Paola Farfaglio is an art historian and project manager from Italy. In 2017, she received a bachelor’s degree in Contemporary Art – Street Art & Urban World. Meeting people, discovering new cultures and habits, starting connections with “others” are the most important things in her life. Being a curator, gives her an opportunity to bring all these aspects together to the same moment. Currently she is a project manager at Latitudo Art Projects (Rome, Italy) and an emerging curator for the international MagiC Carpets platform.
She works with an ongoing project, which is a part of “Città Foresta” festival in Italy. Its aim is to shed the light on the necessity of “making the city” and “making the nature”, the will to rebuild where it has been lost, the will to interact, to build new relationships, new opportunities of care and education for the ecosystem that surrounds us.
In this interview, the curator tells about her way to the contemporary art field, experience working with various international artists and dreams of the future projects.
What was your approach to art when you were little? Did your parents nurture your love for art, theatre, museums and other art-related activities?
Paola: My relationship with art started when I was eight, because my family used to go to museums, and to see different exhibition spaces. When I was a kid, I used to go everywhere from big cities to small villages to see exhibitions and just stay together to do different activities in archaeological museums, public or private museums and so on. Thus, in my mind, there was an idea that they wanted for someone from our family to work in some kind of artistic field in the future.
I remember when I was eight years old, I told my mother and my father that I wanted to become a specialist of Egyptian art and both of my parents told me “Okay, you can do whatever you want in your life, but you really need to understand the idea of working in that sphere”.
During my school years, my art and history teacher told me: you must do something in the [field] of art, because she saw that I was really passionate about it. I did not have any problems studying the history of art or approaching art in general. But then I discovered contemporary art, modern art, so I decided to learn about them and I came up to the conclusion that it was a better field for me to work in and I started my studies at the University of Bari.
When you told your parents that you plan to study and work in the field of culture, did they say “you should be a lawyer or you should be an economist” as it could be a ‘safer’ option than art?
Paola: They supported me, and they still do. My grandparents supported me as well. They said to me: “it is important that you find this so very interesting, and it is super perfect for you”. To become a lawyer or doctor, it might feel “safer”, but I did not feel passionate or affectionate about it.
Do you think that if parents do not take their children to spend time in theaters, museums or galleries, their children can grow to love art? Or how they can open up to and not to be afraid to observe the art, especially the contemporary kind?
Paola: In my mind, when you are really young, the field of art is something that if you do not have someone who brings you to it or pushes you to this, you do not want to go. After a while, I started to believe that everything depends on your basic activities, being open minded, going to some kind of events or activities and after that, people start approaching art in different ways.
We had an experience during the last workshop for MagiC Carpets: one little kid started talking to his father “dad, dad, look at me, I am a painter”. He has never spoken with him about art in general, so I think that for kids (or even adults), this kind of event when you can meet an artist and be a part of some kind of creative activities, is just a starting point to say “there is also an art field and you can easily experiment with it”.
I think that these kinds of workshops and some other different activities must be organized and involve various people, because the art and cultural field is something that you have to know at least. Maybe it won’t be something for you, something you would like to work with or for, but just to know that there is this field.
Here in Lithuania, many cultural organizations, especially festivals and “Kaunas 2022” organise a lot of events and contemporary performances, exhibitions, and community development projects in different neighborhoods around the city. MagiC Carpets works in different communities to bring art to them as well. Do you see the impact of that? Do you think it is a good approach not to wait for people to come to the city centre and beautiful modern galleries, but to show the culture where they are?
Paola: Yes, this is the way, and this is what we do here in Latitudo. We do not want to wait for people, we just go and say, “we are here and now we want to do something together, we want to co-create!” and I think this is the reason to really involve people in art projects. But you also have to tell people why they have to come here and why we want them to come.
You have worked in Italy in Rome with the different communities and also you saw other projects of MagiC Carpets in other countries and how other artists and creators work. What impact do you see in your and maybe other countries, have you noticed the impact on the communities?
Paola: I am really proud of this kind of projects which bring something to these communities. That it is not a basic kind of project, but also something that establishes relationship with people. This approach to work in MagiC Carpets is the best part. We can notice the impact when we go to the neighborhoods and work with people executing these projects. It is a kind of co-construction incorporating a process. For me, it is amazing that there is an opportunity to meet people and spend time with them.
Since several years, with Latitudo we decided to work in suburban districts. Each year, new people join and each year more and more people feel like part of our family. And one of the main things that MagiC Carpets do is “family-building”, because in different years, we have different artists and communities.
MagiC Carpets Landed exhibition in Kaunas was one of the most important occasions to reflect on those “families” across Europe. Could you tell us about the preparation process?
Paola: The exhibition was amazing. I can’t stop talking about Magic Carpets. In a way, it was a really emotional exhibition, because I have learned a lot of things and at the same time, I had a possibility to speak about different kinds of works and this project in some way is very powerful.
I remember when we received the flags. It was very emotional, because each flag had some kind of personal story, and each story more or less is what you can experience during the MagiC Carpets projects. There are projects, there are people, appearance, emotions, artists, curators, artistic directors, but you feel that all these people are behind the projects and in the projects.
And a question for you as a curator: what topics, issues and themes do you pursue? What is the most important for you and what would you like to speak about in your work?
Paola: I really want to continue to work with people and I don’t have any type of specific topics. I just want to continue to develop projects with people. The most important thing is to listen to what they want to develop. Art can’t solve the problems of the world, but I really want at least to stay with people and develop something together that has a big impact.
What about working with the artists in the communities? What is the most interesting or even challenging for you as a curator implementing projects with the artists? What are you looking for when you are selecting the artist to work with?
Paola: Working with artists and communities you can learn a lot. I think the most important thing for me when I have to take some artist to work with people, is the way they approach them.
It is really interesting to know more and more about their personalities, not just them as artists, but also where their art comes from. In these kinds of projects, you have to know the difference between what the artist wants to do and what the community also want to do. But at the same time, you as a curator want to do something as well, and this might get complicated. For this reason, the curator is a kind of an investigator.
It is really interesting, because as a curator, you have to keep in mind that you are working with people, you are working with artists, and you want to do something. In addition, if you want to do something well, in the end, you have to find a balance between everyone and not to exclude anyone. We are like in one circle, and in that circle you, as a curator, have to go from one part to the other one, and talk, listen and decide.
You have spent a lot of time in Kaunas. What would you say about Kaunas as a city and also as a cultural point in Europe?
Paola: I love Kaunas. I was there for several days during the MagiC Carpets exhibition, and I am really impressed by the city, because I have found a lot of different cultural and artistic events. During my last visit, I even found one of the spaces not in the city center, but a little bit far away from there. One day, we organized artistic events there, and I was like “wow, it is an amazing space”. There is something to do and something to see. A meeting place for all. I am really impressed by how many people are visiting the exhibitions, events in Lithuania.
Thus, I am really impressed about the attention for the art world, for the variety of the events and their different locations in Kaunas.
After meeting various Lithuanian artists and seeing their works, can you identify the common themes underlying their works? Especially when speaking about the emerging artists from contemporary art fields.
Paola: It is really difficult, because I had an opportunity to meet a lot of artists and not only from Lithuania, so now I am just trying to separate them. I think that the power and the energy is one of the things that the Lithuanian artworks have in common.
Can you share the plans of the future or a wish list for yourself as a curator?
Paola: One of my dreams is to continue working with MagiC Carpets. To work with artists from different countries and above all to continue working with the community… Also, as a curator, I wish to continue working and organizing educational activities.
Text by Agnė Tuskevičiūtė; editor Agnė Poderytė