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Articles by: Joelle Grosso

  • The panel for the first event of this year's Digital Diplomacy Series
    Life & People

    Digital Diplomacy Series: Journalism in Modern Day America

    The Digital Diplomacy Series began in 2012 as a way to explore and examine the use of social media platforms by the foreign policy community for topics such as internet freedom, internet rights, and the future of innovation. Recently the reliability of news sources has been an ever increasing problem which is why the Embassy chose to focus particularly on the intersection between news and the internet at this conference. The panelists delved into questions like how foreign policy falls into mainstream and online media as well as what impact the “fake news” phenomenon has, if any, on the realm of foreign policy.

    Meet the Panel

    Moderator Bernadette Meehan, who currently works as a spokesperson for the United States National Security Council, was joined by brilliant guests including Matt Higginson, head of politics and government affairs at Medium; Rosie Gray, reporter of U.S. politics and global affairs for The Atlantic; Bradley Klapper, acting national security editor for The Associated Press; and Jessica Schulberg, foreign affairs reporter at The Huffington Post. Together they discussed what it means to be living in a digital world and all the struggles that come with it.

    The Power of Social Media

    Just within the last ten years, social media has taken the world by storm. With the influence of Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook growing more and more every day, it is evident that this unchartered territory has started to have a huge effect on politics and foreign affairs. For example, it has given any person with a smartphone the ability to directly upload videos live as they’re happening which presents just as many challenges as it does opportunities. Bradley Klapper put it best when he said that “social media has completely changed the landscape for media.”

    The government used to be the primary source for news gathering which means the news we received had always been already filtered. Given the newfound immediacy of social media, Higginson said “the world is getting closer, news is getting faster and the traditional way of reporting doesn’t seem as relevant sometimes.” However, this great democratization of information has led us to a point of content overload where disinformation is spread way too easily and the hyper-polarization of online news is dangerous. Unfortunately, it seems that our news no longer serves to inform but rather to entertain.

    Fake News and Politics

    News agencies that aim to entertain are why reporting has grown into an intense competition between putting out an accurate and complete story that takes longer to formulate versus being the first person to announce breaking news even if not all the details are in yet. Schulberg argued that this issue can be a good thing because it forces reporters to think creatively. She added “if you aren’t the first then you better have something better to offer when you come in second whether that’s a new tidbit of information on the story that someone else missed because they were rushing or perhaps an unexpected angle.” 

    When governments in particular engage in disseminating fake news, it is important to keep in mind that the responsibility of the journalist in this situation remains the same. Klapper said governments have always been inherently skewed and the journalist’s duty has always been to “talk to as many people as possible, lock down information as hard as you can, avoid the single sourcing at all costs because that’s where we see people get in trouble. In that sense, this is why traditional journalism has its value.” 

    The Bottom Line

    Even though the world seems to be changing a lot and very quickly, every government that has ever existed is guilty of giving its citizens misinformation in a subtle or not so subtle manner. It is up to journalists to do their job correctly and not give into the pressures to create a hot take on a story or to report on things that haven’t been factchecked yet. As for the everyday citizen, our job is to be extremely vigilant and critical of our sources and to not believe every single thing that pops up on our Facebook feed. Even though social media is fun to have, it is only an excellent resource when used in an appropriate way. 

    For those who are interested in the Digital Diplomacy Series, the project will continue throughout the year and more information can be found at: http://www.twiplomacy.it/

  • Art & Culture

    "The World of Falling in Love… Through Love Letters." A Conversation with Sonia Cancian

    The Museo della lettera d’amore is a most unique museum in Italy, rather the only museum in the world to focus solely on love letters. Hosted in the Palazzo del Marchese Valignani, in the 4000-inhabitants town of Torrevecchia Teatina, and directed by Massimo Pamio, for a number of years the museum has hosted several creative events with authors and other experts on the theme of love letters especially within the framework of the “Lettere d’amore dall’Italia” series. This year’s Valentine’s Day event fearured a lecture by Dr. Sonia Cancian. Born in Canada in an Italian family, Sonia Cancian, a professor at Zayed University in Dubai, is a social historian whose specialization is anchored in the  field of Italian migration. Her focus for this conference will be on her most recent book which explores the epistolary relationship between two individuals writing in the late 1940s between Venice and Montreal. A few days ago, we had the pleasure to interview Sonia Cancian. Here are excerpts of our conversation.

    As a historian who specializes in migration history, among other things, you have developed a special interest in "Italian migrant love letters." How did it happen and what have you learned from your research?

    Like many things we treasure in our lives, my scholarly interest in letters, and particularly migrant love letters, happened serendipitously and over time.

    To begin with, as a child I remember being fascinated by the letters of my grandparents safely guarded by my father, and by my family’s experiences of “neither here, nor there,” to quote Professor Donna Gabaccia, meaning our migration experience that influenced many aspects of our lives—from the food we ate, the clothing my mother sewed for us (and later bought), the culture that surrounded us, the economics of living, our identity growing up as a second generation Italian-Canadian, our dreams, our travels home to Italy, our schooling, the literature we relished, the history that we could relate to, etc. Then, in 1986, I travelled to Spilimbergo (PN) to visit my paternal grandmother, and there, I was introduced to the extraordinary amorous writings of my grandparents. She kept the letters in a white shoebox, I remember distinctly, a shoebox that was nowhere to be found once she passed away, disappeared.  I remember that day as though it were yesterday. There she was, standing next to me as she opened the box of letters that she and my grandfather had exchanged in the late 1920s. As she opened one of the envelopes, there on the thin, neatly transparent paper with ink bleeding through was my grandfather’s calligraphy crystallizing words of affection for my grandmother while he had been away in Amiens, France.

    Love and the writing of love in letters remains at the heart of our stories as human beings. For migrants, refugees, and exiles, these letters carry the additional weight of a past anchored in a transnational space--loves past, loves found, and loves rekindled in the memory and in the present. Many times letters of this nature remain forgotten in a drawer, a shoebox, or tucked away in a dust-covered suitcase of one’s home. As material evidence of intimate relationships, migrant letters of this nature underscore the centrality of a constellation of emotions (loss, grief, guilt, nostalgia, hate, euphoria, and joy) and a defining individual experiences of mobility in relation to self, family, and nation.

    As a Canadian of Italian origin, you dedicated your book on Italian postwar emigration to Canada as seen through these letter, Families, Lovers, and their Letters: Italian Postwar Migration to Canada (Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 2010). Can you tell us something about the book, and your experience in writing it?

    The book, Families, Lovers, and their Letters engages with a multidisciplinary historiography grounded in social history, migration history, feminist ethnography, and literary studies. It draws its findings predominantly from one primary source, letters of people who lived in primarily oral cultures and did not normally employ literary expression in their everyday lives. These letters in conditions in which we can presume were written “in the moment” on both sides of the ocean as migration was bringing changes to the daily lives, dreams, and opportunities of migrants and their loved ones. This study addresses two main research questions: First, what do the personal letters of ordinary individuals reveal about the impact of migration experienced by Italian migrants in Canada and their kin and lovers who remained in Italy during the postwar years? Second, what strategies and social, cultural, and emotional responses to migration do the letters reveal from the viewpoint of these actors? Drawing on an analysis of over 400 private letters belonging to six different families, I explore the multiple layers of significance that these letters hold both historically and anthropologically in conversation with the rapidly growing scholarly interest in immigrants’ letters. The letters I analyze have been drawn from an original archive of 800 letters that I located and collected. These letters are unique in scope and original in the sense that they have never previously been archived or analyzed. Both individually and collectively, they offer a new source on the history of postwar Italian migration to Canada. Largely of a private and semi-private nature, these letters take us inside the minds and hearts of ordinary people whose personal and family identities and circumstances were most affected by the realities of international migration. Writing the book has been an intensely personal and intellectual experience. But that is not all. Here too, the personal is political.

    At the present you are working on a new book based on letters from two lovers one of whom left Italy just after WWII. Can you tell us a little about the book?

    The epistolary story of Antonietta Petris and Loris Palma takes us from a rather ordinary love story of a young couple falling in love at the end of the Second World War to an extraordinary love story that unfolds amid longing, resilience, nostalgia, music, romantic ideals and desires, and migration across long distances and time. Their letters—originally written solely for one another-- allow us to pry open their intimate worlds as they viewed and experienced them. What led this couple to believe in their relationship and stay the course during perennial periods of separation within Italy and later, transnationally between Italy and Canada? What kind of mechanisms did they consciously and unconsciously employ in their letters to pull the absent lover closer, to hold a lover's ear, and to remain faithful and complicit throughout the months and year of absence? In what ways does the process of migration underpin the correspondence of the lovers? More generally, what kind of findings do letters of this nature provide in the history of migration and the history of emotions? The answers to these and other questions are woven in the love story of Antonietta and Loris told through their letters.

    You must feel a little like and "archaeologist" today. It seems that there are love letters are waning from our world in light of the Internet, emails, skype, and social networks. There are many aspects to explore here... but isn't it also sad that we are losing the experience of writing letters?

    So much to say about this! However, in sum, the extraordinary personal letters of migrants and their loved ones speak to nostalgia and technology, and about the so-called lost art of letter-writing, even though I’m not sure the practice of letter-writing is entirely dead.  They speak also about romantic love, compelling us to ask if the love our grandparents experienced is buried in the past or still part of our present. The letters also remind us of the experiences of familial love, of detachment and loss, of the enormous resilience and agency of our parents, our grandparents, ourselves, and migrants and refugees currently facing enormous displacements in light of the most significant migration crisis we are facing since World War II. The letters speak about the depths of our humanity over time and space, the need to reach out, to sustain ties, to desire, to dream, and to love, as part of a larger global community.

  • Poster of the documentary
    Art & Culture

    Blaxploitalian: 100 Years of Blackness in Italian Cinema

    Despite the cold rainy night on February 7th, Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò at New York University was jam-packed with excited faces eagerly awaiting the New York premiere screening of Italian-Ghanaian director Fred Kuwornu’s latest documentary, Blaxploitalian: 100 Years of Blackness in Italian Cinema. The film is the first in Casa Italiana’s new series dedicated to debut films from or about Italy. This particular documentary thoroughly examines the experiences and personal struggles of black actors in Italian cinema from 1915 up until present day. 

    Who is Fred Kuwornu?

    The multitalented writer-director-producer-activist is of Ghanaian descent but was born and raised in Italy. After working with the influential film director Spike Lee in Miracle at St. Anna, Kuwornu went on to do his own in-depth investigative reports. His prior works include Inside Buffalo, which tells the widely unknown story of the segregated African American combat unit that fought in World War II, and 18 Ius Soli, an explanation of the Italian law that denies the citizenship to children born of immigrants in Italy. Kuwornu strikes once again with Blaxploitalian, a film that sheds a light not only on social injustices but on a more problematic global phenomenon. 

    Blaxploitation to Blaxploitalian

    The interesting title is a callback to the term “blaxploitation,” the exploitation of black people especially in regard to stereotypical movie roles. The word also refers to the ethic subgenre of popular movies made during the 1970’s in the United States. While interweaving his own personal history into the narrative, Kuwornu takes us on a journey back to when the first black actor appeared in an Italian film in 1915 (although the actor’s name did not appear in the credits) to the experiences of contemporary performers who constantly struggle to find respectable and significant roles.

    This multi-layered analysis of black representation in Italian and American cinema includes insightful interviews with actors who are always forced to question their identity. Even though these performers are 100% Italian they are told that they are not Italian enough for leading roles, which almost exclusively leaves them with the parts of foreigners, maids, prostitutes, and criminals. 

    A Conversation at Casa Italiana

    Following the screening of the documentary, there was a discussion with the filmmaker led by the director of Casa Italiana Stefano Albertini and the Chair of the NYU Department of Italian Studies David Forgacs. Kuwornu pointed out that this is not just an Italian problem, citing the “OscarsSoWhite” hashtag that was trending in reaction to the 2016 Academy Awards, nor is it just an African-American problem because other minority groups have even less representation in the film industry.

    Blaxploitalian asks its viewers to join the cause in challenging worldwide mainstream filmmakers and audiences into calling for an enhancement and practicing of ethnic and racial diversity in casting for important roles within the international media industries. Kuwornu’s next stop will be at the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles where another screening and Q&A will be held on February 16th.

  • The signature style of Luca della Robbia
    Art & Culture

    Della Robbia Comes to Washington D.C.

    From February 5th to June 4th, the National Gallery of Art will be hosting a fresh retrospective of the three generations of della Robbia sculpture. The national art museum located in Washington D.C. is always free of admission and is known for their diverse collection which varies from elegant Byzantine altarpieces to funky pop art. 

    This year the museum will feature the work of Luca della Robbia who was an innovative sculptor that lived and worked in Florence during the 15th century. He is credited with developing the particular sculpting technique of colorful tin-glazed terracotta. His eye-catching creations are easily recognizable by their bold shades of blue, brilliant whites, and rich botanical greens. His colorful work can be found all over Italy from the San Giovanni Fuoricivitas church in Pistoia to the charming Pazzi Chapel next to the Santa Croce Basilica in his native Florence.

    Highly popular during his time, the gifted sculptor went on to buy a large house which contained a workshop where he then decided to pass his knowledge down onto his nephew, Andrea, and his great nephew, Giovanni. This workshop would be the base of the family workshop up until the 1520s, approximately 40 years after della Robbia’s death in 1482.

    His specific style not only allowed the pieces to be more vibrant but they were also more durable which is why they became the object of desire for many Americans traveling to Italy during the 19th and 20th centuries with the hopes of bringing a taste of the Renaissance back home. For this reason, a majority of the sculptures presented in this exhibition originally come from private American collections. Meanwhile a couple of other pieces like “La Visitazione” will be on view for the first time ever outside of Italy’s borders. By choosing a more “poor” material like terracotta instead of something more luxurious like marble or bronze, the sculptor was able to make sturdy works of art that could survive centuries without any damage whatsoever. 

    Armando Varricchio, the Italian Ambassador in Washington D.C. commented on the special occasion: “As an Italian I am proud of the fact that an exhibition is being dedicated to the works of della Robbia and his contemporaries because it brings them to the attention of the American public.” He added that ”ingenuity, creativity, and the ability to innovate are the characteristics  of these artists but they also perfectly reflect some of the distinctive qualities of Italians in general.”

    Renato Miracco, the Cultural Attachè at the Embassy of Italy in Washington D.C. also expressed his feelings about the event saying that he is "glad that an underrated art like ceramics and ceramic sculpting is being brought back in style with a gorgeous exhibition like this one."

    Please take some time out of your day to visit this show which was organized by the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston in association with the National Gallery of Art with the support of the Italian Embassy in Washington D.C. Research conducted at these institutions along with the Brooklyn Museum and the Metropolitan Museum of Art provide new insight as to how these groundbreaking works were made. A beautifully illustrated book, the first overview of three generations of Della Robbia sculpture in English, will also accompany the exhibition.

  • Art & Culture

    Lady Gaga Shines at Superbowl LI

    Superbowl LI, otherwise known as the most anticipated Sunday night of the year, broke records left and right because not only was it the first championship that ever went into overtime but it also made Tom Brady of the New England Patriots the first quarterback in NFL history to win five rings. However, despite the incredibly thrilling game, it was Lady Gaga’s halftime performance that completely stole the show. 

    Born with the name Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta, it’s clear that Lady Gaga has Italian blood flowing through her veins. Her roots can be traced back to Naples and Sicily and the superstar credits her Italian heritage for keeping her grounded and capable of dealing with all the fame in a proper manner. Gaga stylishly arrived to the pre-game press conference in a stunningly sleek black Lamborghini Huracan, an exotic Italian car that goes for approximately $250,000. When it came to her Superbowl outfit, it is no surprise that the singer’s designer of choice was none other than Donatella Versace, Italian powerhouse and head of the luxurious Versace label.

    Lady Gaga descended through the roof of the NRG Stadium in Houston on Sunday night wearing a dazzling custom-made leotard designed by Versace herself. The ensemble was a fully beaded iridescent jumpsuit with sculptural shoulder detail paired with fully embroidered boots, both embellished with Swarovski crystals. As always, Gaga showed off her high glam fashion sense but she also embodied what it meant to be a strong Italian-American woman only heightened by the fact that her outfit was made by another powerful Italian woman. Versace flew all the way to Texas just to watch the halftime performance live saying that Gaga was “going to be fierce. Wait and see!” The two even managed to snap an Instagram photo together moments before Gaga took center stage in front of over 111 million viewers worldwide.

    Whether it’s music or clothes, both Donatella Versace and Lady Gaga know how to make a statement, which is perhaps why the pair works so well together. Given the current division in the United States, many people were expecting Gaga to make a forceful political statement due to her reputation as an avid LGBTQ activist. Instead the singer made the wise decision to use the biggest platform in television to send out a more subtle message to the masses which made it all the more compelling. 

    Starting the night off with a patriotic mashup of “This Land Is Your Land” and “God Bless America,” Gaga, with a huge group of diverse dancers behind her, went on to belt out some of her greatest hits for 13 minutes straight including the LGBTQ anthem “Born This Way.” There is an inherently political message with lyrics like “No matter gay, straight or bi / Lesbian transgender life / I’m on the right track baby / I was born to survive” especially during the nation’s largest sporting event that praises male ego and virility. This interesting juxtaposition with millions of viewers, along with Vice President Mike Pence watching from the crowd, proved to be a beautiful expression of representation, inclusion, and unity. 

    On social media, celebrities had only kind words to say about the legendary performance including Tony Bennett, another Italian-American who has collaborated with Gaga often, tweeted out: “Lady...the most super thing about the Superbowl was you... just amazing.” Neil Patrick Harris reacted: “I’m gagging over Lady Gaga and her halftime show. She was everything. Creative and fearless and inclusive. Loved.” Fellow singing sensation Adele said: "Lady you SMASHED it! Totally nailed it."

    Despite all the lights and the glamor, the point is simple: inclusion is what makes this country great. No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, it is without a doubt that Lady Gaga’s electrifying solo Superbowl performance will go down as one of the most memorable shows of all time.

  • The Ferrari crew at the International Automobile Festival. In the centre Flavio Manzoni, the Director of "Centro Stile Ferrari" and Senior Vice President of Ferrari Design
    Art & Culture

    “Supercar of the Year” goes to the Ferrari GTC4Lusso

    A unique jury made up of esteemed representatives from various artistic fields come together annually at the International Automobile Festival to pick The Most Beautiful Supercar of the Year. The jury is led by renowned French architect Jean Michel Wilmotte who is known all over the world for big projects, such as his revitalization of the Champs-Élysées in Paris and the renovation of the Palais des Festivals in Cannes. Every year, high-end sports car manufacturers compete for the festival’s recognition and the winner of this special prize is always a car of exception and is chosen regardless of price.

    The Italian Ferrari GTC4Lusso undoubtedly fits all the standards when it comes to being The Most Beautiful Supercar of the Year. The strong yet sophisticated luxury vehicle features signature GT elements like its high speed and long-distance driving abilities along with a four seat arrangement. It can go up to 208 miles per hour and the 6,262 cc V12’s maximum power output has been boosted to 690 cv making it the most powerful car in its segment.

    Flavio Manzoni, the Director of "Centro Stile Ferrari "Senior Vice President of Ferrari Design accepted the award at Les Invalides in Paris and he said that he is “very proud and honored to accept this very prestigious award on behalf of Ferrari and the team at the Ferrari Styling Center. The City of Light is a symbol of elegance and beauty which encapsulates the very essence of the Ferrari GTC4Lusso.”

    Inside this exotic automobile, drivers will find that the acoustics are significantly better thanks to the upgraded insulation which removes exterior sounds. The climate control system was also enhanced and now delivers desired temperatures 25% faster. Not to mention the new and improved ultra-intuitive infotainment system that makes all of its features and content readily accessible. 

    The vehicle not only provides a smooth and consistent ride but it also represents a heavenly combination of both elegance and high performance. For those wondering how much an award-winning supercar goes for, the starting rate for this brand new Ferrari GTC4 Lusso is around a whopping $300,000. It’s true when they say that luxury quality comes at a luxury price!

  • Orchestra Reciclados de Cateura
    Art & Culture

    Recycled Orchestra to Perform at This Year’s Sanremo Festival

    The largest televised singing competition in Italy is, without a doubt, the Sanremo Music Festival, which will be putting on their 67th edition of the show from February 7th to the 11th. The huge event is a special occasion for all Italians because it has become a fundamental part of their culture and tradition throughout the years. The highly regarded contest has even launched the careers of Italy’s most successful contemporary artists including the likes of Zucchero, Andrea Bocelli, Eros Ramazzotti, Laura Pausini, and Giorgia. The show is hosted by Carlo Conti, who is also the artistic director of the competition, along with Maria De Filippi and every night a satirical sketch will be performed by none other than Maurizio Crozza. As always, the event is split up into two categories: singers that are already well known and new singers that use this platform as an opportunity to showcase their talents to the entire country.

    2017 is a special year at the Teatro Ariston located in the north-western Italian city of Sanremo because they will be welcoming a 24-member orchestra from Paraguay called “Orchestra Reciclados de Cateura.” The whole band comes from Cateura, which is the name of a poor neighborhood in Paraguay’s capital, Asunción. The orchestra creates a wide variety of instruments made completely out of discarded materials. “The world gives us rubbish, and we transform it into music,” says conductor Fabio Chavez. 

    The orchestra includes people from all ages ranging from 10 years old to 30 years old and together they work to turn rope, cardboard and tin into violins, guitars, and trumpets. The band excites their crowds with a diverse repertoire that ranges from classical music to pop to rock, even including the sounds of legendary artists like the Beatles and Frank Sinatra. It really is true when they say that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure!

    Another special part about their debut at Sanremo is the fact that the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund is sponsoring their performance. For those who don’t know, UNICEF is an international program that works to provide humanitarian and development assistance to children in developing countries. Their mission has always been to protect and defend the rights of every single child. UNICEF also sponsors a program in Paraguay called “Abrazo” which serves to combat the increasing numbers of children working on the street. 

    In many ways it’s as if the Orchestra Reciclados de Cateura personifies UNICEF’s strong commitments, proving that the arts can get children off the street and change the course of their lives forever. UNICEF Italy’s spokesperson, Andrea Iacomini, comments that, “like the children of Cateura, many other children have a dream and to make it happen they need opportunities.”

    UNICEF is working hard to provide children all over the world with these opportunities, and an example of this is the upcoming show at Sanremo. The Paraguayan orchestra’s live performance at the music festival next week will be televised, so be sure to tune in or direct stream it from your computer!

  • An example of Balliano's work
    Events

    Davide Balliano: a Contemplation of Minimalist Forms

    Talented young artist Davide Balliano is currently making waves in the art world and has a number of shows coming up in 2017. Originally from Turin, Balliano decided to make the trip overseas and is currently living in New York City. His intricate pieces are characterized by their abstract forms, minimalistic touches, and structural framework. He has been featured in exhibitions all over Europe including Timothy Taylor Gallery in London, Galerie Rolando Anselmi in Berlin, and Michel Rein Gallery in Paris, but Balliano is looking forward to working with the Tina Kim Gallery right here in New York.

    Several recent paintings will be presented that were created specifically for this exhibition and they carefully display “synthesized elements that speak to the notion of proportion and consider humanity’s place in relationship to the power of the universe.” Balliano’s interests in philosophy, theology, and physics are clearly reflected in his work which is grounded in the contemplation of nature, its overpowering dimensions, as well as the human condition. 

    Balliano says that “art is my way to understand myself and have a dialogue with everything that surrounds us. It’s a research for interior and exterior understanding, through the production of objects.” Through a process of aesthetic reduction, the artist seeks the path to clarity and truth while welcoming the viewer to join him on his journey.

    The Tina Kim Gallery is a New York City-based contemporary art gallery and exhibition space and seems to be a perfect venue for Balliano’s style. The spot is celebrated for it’s emphasis on international artists, historical overviews, and independently curated shows. After this particular exhibition, the Italian talent will be presenting his work at the Armory Show from March 2nd to March 5th. The Armory Show is widely known for being New York’s premier art fair as well as the definitive cultural destination for discovering and collecting the world’s most important 20th and 21st century artworks. Then, Balliano will return to his homeland to do a solo exhibition at Luce Gallery in his native Turin starting May 25th.

    As Balliano garners the attention of more and more curators worldwide, he hopes to connect with a larger group of people on a deeper level with his art. Come out to the Tina Kim Gallery in the beautiful Chelsea neighborhood to take a closer look at these stunning pieces.

  • Facts & Stories

    Giorno della Memoria: May We Never Forget

    Every year on the Giorno della Memoria the Consulate General of Italy in New York organizes a daylong event where the names of over nine thousand Jewish people who were deported from Italy and terrorities under Italian control during the Holocaust are read aloud. The Consulate is joined by the Italian Cultural Institute, Centro Primo Levi, the Italian Academy at Columbia University, CUNY’s John D. Calandra Italian American Institute and the NYU Casa Italiana Zerilli-Marimò to commemorate the victims of the Shoah. This year, many diplomatic representatives took part in the reading of the names as a sign of solidarity and as a way to demonstrate shared values not only on a European level but on a global level. 

    Consul General of Italy, Francesco Genuardi, feels that it is his duty to host this event and honor those who had their lives taken away from them. He hopes that the day also serves as “an expression of gratitude to this city who opened their doors so graciously to Jewish people, to Italian people, to foreigners from all over the world.” 

    Giorgio van Straten, writer and director of the Italian Cultural Institute, feels honored to be a part of the commemoration and believes that “to remember is fundamental.” He adds that “behind every name, there’s a story, there’s a life so to read the names one by one leaves a mark of the existence of these people.” It is not enough to just know the numbers and have a general idea of what happened during the Holocaust so many years ago. 

    Dr. Natalia Indrimi of the Primo Levi Center remarks that “today it is difficult not to acknowledge that the past is resurfacing in the present.” Given the turbulent political situation in many countries at the moment, she says that it is crucial to look at the past as a lesson and to be very mindful of the things we allow to happen. 

    Students from the Scuola d’Italia, the only accredited Italian bilingual and multicultural school in North America, also partook in the reading of the names. Regarding her students, Principal Maria Palandra thinks that this is “the closest experience they could get, they could see families who were affected directly and they can also see how the entire country of Italy is acknowledging a very important part of history that we can not forget.”

    Reading the names of the deported is always a very emotional experience as Joseph A. Guagliardo - Vice President/ C.O.O. of New York 10-13 Association Brooklyn/Staten Island - said "it was very touching and emotional, I've never read the names before and apparently I read an entire family, it's a very dark period in history and is very important that we remember it so that we don't allow it to happen again. It's also very important for the Italian-American community, because we've left Italy doesn't mean that we should forget about it, it is part of our culture, our heritage and of who we are, and we should remember it to pass it down to our family and children."

    Perhaps that most touching moment of that day was when Stella Levi, an Auschwitz survivor, poetically expressed that “a name means a person exists so this ritual of the reading of the names is a very important thing because it gives life to the dead. This way, they will always remain alive in our memory.” It is precisely for this reason that the most prominent Italian institutions in New York are making sure that they continue to remember the names, year after year after year. 

     

     

  • A retrospective of Marisa Merz's work is now on display at the Met Breuer
    Art & Culture

    Marisa Merz: The Sky Is a Great Space

    The Met Breuer, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s brand new space dedicated solely to modern and contemporary art will not only be celebrating the one year anniversary of the building itself which was designed by Marcel Breuer but they will also be commemorating the 50th anniversary of Marisa Merz’s first solo show as an artist. 

    The Turin-born talent was the only female to ever be accepted into the Arte Povera circle, a radical avant-garde art movement that took place from the late 1960s to the early 1970s. These particular artists were characterized by their unorthodox processes and their use of nontraditional materials. Arte Povera, literally “poor art,” targeted the values of the commercialized art world with the hopes of challenging and disrupting them. Much of their work revolves around the concepts of organic forms, subjectivity, and the relationship between life and art. 

    Merz’s first exhibition in 1967 featured an installation made entirely of folded aluminum foil at the Gian Enzo Sperone gallery in Turin. Her career only prospered from that point on, along with the growth of feminism, exhibiting her work in major venues internationally. The prolific artist has created five decades worth of spectacular pieces that have transformed and evolved throughout the years. Her powerful early work mainly consisted of sculptural installations using unconventional materials that referenced her home life while her more recent work is comprised of huge drawings and paintings of ethereal feminine imagery. 

    In her personal life, Marisa is married to artist Mario Merz and together they form a powerhouse art couple. Her husband was also associated with the Arte Povera movement and the two were both heavily influenced by each other’s works. Together they had a daughter named Beatrice who grew up running around in her parents’ studio, witnessing their contemporary pieces take shape firsthand. Family life made up a considerable amount of Merz’s work and Beatrice recalls home being a place where “there were no boundaries.” When speaking about her mother Beatrice says that “she always and only did what she liked, and that every work originated from the pleasure of making it, from a spontaneous gesture or finding of a particular object or material.”

    “The Sky Is a Great Space” is the first major retrospective of the Italian artist in the United States. Merz is well known in Italy and Europe so this exhibition hopes to bring her more recognition in the States. The show is organized by the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Hammer Museum in Los Angeles and is currently taking place from January 24th until May 7th, 2017 at the Met Breuer.

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