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DANK Haus Merger With German Organizations Stalled

By Mike Fourcher | Friday, March 25, 2011

The DANK Haus. Credit: Flickr User Zol87.

An agreement to merge DANK Haus, 4730 N. Western Ave, with the German Day festival and Mayfest to create a new German American Cultural Center has stalled because German Day and Mayfest leaders have failed to sign the necessary paperwork, according to DANK Haus Executive Director, Nicholle Dombrowski.

“We have no idea [why]. We just had our quarterly membership meeting and the answer is honestly, we have zero information from the other organizations as to why they haven’t signed it,” said Dombrowski.

The agreement, first reported by Center Square Journal last December, would provide $1 million in new funding to improve the DANK Haus building, free up funds for new cultural programming by DANK Haus and more closely integrate the operations of Lincoln Square’s two largest annual events, German Day and Mayfest.

“For the next board meeting, it was recommended by membership that we set a deadline,” where the merger, “would no longer be valid,” said Dombrowski. “We’ll have to see what comes out of that.”

Despite the stalled agreement, DANK Haus is continuing to grow their organization this week by hiring their first Development Director, Amelia Cotter. Cotter was the former DANK National Office Manager, which is also housed in the same building as DANK Haus, the Chicago Chapter of DANK National. Chicago has the largest DANK chapter.

Amelia Cotter, DANK Haus Development Director. Credit: DANK Haus.

“Staff growth is huge and we have to bite the bullet,” said Dombrowski. “Our overarching 5-year plan is to invest in staff because we can do so much more.

“A development director is a huge step for us. We are weak in marketing, things like that. We want to build our capacity to continue to do things. If nobody is there to raise funds and organize volunteers it’s not going happen,” said Dombrowski.

The Deutsch Amerikanischer National Kongress was originally founded by German-American immigrants as a political party, says Dombrowski, but Germans quickly integrated into American society, so DANK became more of a social organization, despite its political name.

 

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  • http://spudart.org spudart

    Here’s my #1 suggestion on how to improve the DANKhaus’ image. Turn on lights by the windows inside the building.

    As someone with German heritage who has lived in the neighorhood for 8 years and never gone into the building, I can tell you why. It looks like it’s unoccupied. Certainly I’ve heard about some events here and there. But you know what I never go? Because I feel like the building is empty.

    It’s really a simple fix to start making the building looking like it’s alive. Turn on the lights. Even if nobody is in the room, have some sort of lights on by the windows. Make me think there is something going on. Make me think that there might actually be some people inside.

  • Anonymous

    I always cringe when I walk through Lincoln Square, look at the websites of German clubs in the Chicago area or go to German festivals. They are terribly dated and reinforce every stereotype about Germans out there. As a German (in her thirties), I kind of find it offensive and sad that pretty much the only German culture that is being represented is Bavarian (with a tacky 1950′s twist).

    It would be so incredibly refreshing for once to represent Germans as a modern and multifaceted society. Bavaria is only one of many states in Germany, so an effort should be made to explore the cultures and regions beyond Bavaria. The same goes for the food. I’ve eaten at several “German” restaurants throughout Chicagoland, and for the most part the food was overpriced and terrible.

    I suggest, that anyone who works for a German society in the Chicago area, spend an extended period of time in Germany over the summer (about two or three months). This will help them get a much better idea of what German culture and traditions are in the twenty-first century. And don’t just do the tourist routes either, explore the entire country on your own and mingle with locals and not other tourists.

    How refreshing would it be to have a festival in Chicago that showcases modern German cooking and modern German music for once! I think you would have a much easier time recruiting the younger German generations to help keep the “real” German traditions alive. Heck, I’ll even sign up to help if that were to happen.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_C4QRVERRX7BJBVO54JDIWQTSOI CB

      You bring up many important and interesting points.

      The authenticity suffers from the fact that Germans are not emigrating to the U.S. in sizable numbers any longer. It’s no wonder things are represented with a “tacky 1950′s twist” as you call it, when so many of the people involved came to this country in the 50′s or even earlier. The self-imposed suppression of German heritage in the decades prior is probably a contributing factor.

      We have to be mindful that the Lincoln Square fests are, to a large degree, controlled by a small number of elderly men who are more concerned with how much money they’re going to take in than how authentically their culture is represented. Their reluctance to get involved in DANK’s cultural center is very telling on that point.

      A further question is, how can you change the expectations of the general public about German culture? Sadly, every national culture comes with its cartoonish stereotype. With thoughtful planning, a festival that represents Germany’s diverse regions could be created, but it could be a big disappointment to those who have come to expect a Bavarian style fest for anything German. Greater stress on authenticity could mean lesser relevance to those outside the ethnic community. It’s a big problem without one simple solution. Changing the perception will be a very-long term project, but an important one that should be pursued.

      So I also would say, someone like you is the kind of person who needs to get engaged with the German organizations, clubs and fests, rather than waiting on the sideline for things to change; your ideas are what they are lacking.

  • Anonymous

    CB: You bring up good points. I’m not sure however, that they want to make any significant changes. As you implied, it’s more profitable to keep perpetuating the old stereotypes. As they say: you can’t teach an old dog new tricks… I’m all for helping out, but I’m also not going to spend my free time fighting city hall. Life is too short for that… On the other hand, if I see that people are willing to engage in an open dialogue and are open to the possibility of making changes to the status quo, I would have no problems jumping in and getting my hands dirty to help any way I can.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=526568263 David St Michael

    The comments have been incredible!! There is a lot of gold out there, people. A lot of gold. Folks in power staying GLUED to their ways are sowing the seeds of discontent and may not even care, too. Too bad. Because then we all suffer.

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