Lenz in Gotha

„Make earth great again!“…

…could also be the title of the artwork that the two 10th-grade classes from Gustav-Freytag-Gymnasium in Gotha focused on during their project week. In fact., “Make earth great again!” is the title given by the student Klara to her own artwork. The parallels, whether intentional or not, between Klara’s contemporary artwork and Dietmar Lenz’s sculpture from 1984 are quickly noticeable. Klara describes her piece, shaped like a globe: “With my sculpture, I want to show that it is important to take care of the planet so that people, plants, and animals all over the world can live in good conditions again.” Similar thoughts may have crossed the mind of Erfurt artist Dietmar Lenz in 1984 when creating his three-part sculpture “Child and Nature” for the entrance portal of the former POS “Hermann Duncker.” Lenz gave each of his three figures an object in hand, expressing the children’s closeness to nature: a flower, an apple, and a dove.

A unique aspect of the project was that the school building of the former POS is now used by the Siebleben Primary School, which has held the title “Environmental School in Europe” since 1997. Dietmar Lenz’s artwork has historical, spatial, and thematic relevance for the primary school. During the 2009 renovation and redesign of the school building, the artwork was removed from the entrance and placed in the school’s museum.

The research on the artwork in Gotha began with a half-hour walk through Siebleben. In the primary school’s museum, the students examined the artwork and then tried to find clues for their investigation. Today, a paper sign with the heading “Art at the Building” and the information “Especially for the new school, an artist created a sculpture for the house portal. Sculpture: Children” can be found on the pedestal next to the artwork. Additionally, there is a stone on the pedestal that resembles the material of the artwork. Turning the stone over reveals that it is a fossil. However, the information about the location, age, and origin of the exhibit quickly proved to be a false trail. There were no obvious clues for the students’ research in the museum. Photographs in yearbooks and during the school building’s reconstruction sometimes showed the original location of the artwork. Information about the artist, title, and unveiling of the artwork could only be determined by researching historical newspapers and Siebleben’s chronicle. The main source became a copy of an article about the artwork’s inauguration by the artist, the former POS director, a representative from the Office for Architecture-Related Art in Erfurt, and a student. The date of publication and the newspaper’s name were not noted on the copy of the article. The April 27, 1984, edition of “DAS VOLK” contained a note about the artwork’s inauguration in the “From A to Z from All Districts” section. The new school building had already been opened two years prior. The 1984 article states that it is “the first example of architecture-related art at a Gotha school.”

More information about the artwork was shared by Roswitha Bause in the subsequent eyewitness conversation. Roswitha Bause is the student seen next to the artist in the 1984 newspaper article. She still lives in Siebleben today and was happy to share her memories with the students. She emphasized that the POS students considered the artwork at their school something very special back then, and there was great appreciation for it. In 1984, she was in the 9th grade and was allowed to express words of thanks to the artist during the press event. Afterwards, she even participated in a conversation with Dietmar Lenz, where he explained his artistic idea. She remembers that Lenz wanted to symbolically express the people’s connection to nature through the nudity of the figures. Besides Mrs. Bause, the students could ask questions about the East German school system and memories of the artwork to two former teachers of Roswitha Bause.

At the end of the project day, the students reflected on the different perspectives on East Germany they had encountered not only during the project week but also in their previous school lessons, through the media, and from their families.

With these impressions, the students went into the workshops on the third day. They could choose from three different offerings and then get creative themselves.

In the podcast workshop, the students independently produced an episode for the podcast “Vor dem Verschwinden” on Spotify. In the pre-production, they deepened their research on the artwork and the school’s new building in 1982. The podcast group also tried to locate the artist (born in 1948). After 2017, the trail goes cold. It is known that he now lives in Berlin. A Dietmar Lenz in Berlin was quickly found through the phone book, but the call revealed that he was not the sought-after sculptor. In addition to the exciting story about the artwork, the episode also provides an overview of the project week itself. Part of the podcast group conducted interviews with classmates who created their own artworks or an online game for the primary school.

The art workshop was led by instructors from the Mal- und Zeichenschule Weimar. Starting with the objects that Dietmar Lenz symbolically placed in the hands of his figures, the students considered what objects they would give to children and teenagers today. Questions the students explored included: “What defines our present?”, “What defines me?”, and “What concerns me and my environment the most?”. For the artistic implementation, they used modeling clay. To make their artistic idea visible to everyone, the students wrote a short text about their works. The diverse and profound ideas expressed in the students’ works are evident in the small selection of pictures.

“The heart beats for yourself.”

“For me, the controller signifies retreat, a place where I can withdraw from the environment and immerse myself in another world. Many young people today feel similarly.”
“The helmet represents the protective armor of people, concealing their vulnerability from the outside.”

In the third workshop, the students worked directly in the primary school’s museum. They developed an online game in the form of paper chase for the primary school students, providing them with a playful entry into their school museum and the history of East Germany and Dietmar Lenz’s artwork. During a beta test conducted by the tenth-graders with participants from the third and fourth grades, everyone had a lot of fun, and the game was very well received. The game “Time Travel to East Germany” now awaits the primary school students to be played, offering them a playful introduction to the time of East Germany.

On the last day, the results of the project week were honored in a large final presentation in the style of an exhibition opening. The appreciation shown for the students’ work was evident in the reactions of representatives from both school administrations, the supervising teachers, and all project participants.

Grundschule Siebleben

Artist Name

Dietmar Lenz

Artwork title, year

Kind und Natur, 1984

technique, Dimensions

sculpture, ca. 150 cm high (visual judgement)

project period

12-16 June 2023

Name of the school





Shirin, M., Till, Sophie, C., Hellen, Luisa, A., Josephine, Moritz, Emily, Klara, Lara, Eric, Emil, Laureen, Emilia, Nerina, Juliane, Lisa, Hannes, Emely, P., Stella, Lorenz, Marc, Frieda, Florian, Elias, Justus, Gregor, Devid, Luke, Karen, Alex.

Teacher's name

Mrs Lein, Mrs Hofmann


Tom Ackermann, Annekatrin Lemke


Roswitha Bause, Elke Heller, Monika Weimann


Grundschule Siebleben, Staatliches Schulamt Westthüringen