It was with great pleasure and excitement that I packed myself off last night to the grand opening of the social-artistic space known as Passareddu Artist Residency (PAR), located on a beautiful piece of land and only a short walk away from the centre of Cianciana (AG). It would be my first visit to the site and I was well aware of how much hard work the core group involved with the inception of this social-artistic idea had put into preparing the ground for the grand opening.
The programme for the event stated that it would start at 19:00 hrs (an unusually early start for anything that happens in Sicily), so naturally I fell for it and was the first to arrive. This was good, though, because it gave me an opportunity to tour the grounds, take a lot of photographs and generally absorb the beauty of the spot and the incredible transformation of a barren piece of land suddenly becoming a magical meeting place in very little time and on a tight budget.
The layout of the space was well thought out and conducive to positive friendly flow. Little parts of the space were devoted to specific atmospheres, like the sand garden, containing a delicate palm tree, the olive patch, containing two freshly-planted olive trees, then the doors… Four ancient, fabulous discarded wooden doors lined up to join each other, framed in white paint, displaying their original knotted beauty. These acted as an imaginary entrance to the space, situated as they were, below ground level at the edge of the town above.
But the highlight of course, was the installation and transformation of two old containers, one of which served as an inviting room with endless possibilities for its use. In time for the grand opening, one of the containers was prepared, fresh paint, nice large wooden floor, clean lines, perfect. Two sides of the container were open and the larger side supported a well balanced white sail, granting much needed shade from the sun. This particular container overlooked the little sand garden and beyond that the gracious rolling countryside of Cianciana.
A few artists had items on display and while on my own, I had a careful look at each piece. The first thing to catch my eye was a dressmaker’s stand, parked in front of the four doors, displaying a ‘medieval tunic.’ The information sheet informed me that this was produced by two Italian designers who operate here in Italy under the label Miryaki Interesting to look at but I wouldn’t advise putting it in the washing machine! Not meant to be worn, I guess.
Other artists on display included visual pieces: Rosa Lo Pilato (Harmonie); Saverio Carubia (Comunicazione) and Hilary Arnold (Medusa con Fiore). A different kind of piece entitled: From Sicily to Leeds (and back again), hung on the wall of the container and consisted of little hand-made cards to be read. These were produced by Carla Moss (UK), who makes artistic books exploring the theme of time and place.
While making my way to Carla Moss’ piece, I walked into a curtain which seemed to be deliberately put there to bump into. I was informed, however, that this too was part of the show, a piece by Elizabeth Briel , entitled: Chinese Lamp on Lacquered Silk. The whole notion of bumping into it took on greater meaning than the piece itself, and to me it seemed a very Yoko Ono thing to do. I smiled.
Another piece attracted my attention but I couldn’t figure out what it was supposed to be… Fortunately, the artist himself arrived just as I was enquiring. This was Simon Yabsley (UK), and since there was no information sheet for me to read, I got to ask him personally about it.
It was a series of silver dots on a black background, including one single red dot. He told me that his title for it was: Not Seeing is Believing. While I’m aware that believing is a strong part of Passareddu’s marketing strategy, I still didn’t get it. Then he gave me the key… It’s Passareddu in Braille! Wow, how brilliant is that!
I have to say though, that my absolute favourite piece of the whole evening was actually a piece which was not necessarily on display, as such. It was part of the hand-made furnishings spread throughout the area for the benefit of guests. Drum roll! It was the greatest ashtray I’ve ever seen. By using part of a very heavy old wooden door and focusing on its special smaller insert-opening, the smart duo of Scott Thompson and David Goldring, turned it into a table, with an open/close trap, which when opened, contained a deep pit of sand and the perfect solution for nasty old cigarette butts. Fantastic! Now, that’s art!
Speaking of hand-made furnishings, I have to say that all of the men and women involved in the core group behind the idea of Passareddu, have put a lot of time and energy into making it a success. They have produced hand-made cushions from old clothes, they have turned wooden pallets into painted benches, they have produced food to feed the masses and a round of applause is well overdue.
While the string of fairy-lights twinkled across the four-door installation and the stars in the sky twinkled also, I mingled with the crowd in search of soundbites to wrap up the evening. Here’s what I got:
GLYNIS: Quite exciting! Mysterious undercurrent about what’s going on here.
JEANETT: Interesting community development.
DOUG: Nice social evening.
CLAYTON: Lovely night, lovely people, lovely time.
SIMON: Lovely evening. Great that Cianciana has something else to be proud of besides cheap houses.
DIANE: An exciting possibility.
OLIVIA: Great evening, full of arts and inspiration. A wonderful climax to six months hard work.
JOEY: Warm and welcoming.
HILARY: Amazing transformation in three-and-half days. I didn’t think it was possible.
DAVID: Yeah, it’s all good!
SAVERIO: It thrills the eye and animates the soul.
MARTA: This is the starting point. We will go on improving the space.
TOMMY: This place can open many doors.
IGNAZIO: Yesterday, we finished the first container and my head was in the sky. For me, it’s unbelievable!
SCOTT: I’m relieved and content that creatives have come to appreciate PAR’s birth.
The realization that Passareddu is a wonderful asset for Cianciana, certainly came to light last night. With a population of only 3,500 people (swelling to over 5,000 in the summer), the town can boast at being a contemporary and cultural place, steeped in art, offering an abundance of painters, photographers, musicians, craftsmen (and women), making it a truly multifunctional, multicultural society.
There are more events scheduled up to 14 August, and below is a hint of what’s to come:
3 August: Women at Work – 19:00 hrs. Aperitivo and opening of the exhibition of paintings and crafts by Hilary Arnold; Mariapia Gambino; Rosangela Leotta.
4-7 August: Workshop for Creative Tailoring – From 18:30 to 20:30, work with Mariapia Gambino and learn how to make cushions and other items from old clothes. Register before 30 July. Cost: €7 per workshop participation.
10 August: Passareddu Under the Stars – 19:00 hrs. Exhibition of paintings by Antonio Palminteri. Exhibition of eco-design group, Chioccioline Lab. Presentation of the project Turning in Tables, made by students of the industrial design department of the University of Palermo.
23:00 hrs. Initiative dedicated to the night of the shooting stars, with live music!
14 August: PAR-TY! 19:00 hrs. Inauguration of the painting exhibition by Mario Amari. Starting at 23:00 hrs. Festa di Ferragosto!
All news and updates about Passareddu’s activities can be found on Facebook and on their own website at:
Do remember that this magical endeavour was made possible by crowd funding and all contributions or other assistance will be gratefully accepted. Join us!
By: Bernadette Landy-Lovatt
27 July 2014