engels is also a border history. That’s another reason why the portrait of the united germany is important to her. There it is again, her personal approach, which she expresses with her art and thus also makes accessible to the viewer. She has very similar plans for her next project.
If everything works out, she wants to make the energy transition a topic with her students. "energy transition abstract" she calls the series of ten paintings. She wants to create an artistic approach to the current discussion with her students on veneer wood framed by recycled solar frames.
Whether these pictures will make it into the ministry of economics, as the teacher hopes, remains to be seen. The minister referred to the tendering procedure required in such a case. However, he wants to establish contact with the president of the Bundestag, Wolfgang Schauble. Maybe, so the hope of yvonne engel, the pictures would be exhibited in the reichstag.
What can follow from a nice portrait and an hour of coffee with the minister.