I spent the first 19 years of my life between two small towns in Sicily: Caltagirone and Taormina.
At the end of high school I moved to Catania and there I have seen starkly the beauty, the unused potential of my island and the prevarication of the mafia system on the laws and on the living.
I quickly understood that I made the wrong choice about the university, but in the same time I was attending a social occupied center (centro sociale occupato) in a ill-famed neighborhood where we were helping the immigrants and the children, we were doing unofficial information and I felt useful.
In the same year there were elections for the president of the Sicily region. There was a great mobilization to support the candidacy of Rita Borsellino (the sister of Judge Paolo Borsellino killed by mafia in 1992) against the incumbent president repeatedly accused of collusion with the Mafia.
I spent all my time on the election campaign. There was great hope of historical change, but there were also very hard moments: brawls and violent clashes that have marked me.
But Rita Borsellino didn’t win: the usual mafia system of exchanging favors once again had prevailed.
I felt defeated, disillusioned, I hated the university, I felt that the politics only had me waste time and that there was no place for us. I thought that the political activism alone couldn’t change the situation, but perhaps the art and the culture as universal and more “sweet” languages might be the right way to awaken consciousness, prompting doubts, transmit messages. So I decided to go away.
I moved to Venice to study Economics and arts management with the intention to return to work in Sicily as soon as possible.
My parents paid for college, but I had to help them: I worked in a restaurant and I did unpaid internships in many cultural organizations in Veneto and Lombardy.
In the second year for an exam I had done a study on collaborative cultural production and the Prof. Monica Calcagno asked me to do the thesis on that issue. So at 21 I started to do research with her.
In this first period of research I began to think that participation in cultural production can be a real lever for change, because in this way culture and creativity are not lived in a passive way, but as the production of meaning and as a commons. I saw a possible way to re appropriation of physical and mental spaces.
Now it is obvious, but for me at the time it wasn’t.
After my bachelor’s degree, I was continuing to collaborate with prof. Calcagno and to work in a restaurant, and I started the specialistic degree and a project in Venice: a bottom-up theatrical production realized with the participation and shares of micro-financing of 100 people. To set the stage we regained the construction materials of the Art Biennal, which are usually thrown away, and used them to refurbish also the space (occupied) where we were working, which is still functioning.
As project manager I realized how difficult it is to manage the participation of so many people. But for me it was a sterile participation: I was searching a real openness to collaboration and instead we had a lot of intellectuals that showed their science in the open rehearsals. For me it wasn’t enough and so, after the final show, I left the lab that it still continues.
I tried to put in practice my research and I had to face problems that theoretically I hadn’t could anticipate.
So I realized that for me the research is inseparable from the fieldwork: only in this way I can have a deep vision and I can share in a useful way my research.
In the same period it had started the trend to use the words “participation, local development, open innovation” such as the labels of a great number of projects. I needed new input for my research.
I was lucky because in the same period for the first time I heard of The Hub.
When something intrigues me I can’t resist going to see with my eyes, so I went to visit the Italian Hubs (only Milan and Rovereto at that time) for more information.
Then with Prof. Calcagno and a friend I worked to establish Hub Venice, but the feasibility study wasn’t positive. However, I have remained within the network and through the Hub Milan I met the universe of social innovation and the wikicratic world with Alberto.
This meetings were a turning point for my life and my research!
I understood that with “improvement, do something for, make a change” I meant social innovation and that the cultural and creative projects can be part of this universe, together with the collaborative processes that can born from the bottom i.e. from the society, but also from the public policies.
Some experiences of collaborative public policies made me regain confidence because in them I saw an opportunity to find that space in politics that I thought ,when I lived in Catania, was completely denied.
So the research has assumed another sense!
In the same time The Hub Network put me in touch with the team that was working to Hub Sicily.
The research and the degree thesis could continue at distance and so I moved to Catania.
In Catania I found a job in a Foundation interested in contemporary art that works also for the popular neighborhood where is located and I started an informal collaboration with Hub Sicily and so I met the Sicilian social innovators useful for my research and my thesis. In the same time a lot of little cultural organizations asked me to collaborate with them. They couldn’t pay me, but I didn’t care and I did consulting for them. They had good ideas, but they didn’t know translate them in a solid structure.
I put all my energy in these works.
But 3 months later I understood that if I live too long in Sicily I choke, but I can’t stay away too long.
I felt guilty, but I returned to Venice and for some months I went back and forth between Venice and Catania pursuing the collaborations in both cities and founding occasional works like waitress or dog sitter.
But some months later I had to stop because I had some health problems.
This forced stop was the best opportunity I could have because I’ve realized that doing back and forth is not a betrayal of my homeland, but it is a good thing because it allows me to be always full of enthusiasm for new discoveries and the possibility of bringing from one side to another contacts and best practices.
I’ve understood that I must always be with open eyes and ears ready to listen because if I listen to people and I give them trust, they give their best and I can learn so much from them too.
I’ve understood that over time my interest in Sicily has become an interest for the suburbs, of cities or regions or the world, where there is discomfort, but hidden potential and so social innovation can be the answer, culture and creativity part of that answer.
And I’ve realized that be 25 years old and be energetic doesn’t mean be all-powerful and so I mustn’t run too, walking quickly and be multitasking yes, but not go too fast or I lose too many interesting things on the street.
Now I’m re-starting with the research and the thesis in Venice and with counseling in Sicily staying in Hub network, but I’m in a more slow modality and I’m not less productive.
Some days ago I read a poem called Ithaca written by K. Kavafis. It says:
[…] Keep Ithaca always in your mind.
Arriving there is what you’re destined for.
But don’t hurry the journey at all.
Better if it lasts for years,
so you’re old by the time you reach the island,
wealthy with all you’ve gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaca to make you rich.
Ithaca gave you the marvelous journey.
Without her you wouldn’t have set out.
She has nothing left to give you now. […]
And I felt happy because I’m 25 and I am totally in the middle of this journey.
I hope Edgeryders let me make one more international detour on this trip.
I am very curious to learning about your stories. And I’m here without waiting anxiously for my transition to the future because I believe that inspiration, sharing and initiative always lead to something important.