The Salzburg International Summer Academy of Fine Arts founded in 1953 by Oskar Kokoschka in Hohensalzburg Fortress as the "School of Seeing", is the oldest of its kind in Europe. The Academy has remained faithful to two principles: the internationality of students and teaching artists, and the mixed groups of professional and amateur artists and art-lovers.
The International Summer Academy cannot be directly compared with any other institution. It is an institution for adult education, measurable in quality against state art training. It stands in the tradition of the 1920s "Volxhochschulen" [adult education centres], which propagated education of the highest standard for everyone. The Salzburg Summer Academy is, on principle, open to anyone interested. Over two-thirds of the participants are professionals (artists or art students), and all submit to an application process in which the teachers decide on who will be accepted.
The International Summer Academy is an integral part of Salzburg's art and education landscape, and it seeks co-operations within this field. With its comprehensive programme of events, open free of charge to the public, it makes a significant contribution to local communication of contemporary art. It is also an important employer for artists and those wishing to work in cultural institutions.
After discussion with the team, teaching artists and students, the Director assumes sole responsibility for the programme. The principal criteria for the course programme are internationality, diversity, quality and contemporaneity. At the moment, the six-week Academy comprises some 20 courses of between one and four weeks, in two fixed locations: Hohensalzburg Fortress and the Untersberg quarry in Fürstenbrunn as well as in further temporary spaces. The teaching artists choose their own themes and methods, and the courses are characterised by the intensive daily study of production, reflection and presentation of art, carried out under continuous contact with teachers, assistants and fellow-students. Participants focus on their own role as artists in a constantly changing art world, and on establishing international networks. Where required, learning artistic techniques is an integral part of the courses, in which group and interdisciplinary work is just as important as individual production and development. There is one teacher for a maximum of 8 participants, and a group consists of between 12 and 25 participants.
The aim of the course programme is for the students to develop their own artistic, curatorial or writing production, as well as their knowledge of topical discussions and the art world in general. Forming new networks is part of this process. The aim of the programme of events, which is open free of charge to anyone interested, is to offer a high-quality range of discussions in Salzburg, devoted to topical questions of art, culture and the art world and of controversial developments. The overall aim of the Summer Academy is to strengthen the international perception of Salzburg as an important location for contemporary art.
The International Summer Academy is under the auspices of the Province of Salzburg and is financed in equal parts by the Town and the Province of Salzburg. It is further supported by the Austrian Federal Chancellery - Section II Art and Culture; self-generated income consists of the course fees and various other revenues. The Director is answerable to the working committee, an advisory board consisting of politicians and administrative representatives of Salzburg Town and Province and the Federal Ministry of Education, Arts and Culture. The financial policy is based on economy and expediency, transparency and prudent and sustainable use of resources.
The International Summer Academy charges course fees; in co-operation with the Society of Friends of the Salzburg International Summer Academy of Fine Arts, it endeavours to find sponsors for grants and scholarships in order to enable talented and needy artists and art students from all over the world to take part in Summer Academy courses. These grants always cover the course fees, and in some cases also subsidise travel and accommodation costs. The Summer Academy also aims especially to enable artists and art students from countries in Eastern and Southern Europe to participate in courses.
The International Summer Academy is to be seen as a learning institution, constantly developing through dialogue with teachers and students, with clients and state representatives, and with the local and international world of education and the arts. A questionnaire giving feedback from teachers and students provides an important instrument for evaluation.
The International Summer Academy is committed to the fundamental values of diversity, gender mainstreaming, equal opportunities and anti-discrimination. All its decisions are based on environment-friendliness and careful use of resources. Dealings within the team and with the teachers and students are marked by respect, tolerance, mutual esteem, curiosity and openness. The Summer Academy shows responsibility for the environment and the social conditions under which people live and work, and endeavours to break down barriers for disabled people.