The Institute for Cultural Heritage – Istituto per i beni artistici, culturali e naturali (IBC) – of the Emilia Romagna Region, founded in 1974, operates as an advising body for the regional government and local authorities in policy making related to cultural heritage. It promotes projects in the field of architectural and environmental heritage, museums, libraries and hierarchies, for different purposes: restoration, protection, enhancement and enjoyment of cultural heritage.
The IBC Emilia Romagna has been developing best practices in youth engagement to the enhancement and management of cultural heritage goods, involving both schools and young associations.
We interviewed Valentina Galloni, coordinator of the pioneering project “I love cultural heritage”.
How the project “I love cultural heritage” works and how does it fit with the IBC’s activities
In Emilia Romagna, The Institute for Cultural Heritage has adopted a new policy to actively engage youth to their local cultural heritage. This policy is realized through two already consolidated initiatives: one devolved to youth cultural agencies of the region – the “Youth for the Region” contest – and the other – the contest “I love cultural heritage” – aimed at targeting students in schools.
The “I love cultural heritage” starts in 2011 to ensure the regional reach to a European project, where at the time IBC was a partner, called “Acqueduct”. The aim of the project was to train teachers and cultural institutions’ operators to understand the value and the importance of cultural heritage as a vital tool to spread key transversal competences to students. Those competences, as established by the Panel of Reference adopted by the European Parliament and the Council in 2006, are: learn to learn, social and civic competences, initiative and entrepreneurial spirit, and cultural expressions and consciousness. In order to effectively meet those goals, several pilot projects started in partner countries in collaboration with schools and cultural institutions actively involving students. Given the effective methodology employed and the successful results achieved by students, a new regional initiative has been envisioned by IBC. This is how “I love cultural heritage” came to life, encouraging every year new schools to join the partnership together with museums, libraries and archives, and to present a project adding value to local institutions and/or cultural assets. The active students’ involvement and the development of transversal competences are themselves two key goals of the project.
Which are the projects’ evaluation criteria? Which supporting activities IBC offered in addition to funding, if any?
For the projects’ evaluation we use the following criteria: innovation and originality of the project proposal and communication; clarity and coherence in its articulation; the active participation of students in its implementation; the capacity and modality of schools and other local stakeholders’ engagement; the proposal reproducibility in other scholastic contexts or museums, and libraries. Thus, we support the project not only financially but also in terms of training, documenting and promotion. The referents take part in meetings with initiative’s coordinators, with those who previously implemented projects and with the MOdE’s – Museo Officina dell’Educazione dell’Università di Bologna – professors, for what concerns the documentation and the evaluation of the projects. At the end of every year, results are collected, published, and spread in affiliated websites, in as much they can inspire future projects; they will be further presented by the same students in the final conference.
Which are the main innovations introduced by students in the project’s partners institutions?
During these years, students have achieved extremely original and innovative projects: board games, eBooks, audio guides, videos, interactive and emotional maps, bas-reliefs, design objects, xylographies, didactical routes, web sites, promotional projects for tourism, virtual reconstructions, catalogues and exhibitions, monitoring attentively every phase of the process.
Many projects connect students coming from different schools linking their different competences to reach a shared goal. For example, in a recent project students made a short film to highlight the value of some paintings hosted in a museum: students from high school not only acquired knowledge in various disciples (e.g. art, history, cinema etc.) but also developed the new competences like film-making, writing and acting. Older students from a cinematographic institute helped and guided them in this venture; students from fashion school crafted their costumes while students from art school helped with the scenography of the movie.
Which are project’s main objectives achieved? And which the main criticisms?
The different editions of the contest involved thousands of students who have worked with hundreds of cultural institutions, organizations and associations from all over the region. Museums, archives and libraries are the institutions where students work as a group, learn, create, play and make use of their learned competencies and their talents; each one of them is given the possibility to have an active role in the achievements of a cultural project; each one understands the role he or she can have in taking care of a cultural asset and how this can impact future generations. Students have the possibility to actively experiment the museum, the archive and the library as areas for active learning. Here they can develop new forms of communication to enhance their cultural heritage’s value. Now other cultural institutions are involved as well: initially the project was designed only for museum, later on archives and libraries were involved too. The funded projects have increased (currently 20) as well as the funds allocated for each project (at the moment 4000 euros: 2000 for the school and 2000 to the cultural institution).
Some criticisms are due to the fact that these activities are extremely challenging, since they develop through the whole academic year. Therefore, they require commitment and energy in task accomplishment and organization between the different involved actors. Nevertheless, the overall evaluation is very positive and enthusiastic from the part of the students.
Over the years, also a project called “Youth for the Region” has been developed. What are the objectives and results obtained up to date?
In this case as well, the main objective lies in the active involvement of the youth, in order to create new forms of management and communication of cultural assets. Youth associations are invited to partner up with agency, possibly owner of a cultural good, to present an innovative project with regard to the governance of the asset.
Each year, several projects compete in the contest and, in order to select the 10 best projects, the criteria employed are among inventiveness, active participation and capacity to involve the entire local community. Moreover, a necessary condition for the admission is to receive either from the respective agency or from a third subject, a contribution of at least 2000 euros. As a matter of fact, the capacity to attract new resources is ultimately considered a further the criteria. Each project financed with a 10.000 euros funding, is further monitored and followed up by the Institute for Cultural Heritage becoming example for next projects.
These projects represents occasions to research and to collect historic material, to learn how to use new technologies, to strengthen the link between cultural assets and the surrounding landscape, to give new inputs and awareness to the local community about the importance of cultural heritage. They foster civic engagement in cultural heritage commons’ management, fostering social inclusion and job retrieval.
The participation to the contest can constitute an impulse for some associations, evolving them from start-ups into concrete realities; for others, it has been an occasion to value and acquire recognition for their own work while enlarging the local partners.
As demonstrated with these projects, Culture & Participation are key part of the IBC mission and activities at the cutting edge of in the current debate. Which are the main obstacles encountered? And which the potentialities still to experiment?
Unfortunately, students are often committed to other activities which obstacles the possibility to make a real job from these projects. They should be supported more and for a longer period. A public – private partnership should be promoted to create a financial system to support their activity.
di Miguel Martinez
Today June 7th, a small event, highly symbolic however for all of Europe’s historic centres being turned into Disneylands for tourism, will take place in Florence, when the children of the Oltrarno district will plant forty rhizomes of iris about one hundred metres from the Brancacci Chapel, where Masaccio unwittingly unleashed the Renaissance (and also painted an extraordinary allegory of the Commons).
Whatever is bureaucratic and artificial, is easy to understand. Whatever is real is unique and complex, so it will take some explaining, but the fun lies precisely in putting the strands together.
The first strand lies just behind the Carmine church, in Florence’s Oltrarno district: a garden hidden behind a high wall called the “Nidiaci”, a gift by the American Red Cross, in 1920 to the children of what was then the poorest district of the city, riddled with TBC and crime, yet the scene of extraordinary human passions and solidarity.
Today the inhabitants of the centre of Florence are being driven out by an Airbnb economy based on evictions, empty houses, craftsmen overwhelmed by taxes losing their workplaces to pubs.
Flats are filled by people who have no contact with the area they sleep in for a night or two, while bartenders and cooks – largely from remote parts of the world – commute every night for miles, to reach their zoned homes, leaving a trail of burnt fossil fuel behind them.
Metaphorically, we could say that a certain number of Florentines make money by gluing their ancestors’ bones to clothes hangers and putting them up in their shop windows. As an exceptionally kind hearted landowner put it to a single mother and her child before evicting them, “I’m so sorry, but if you leave, I can earn 90 euros a night from this flat!”
To make way for tourists yearning to see the “Oltrarno, district of craftsmen”, the last shoemaker was evicted too: he held out bravely for several months in his tiny shop, with no running water, before finally leaving the city.
The hidden Nidiaci garden has become a rallying point for old and new residents – Florentine carpenters and bakers alongside Macedonian hotel cleaners, Egyptian pizza cooks and Irish artists – who keep it open as a Commons: arts, music, crafts, a vegetable garden, a football school, set up by the legendary Lebowski team (the only soccer club owned by fans in Italy) and guided tours for local children, to remind them that they are the guardians of the rich history of Florence, wherever their parents may have been born.
Children’s concert at the Nidiaci
The second strand concerns the name of Florence, supposedly derived from the Latin flos, “flower”: a city founded, according to legend, during the Roman festival of Floralia, an image which immediately brings to mind Flora in Botticelli’s Primavera, so beautifully thinned out in Evelyn De Morgan’s painting Flora, sold to a Scottish patron.
Evelyn De Morgan, Flora
On the bottom right of the painting, the small tag, written in rhymed medieval Italian, says,
“I come down from Florence and am Flora,
This city takes its name from flower
Among the flowers I was born and now by a change of home
I have my dwelling among the mountains of Scotia
Welcome me, and let my treasure amid northern mists be dear to you.”
The heraldic symbol of the city-state of Florence, since before Dante, has always been the fleur-de-lys, as it appears on the town banners. Here you can see it in one of those ambiguous events where true Florentines wear, with enormous commitment, authentically fake Renaissance costumes, partly to attract tourists, but mainly because they have a tremendous desire to express a deeply felt identity.
People all over Italy do similar things, like the Chivalry Joust of Sulmona, which has no spectators because nearly everybody in town is an actor and nobody knows where Sulmona is.
The fleur-de-lys of Florence is actually an iris, the humble giaggiolo which until not so many years ago used to grow everywhere along the banks of the Arno, but has now nearly disappeared.
Next to Piazzale Michelangelo, where tourists enjoy a splendid view over the city, there is another little known garden, kept open only a few weeks a year by a group of enthusiasts and dedicated exclusively to the iris.
The third strand is the University of Florence, where Professor Stefano Mancuso has opened a new field of research, that of plant sensitivity, establishing the International Laboratory of Plant Neurobiology.
Mancuso is also the inventor of the fascinating and somewhat frightening Jellyfish Barge, a kind of Noah’s Ark to help us survive the Anthropocene we have created.
Right now, probably the most prominent cultural event in town is an unlikely experiment set up by Mancuso and a German artist, in the courtyard of the Renaissance Palazzo Strozzi, on the relations between plant and human psychology.
The Florence Experiment is a research project where visitors slide down a structure from a height of 20 metres; their emotional reactions will be recorded and compared with those of plants to examine the empathetic possibilities between humans and plant organisms.
The issue of relations between plants and us, is of course enormous, quite simply because without plants, we would cease to exist; and our future therefore depends on how we relate to them.
This takes us to the fourth strand. Professor Mancuso has launched an interdisciplinary master’s degree, called “Plant Future” – Futuro Vegetale, – bringing together scholars from very different fields (biology, sociology, architecture, political science) who are seeking a way out of the suicidal course we are currently engaged in.
Then there is the fifth strand, Florence’s Calcio fiorentino, a no-holds-barred form of football developed in Florence in Renaissance times, played between the four historic districts of the old part of Florence,
Though it is a rediscovered tradition (dating back to the 1930s), it is firmly rooted in local culture, and is the strongest source of identity of the Oltrarno district, which is of the “White” colour, and where a hardy group of unpaid bar keepers, electricians and carpenters risk their lives every year for this match dedicated to Saint John, the city patron.
The official matches are a municipal institution, so fans and players have set up an independent organisation, recreating the fourteenth-century fraternity of the “Whites”, the Compagnia dei Bianchi, one of the countless lively community organisations of medieval Italy, to develop local solidarity and help the countless people whose very survival is in doubt in these hard times.
The scholars of Plant Future decided that the most symbolic place in all Florence to launch a new idea of how to found a city was the Nidiaci garden, its plants, trees and human community.
The first irises would be there, then they would be gradually planted wherever people took care of community gardens.
So they went to the Iris Garden, where the organisers immediately understood, and gave forty of their best rhizomes, kept for international competitions, to plant in the Nidiaci, recreating the original Florentia or flowering.
The minute beginning of a renewal of a whole city, based on commoning.
The Plant Future scholars came over to visit the garden.
An Albanian mother, who sells shirts in the market at San Lorenzo and teaches the children how to grow tomatoes and melons in the Nidiaci garden, decided where the rhizomes should be planted.
Then the organisers got in touch with the Compagnia dei Bianchi, because it was fundamental for them to be present in such a special moment.
All of this is very small, and very concentrated.
And smallness, and concentration, is exactly what we all need.
As Rising Appalachia put it,
Stand up, look around and then scale that down too!”
On April 18-20 Aarhus University, Denmark, hosted the international conference “Cultures of participation. Arts, digital media and politics”, organized by the Take Part research network on cultural participation. The conference aimed at presenting and discussing how participatory approaches are declined within both physical and virtual contexts, like cultural institutions and digital media platforms, urban spaces, artistic production, architectural design. It dealt with three main themes: 1) Participatory art & aesthetics, 2) Digital media & technology, 3) Cultural policy & participation.
In this context, LabGov participated, with its co-founder Christian Iaione together with Maria Elena Santagati, in the session that provided a reconstruction of the Italian context and initiatives, presenting the experience of the LabGov’s project Co-Rome promoting the participatory governance of cultural heritage in the framework of the Faro Convention, with a focus on the urban commons implemented in the Centocelle’s Archaeological Park in Rome
120 participants from all over the world had the opportunity to attend the three keynote speeches by Lisanne Gibson (School of Museum Studies-University of Leicester) “Museums and participation – Who goes… (and who doesn’t?)”, by Shannon Jackson (University of California, Berkeley) “Civic re-enactment and public re-assembly”, and by Zizi Papacharissi (University of Illinois-Chicago) “Affective publics: news storytelling, sentiment and Twitter”. The first one–starting from a recent study conducted in the UK showing that museum visitors are just a minority of the population (8.7%) who engage with State funded cultural activities–calls for a rethinking of museum practice and role to enhance the citizens’ interest and participation starting from the idea that “Museum can function as places where people can explore their own identities in relation to others, to reflect on how people are different and how they are the same” (Mark O’Neill, 2006: 109). The second one–based on the UC-Berkeley’s research platform on Public (Re) Assembly and the work of Aaron Landsman and Paul Ramirez Jonas–investigated the re-enactment in civic processes. The third one discussed about the concept of affective publics, the role and meaning of social media for the Arab Spring and occupy movements, together with data from recent studies by the University of Illinois at Chicago explaining the relevance of the platform for contemporary news storytelling, framing, and gate-keeping.
A range of sessions provided different perspectives on the topic of participation in culture through the lenses of different disciplines, reflecting the ongoing practices trends across Europe and beyond, including digitized cultural institutions and experiences, participatory art, policies of participation, measurement and valuation of cultural participation, cultural activism, methods for engaging communities in cultural production, arts&media platform, spaces for civic participation, urban and public space, participatory management of cultural institutions, technological transformations, and (non)participation. With respect to participation in policy and management, the session concerning the European Capitals of Culture provided useful considerations emerging from a study on ECOC projects revealing that most of them had an instrumental approach to the participation instead of providing a base for participatory governance (Szilvia Nagy). The session also stressed the need of rethinking the participation with regards to the experience of Aarhus 2017 based on the Rethinking participation Report (Leila Jankovich and Louise Ejgod Hansen), shared an analysis of arts carnivals programmes and participation within Capitals of culture in UK (Angela Chapell), and, finally, displayed a very interesting project “2025€ x 2025”, concerning participatory projects for Dresden ECOC candidate city for 2025, including one based on the “table-theatre” method (Valentina Mercenaro).
With regard to participation in culture policy-making, interesting inputs were raised from: a critical perspective on Iceland’s official cultural policy and its confusing aesthetic of involvement (Njourour Sigurjonsson); an interesting critical analysis of newly rooted participatory cultural institutions in Poland (Marcin Poprawski); a case study of Leeds cultural policy making as a democratic space (Malaika Cunningham and Elysia Lechelt); and a reflection about cultural participation as a narrative in the German cultural policy (Claudia Steigerwald). Finally, another case treated the challenge of participatory management at the School-Museum of Pusol within the SoMus-Society in the museum project (Lorena Sancho Querol, Rafael Martinez Garci and José Martinez Jurado).
Meanwhile, on April 18th, the European Union published the final report of the OMC working group on “Participatory governance of cultural heritage”, containing both operational and policy recommendations. Moreover, within the European Year of Cultural Heritage, the European Cultural Heritage Summit will take place in Berlin on June 198h-24nd, with the slogan “Sharing heritage-Sharing values”. Among the next interesting meetings and events, some concern participatory issues like: the conference “Cultural heritage communities and audiences in today’s digital environment” dedicated to digital technologies and cultural heritage; the conference “Sharing as a chance. Private initiatives and cultural heritage”: “People want to participate in heritage and be involved in decision processes. It should no longer be a specific task of experts to decide about the future of our heritage but of all those who are engaged in it”; and the students’ summit “Culture Up Your Future – Living out European Heritage in the Digital Age” concerning students’ engagement with European cultural heritage.
Finally, another relevant meeting on the topic of participation will be held on June, 11th-12th in Manchester for the conference “Understanding everyday participation: Re-locating culture, value and inequality”, as the final step of Understanding everyday participation – Articulating Cultural Values, a five-year research project funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council advancing a re-evaluation of the link between participation and cultural value.
Chateau de la Mothe-Chandeniers, France. Image from La Voix du Nord
More than 17.000 contributors from 115 countries participated to the crowdfunding campaign promoted by Dartagnans, a French crowdfunding agency dedicated to the promotion of cultural heritage, to buy, save and enhance the Chateau de la Mothe-Chandeniers in France. More than 1,5 million € have been collected thanks to the contributors that will become co-owners of the medieval castle; 500.000 € will go for the purchase, while the remaining part for the securing and restoration activity.
Meanwhile in Italy Federculture, the National Federation of Regions, Municipalities, Local Utility Companies and all actors managing cultural, tourism, leisure and sports services, launched a petition to ask the Italian government the ratification of the Faro Convention.
Besides the ever growing bottom-up initiatives and activities promoting citizens involvement and engagement in culture, participation is finally gaining an increasing attention also in the research field, as demonstrated by the recent conference “Participatory governance in culture. Exploring practices, theories and policies”, held in November in Rijeka and promoted by Kultura Nova Foundation in collaboration with the European Cultural Foundation. 3 days of interesting discussions and paper presentations around the topic of participatory approaches in culture. Professors Leila Jankovich (University of Leeds, UK), Frank Fischer (Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany and Rutgers University, US) and Christian Iaione (Guglielmo Marconi University of Rome, LUISS University and LabGov’s co-founder, Italy) proposed three different keynote speeches exploring participatory approaches in the arts, in cultural governance and policy making and in the city as a commons perspective. The conference was also an opportunity to learn about many practices spreading throughout Europe, from cultural associations to independent spaces and platforms, from social centres to museums, all developing participatory projects and processes in their everyday activity. Insights into other continents approaches, with some representatives of Zambia, South Africa, US and India were provided as well. Also difficulties and potentials of participation in European Capitals of Culture were discussed, thanks to the experience of some candidate cities.
Next year, other conferences will explore the role of participation in culture, finally acknowledging its importance.
In April (18-20), Aarhus University will host the international conference “Cultures of Participation – Arts, Digital Media and Politics” in order to discuss about the main trends, potentials and problems of the different cultures of participation. The key question is: “On policy levels, citizen participation and engagement are emphasized as key components of democratic societies and these policies are currently being practiced and put to work at cultural institutions and cultural houses, in artistic production, in architectural and urban ‘smart city’ designs and various digital media spaces. But what are the characteristics of cultural participation and how do these manifest themselves in cultures of participation?” The conference invites paper proposals in these topics (deadline January 5): 1) Participatory art & aesthetics, 2) Digital media & technology, 3) Cultural policy & participation.
Image from https://www.gla.ac.uk/events/universeum2018 (the main building of the University of Glasgow)
In June (13-15th), the main annual conference of Universeum- The European Academic Heritage Network (XIX Universeum Network Meeting), held at The Hunterian, University of Glasgow, will be focused on “Working Together: Partnerships,Co-creation, Co-curation”. A call for papers (deadline January 31) is launched in the following topics: 1) Teaching and Student Engagement with Collections; 2) Co-curating Academic Collections Within and Beyond the Campus, while a poster session will deal with the topic of “Working Together in University Museums”. The purpose is clear, due to “the importance for university museums of working together, not only within the university campus but also beyond, collaborating with other cultural heritage organisations; with other communities; with society at large. (…) Working together includes also giving the initiative and the voice to our end users, and working closely together to co-curate and co-create exhibitions, resources, and events”.
European Cultural Heritage Summit, Berlin
Always in June (18-24th), Berlin will host the European Cultural Heritage Summit, one of the flag events of the European Year of Cultural Heritage. The Summit theme is “Sharing heritage – sharing values” and it will be co-hosted by Europa Nostra, the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (SPK) and the German Cultural Heritage Committee (DNK). A large number of events will be proposed mobilising public and private stakeholders, among which the Heritage excellence fair, an High-level policy debate on Europe and cultural heritage, the Award-giving ceremony for the EU Prize for Cultural Heritage/Europa Nostra Awards 2018 and the Europa Nostra General Assembly and visits of the UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Potsdam.
An increasing attention for a relentless phenomenon. Stay tuned!
Il tema della partecipazione nel settore culturale sta finalmente ricevendo la dovuta attenzione. Accanto alla crescita di iniziative dal basso, anche il mondo della ricerca e della policy inizia ad interrogarsi su tendenze, problematiche e scenari del fenomeno. Un 2018 ricco di appuntamenti.
From November 22nd to 24th, Rijeka (Croatia) is going to host the Participatory Governance in Culture: Exploring Practices, Theories and Policies Conference.
The Conference is organized by Kultura Nova Foundation, in partnership with Rijeka 2020 LLC and collaboration with European Cultural Foundation (ECF) and International Federation of Arts Councils and Culture Agencies (IFACCA) as a part of the “Approaches to Participatory Governance of Cultural Institutions” project supported by UNESCO’s International Fund for Cultural Diversity. The conference is also supported by the regional intergovernmental forum Central European Initiative.
The Conference, through the presence of scholars, researchers, theoreticians, cultural operators, artists, practitioners, activists, policymakers and decision-makers from across the world, is going to cover a number of issues and concerns about the challenges, limitations, paradoxes and perspectives that cultural research, practices and policies are facing around the concept of participatory governance in culture. The different paper and panel sessions will explore changes in the socio-political context, cultural and social effects of new models of governance, modes and levels of involvement of all relevant stakeholders in decision-making processes and the (re)organization and relevance of their roles.
Prof Christian Iaione, LabGov’s co-founder, is going to attend the conference as a keynote speaker. He will give a speech on “The right to the Co-City” on Thursday, November 23rd, at 7 pm.
The full program is available on the official website of the Conference: http://conference.participatory-governance-in-culture.net/hr/programme