Dr. Richard Keatley

The French and German cultural organizations that have shared an office in Midtown for years are branching out together to launch a new and improved physical space as they deepen their longstanding collaboration with the help of European grants. 

Representatives of the Alliance Française d’Atlanta and the Goethe-Zentrum Atlanta outlined the plans in a virtual program to commemorate the Élysée Treaty, or Treaty of Franco-German Cooperation, signed by French President Charles de Gaulle and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer in 1963, which serves as a symbol of their countries’ cooperation and friendship.

Joined by the French and German consulates general, the groups used the Jan. 22 event to raise awareness for an upcoming series on climate change cooperation and efforts to move their joint Franco-German cultural center out of their longtime Colony Square home and into new digs. 

Coming off a pandemic-plagued year when they both adapted to online, virtual learning models, they will outfit the new space with “modern technology,” said Richard Keatley, executive director of the Alliance Française.

Along with help from the consulates, the two nonprofits jointly received a 55,000-euro grant from the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs to equip the center with new technology, said Dr. Keatley, who added that the funding will be a springboard for further outreach.

“Even more importantly, it shows a strong vote of support for our vision, which will help us convince other supporters — the Atlanta business community, the philanthropic community of Atlanta — of the importance of what we do, so we can build the kind of cultural center that our global, thriving city needs and deserves,” he said.

Program co-host Oliver Gorf, executive director of the Goethe-Zentrum Atlanta, also announced during the virtual event that his center and its French counterpart jointly received a grant from the Franco-German Cultural Fund to support a year-long event series about the effects of the global climate crisis on contemporary culture.

“‘Climate Crisis in Contemporary Culture’ represents a new level for cooperation,” Mr. Gorf said. “The program will connect the global debate to the local specifics here in Atlanta, Georgia and the Southeast.” 

The series of open debates, streaming programs, presentations and performances by climate change experts from the fields of sociology, history, science, ecology, philosophy and the arts will be reinforced through educational outreach, Mr. Gorf said.

Oliver Gorf

“This is our lighthouse project, together with finding a new space for French-German cooperation in Atlanta, which we hope radiates throughout the nation as an example for good, productive dialogue and action,” he said.

German Consul General in Atlanta Heike Fuller and French Consul General in Atlanta Vincent Hommeril both acknowledged that the virtual Élysée Treaty celebration, held despite the global COVID-19 pandemic that prevents face-to-face gatherings, underscores the countries’ strong commitment to their relationship. 

“The world needs more team players to tackle today’s global challenges. Today, we engage to reach out to other partners to tackle climate change or even the COVID pandemic. Through strong bilateral relations, we are strong in Europe and strong in the world. That is what this day is all about – our commitment to a lasting partnership,” Dr. Fuller said 

She acknowledged that the Élysée Treaty was focused on reconciliation between France and Germany following World War II.

Today, she said, it focuses on “our common future,” as recognized by the Aachen Treaty, signed on Jan. 22, 2019, that reinforces the two countries’ convergence on economic, social and regulatory issues to promote greater European integration.

Mr. Hommeril said that French and German solidarity has never been stronger, as the countries work together and with the European Union to battle COVID-19. Read: Lockdown Lessons: Germany, France Taking New Approaches to Fight Second Wave, Consuls Say

French and German leaders proposed a recovery fund that, in July 2020, became the 750 billion-euro European Recovery Plan for Solidarity and Growth. The plan has developed into the largest EU stimulus package in history, a €1.8 trillion fund approved on Dec. 17 to help rebuild a post-COVID-19 Europe.

The Élysée Treaty laid the groundwork for French-German solidarity, paving the way for the European Union and continued cross-border cooperation that extends to relations with the United States, Mr. Hommeril added.

In Atlanta, the French and German consulates actively work together for foreign policy, culture and security, and they will continue to strengthen their collaboration and their support of French and German cultural initiatives in the region, Mr. Hommeril asserted.

In addition to strong economic ties between Atlanta and the Southeast with France and Germany, Dr. Fuller acknowledged the many student exchange programs, the Georgia Institute of Technology’s Lorraine campus in France, the Atlanta community’s interest in learning French and German languages and the many people-to-people encounters organized between Georgia and Europe.

Dr. Keatley underscored the power of the French and German communities working together to not only combat crises but to support further cultural understanding in the greater Atlanta community.

“Amidst the current uncertainty, the thing that is obvious to all is the value of working together as a team and leveraging mutual support. We are Francophone and Germanophone, international, global and local, all at the same time,” Dr. Keatley said.

Dr. Keatley and Mr. Gorf encouraged the Atlanta community to donate to the efforts of the new Franco-German Cultural Center and to look for announcements about the upcoming climate change program series, as well as register for Alliance Française French language classes and Goethe-Zentrum German classes. 

“You will hear from us because we are here to stay,” Mr. Gorf said on behalf of the joint cultural center.

He later told Global Atlanta that the two organizations are open to proposals of collaboration with other cultural and language centers.

Direct questions, suggestions or donation inquiries to Dr. Keatley at director@afatl.com or Mr. Gorf at oliver.gorf@goetheatlanta.org.