This week, I begin my journey to Europe for my Florence art residency and "creative placemaking intensive". Many of you have asked what, exactly, I'll be doing when I'm over there, so here is a brief explanation:
I will first fly into Paris for a two-day stay, then take the train into Florence. I'm heading to a smaller town just northeast of Florence, Borgo San Lorenzo, where Officina Lieve is located. It's a collective of creatives, entrepreneurs, makers, coworkers and localists. They believe in the merging of traditional and digital skills, knowledge and space sharing, and the promotion of locally produced slow food (and much more). I met Pierpaolo diCarlo, one of the organization's founders, when he visited Buffalo a year and a half ago. Since then, he's been asking me to come see their work in Florence, and they offered me their first Artist in Residence opportunity. I was honored to accept.
Since then, it's been a process of figuring out WHAT exactly I would do while there. I knew I wanted to draw and paint the gorgeous scenery, but a "Creative Placemaking Intensive" also became one of the goals. We hoped to gather a group of community stakeholders, over the course of my three week stay, to discuss historic preservation, adaptive reuse of white elephant buildings, and community perspectives on art, history and placemaking. We've corrected course slightly, and decided that since there's already a constituency in the area of local/heritage food production throughout Tuscany, it made more sense for me to tour around with fellow artists and makers, going TO the people who are deeply involved in a movement that is, by its nature, enacting the principles of historic preservation and creative placemaking. The resulting documentation (photography, painting, videos of interviews, etc). will culminate in an exhibition, which may take place during this trip, or a return trip later in the spring.
I'll be the featured visitor during Officina's January 12th monthly cena (dinner); after the meal I'll address the group about my project. I'm excited to hear their perspectives and launch into what I'm considering a "listening tour" or "research mission". I hope to gain a deeper understanding of historic preservation, creative placemaking, and all tangentially related fields in Europe. Who are the avant garde? Who's doing preservation by default, or by accident? How do social movements contribute to placemaking (i.e. adding or defining the meaning of community places)? What does heritage mean to modern Europeans, of all ages?
At the conclusion of my residency, I will travel south of Rome to my ancestral hometown, to spend a week visiting relatives (whom I've never met before). Then, I'll fly to London to do a few final meetings with architects, artists and historians. I return to Buffalo in February.
Along the way, you can follow my adventures here on this blog, where I'll be posting visual journal pages (illustrations with limited text surrounding, usually of simple day-to-day experiences), and brief reflections. Please also be sure to "Like" my Confluence Creative Engagement page on Facebook, where I'll post links to this blog.
To those of you who have supported my efforts with a financial contribution, purchase of artwork and coloring books, or a smile and encouragement, I can not thank you enough. The love of my community has propelled me to this place, and I am thrilled to return home this spring to launch a series of lectures and workshops that will encapsulate my findings.
See you soon! A prèsto!