Villa Aurora & Thomas Mann House – Team Berlin

Heike Catherina Mertens | Executive Director

Heike Catherina Mertens | Photo: Yan Revazov
Heike Catherina Mertens | Photo: Yan Revazov

Heike Catherina Mertens studied art history, philosophy and sociology. After academic work in contemporary art, she worked as a curator for public art from 2000 until 2007. In 2001, she founded stadtkunstprojekte, a Berlin-based association to promote urban public art. From 2007 until February 2018, she was artistic director of the Schering Stiftung and, from 2015 onwards, also executive manager, responsible for the entire program of the foundation at the interface of art and science. In March 2018, she assumed the program direction of Hatje Cantz publisher. Since October 2018, she is executive director of VATMH e. V. Furthermore, she is member of the University Council (Hochschulrat) of the University of the Fine Arts of Hamburg and member of the board of trustees for the KAIROS Prize, awarded by the Alfred Toepfer Stiftung F.V.S.

Mirko Lux | Communications and Program Management

Mirko Lux

Mirko Lux studied modern German literature studies and art history in Berlin and Siena. During and after university Mirko worked as a freelance journalist and photographer and attended seminars at Ostkreuzschule, a school for photography in Berlin. He is a member of KOOK e.V., a non-profit association and independent network of artists for artists. Since May 2013 Mirko is responsible for communication and program management in the Berlin office of Villa Aurora & Thomas Mann House e.V.

Kristina Worthmann | Finances, Program and Communications Management

Kristina Worthmann

Kristina Worthmann studied at the Freie Universität Berlin and at the Université Paris 8 Theatre and Dance Studies, Philosophy and Comparative Literature. Among others, she has worked in project- and event-management at the Karl-Hofer Gesellschaft | Friends of the University of Arts Berlin and for the exhibition "Rohkunstbau" at the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung Brandenburg


Villa Aurora – Team Los Angeles

Dr. Claudia Gordon | Director

Claudia Suhr Gordon
Claudia Suhr Gordon

Claudia Suhr Gordon studied Egyptology, Sociology and Coptic Studies at the University of Göttingen, Germany where she earned her M.A. and filed her dissertation on Ancient Egyptian first-person narratives. From 2002 – 2007, she was the Director of Villa Aurora, where she has served as Administration Officer from 2010 until 2020. In 2020, Claudia once again assumed the postion as Director.

Friedel Schmoranzer | Project Coordinator

Friedel Schmoranzer
Friedel Schmoranzer

Friedel Schmoranzer studied German Philology and Sociology at the University of Konstance (BA) and holds an MA in studies in editing from the FU Berlin. From March 2010 to November 2010 she was Chief Editor for the catalogue Transatlantic Impulses - 15 years of Villa Aurora at Villa Aurora Forum Berlin. In 2011 she was assistant to the director at Villa Aurora Los Angeles, there she serves as project coordinator since 2012.


Thomas Mann House – Team Los Angeles

Dr. Steven D. Lavine | Chairman of the advisory board

Dr. Steven D. Lavine
Dr. Steven D. Lavine

Steven D. Lavine has been president of the California Institute of the Arts from 1988 until June 2017. Previously, he had served for eight years as a program officer for arts and humanities at the Rockefeller Foundation, with special concentration on media and museums, and from 1974 to 1981 he was an assistant professor of English literature at the University of Michigan. Dr. Lavine currently serves on the board of directors of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, Endowments Inc., KCRW-FM National Public Radio, and KCET-Public Broadcasting, and the Cotsen Family Foundation, as Co-Chair of the Arts Coalition for Academic Progress for the Los Angeles Unified School District and on the Advisory Committee for the Asia Society California Center and the Cultural Policy Network Project of the Center for Arts and Culture, and as a member of the Public Programs Committee of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. He has served on the Board of Directors of the Operating Company of the Music Center of Los Angeles, the Board of Directors of the American Council for the Arts, and the Visiting Committee of The J. Paul Getty Museum and has been co-director of The Arts and Government Program for the American Assembly at Columbia University and co-chair of the Mayor's Working Group of the Los Angeles Theatre Center. He participated on the Architectural Selection Juries for the new Los Angeles Cathedral and the Los Angeles Children's Museum. In 1991, he co-edited with Ivan Karp, Exhibiting Cultures: The Poetics and Politics of Museum Display; in 1992, the Smithsonian Institution Press released their second co-edited volume, Museums and Communities: The Politics of Public Culture.

Dr. Nikolai Blaumer | Program Director

Nikolai Blaumer | Foto: Aaron Perez / VATMH

Nikolai Blaumer, born in Düsseldorf, Germany, studied at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich and Hebrew University of Jerusalem. He earned a doctorate in philosophy from LMU with a dissertation entitled »Korrektive Gerechtigkeit. Über die Entschädigung historischen Unrechts« (Campus Verlag, 2015) and taught at Ludwig Maximilian University as well as Bauhaus University in Weimar. Since 2014, Nikolai Blaumer has been working for the Goethe-Institut’s Department of Culture. He is co-editor of the book "Teilen und Tauschen" (S. Fischer Verlag, 2017). In February of 2018, he was posted to Los Angeles by the Goethe-Institut, where he assumed the position of program director at the Thomas Mann House.

Josh Widera | Program Assistant

Josh Widera
Josh Widera

Josh Widera studied Politics and Theatre Studies at the University of Glasgow and the University of Melbourne, as well as Aesthetics & Politics at the California Institute of the Arts. He is also a member of the nomadic French post-graduate program “Document and Contemporary Art” that investigates the methods and landscapes of artistic research. He has worked in events coordination, facilitation and non-formal education for United World Colleges in Eswatini, Scotland and Germany and has served as elected board member for their German network. A performance maker and theorist, Josh is a Fulbright Scholar and supported by the Studienstiftung des Deutschen Volkes, the ERP-Stipendium, and the Lilian Disney Scholarship.

Benno Herz | Program Assistant

Benno Herz | Photo: Axel Fialka

Benno Herz was working in the online communication division at the Städel Museum Frankfurt, Germany, before coming to the Thomas Mann House. Prior to this, he studied Theater, Film and Media Studies at the Goethe University Frankfurt and completed his M.A. with a focus on new social media aesthetics and interface theory. Since 2009, he has been creatively engaged in several music and film projects as a writer and instrumentalist.