The Goethe-Institut, a globally recognized cultural institution, has been going through a turbulent period. In September of the previous year, it announced the closure of nearly a dozen of its 158 institutes located across the world. Some of these closures included several of the institutes in Italy and France. Following this, more surprising news came from the institution’s president, Carola Lentz. She has revealed that she will be stepping down from the post of president at the end of her first term in November. This significant decision was communicated to the executive board through a letter, as confirmed by the Goethe Institute on a Thursday evening.
Carola Lentz, born in the German city of Braunschweig in 1954, has had an illustrious career. She has worked as an ethnology professor for a significant period in Frankfurt am Main and Mainz. Additionally, she has also held professional roles in various West African countries. In November 2020, she was appointed as the President of the Goethe-Institut, succeeding Klaus-Dieter Lehmann. With her sudden and unexpected resignation, it is easy to speculate that it might be related to the planned restructuring, financial savings, and institute closures occurring at the Goethe Institute.
In September, Lentz had expressed that the \”transformation\” of the prestigious culture-exporting institution was crucial for its “long-term ability to act”.
However, in her resignation letter, as reported by the “Süddeutsche Zeitung” who has access to the letter, she allegedly wrote that the closures had seriously damaged trust in the institute as a reliable partner. She stated, “Dealing with this was and is a great challenge. I was also personally very busy.” She further added, “Only with stable support can the intensive transformation efforts bear fruit.”
While this sounds quite diplomatic, it seems that Lentz also wants to devote more time to her original academic work as an ethnologist, as she mentions in her letter.
Nevertheless, considering the shocking global political scenarios, particularly in Ukraine and the Middle East, and their consequences on the cultural sector (she voiced her concern about the “restriction of freedom of art and expression” and a “moral rigorism” in an article on “Spiegel Online”), Carola Lentz probably saw no potential for a successful second term. The funding cuts and savings, so euphemistically termed as “transformation,” likely added to her decision to step down.