We were all introduced to the dichotomy between good and evil when we were children, through reading books and watching films. The characters fighting evil – most times acting on their own, occasionally as a couple – relied on superpowers to defeat their antagonists. The obstacle was otherwise overcome with the help of futuristic technological instruments, rhetorical sentences motivating the protagonist, plot twists. We know that in life it doesn’t work like that, but there are more similarities with the fictional events we find in books and films than we might expect. Because superheroes do exist, there are a lot of them, operating day and night. Their special ability is altruism, their equipment a colourful suit. I’m talking about all those acting in the interest of others, helping who is in difficulty in different ways. Is there a greater superpower than working for the benefit of others? These are not abstract suggestions, but reflections following what happened in Biella, where the volunteering world has collaborated with organisations from various sectors on fighting Covid-19. Throughout the last few months of sanitary emergency, charitable associations from all over the world have had to face a situation never encountered before. And in dealing with a global problem, local-scale actions can show the seeds of rebirth too.
Mr. Rocca visiting Cittadellarte.
In Biella, we were saying. It all started from Cittadellarte in partnership with Lanificio F.lli Cerruti (next door neighbours in the heart of Biella, on the banks of the river Cervo), which have worked on a shared project: producing 100.000 face masks for civilians destined to the Italian Red Cross (CRI) and 10.000 three-ply CE-branded surgical masks destined to Biella’s hospital.
Art meets solidarity, again. The collaboration between the Italian Red Cross and Fondazione Pistoletto, two roads that joined to make a single path towards a responsible social transformation and an education to peace. Their cooperation has then developed and intensified, also through the numerous initiatives we have featured in the pages of our Journal. Through the pandemic, Cittadellarte has therefore wanted to help the Red Cross, which has been in the front line in the fight against Covid-19, employing its extraordinary network of professionals and volunteers. The Biellese institution has supported the Red Cross with the project “The Art of Care”, which has led – as mentioned – to the production of face masks destined to the volunteering association. To be translated into practice, the idea has had the support of many territorial organisations: Cittadellarte and Lanificio F.lli Cerruti were joined by Consulta per le persone in difficoltà (Turin) and Associazione Inchiostro, with the contribution of Biella and Vercelli’s Chamber of Commerce and City of Biella.
Paolo Naldini and Francesco Rocca.
How did the project develop in its infancy? The laboratory of Cittadellarte Fashion B.E.S.T. (Biella Ethical Sustainable Trend), active since 2009 in the field of research, education, consultancy and design of sustainable fashion, started collaborating with the productive departments of Lanificio F.lli Cerruti. The sewing machines of the B.E.S.T. laboratories, donated to Cittadellarte in 2017 by the National Chamber of Fashion for joint educational projects, were moved to the premises of the Cerruti plant, where Biellese textile operators have professionally manufactured the face masks using rigorously Made in Italy certified fabric produced respecting the vision of sustainability and responsibility that guides the organisations involved in this supply chain. To contribute, also as private individuals, to covering the production costs, Cittadellarte has activated a crowdfunding campaign on its website.
Two photographs by Stefano Ceretti taken in front of Lanificio Cerruti. In the second picture: Pistoletto, Rocca and Cerruti
Yesterday, the president of the Italian Red Cross was in Biella in person to seal the success of this charitable initiative with a public conference, also an opportunity to meet Michelangelo Pistoletto and Paolo Naldini and talk about their long-standing collaboration. Francesco Rocca, accompanied by Carla Cace (in charge of CRI’s governance communication) and Pierumberto Ferrero (in charge of the volunteering section of CRI’s national committee), spent the afternoon with the Biellese artist and Cittadellarte’s director, visiting the spaces and discovering the works on display at Fondazione Pistoletto. An immersive tour that, as Rocca himself commented, supplied him with “the tools to read something new that has resounded inside him”.
The meeting between Rocca, Pistoletto, Naldini and Cerruti. Photograph by Stefano Ceretti.
After the visit, the operational meeting and the group pictures – a moment of conviviality in which Nino Cerruti, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Paolo Naldini and Francesco Rocca had the chance to have an informal chat – it was time for the public conference, which saw the participation of the representatives of institutions, associations and cooperatives involved in the project. The result was a mosaic of speeches in which every guest highlighted the role their organisation had had in the context of the project, commenting on what had been achieved. The key word more often mentioned was ‘synergy’, without which the charitable initiative could not have been born (and developed). The territory, united, has woven a wide network of solidarity.
Two group pictures taken at the permanent home of the Third Paradise. In the second image, from the left: Paolo Naldini, Barbara Greggio, Giuseppe Antonucci, Nino Cerruti, Francesco Rocca, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Olga Pirazzi, Alessandro Ciccioni, Chiara Caucino. Photograph by Stefano Ceretti.
Let’s go through the different phases of the conference, held at 18.00h around Michelangelo Pistoletto’s work Love Difference Table. Paolo Naldini, director of Cittadellarte, started by presenting the event: “We are here today to celebrate the achievement of half of our objective/dream that back in March, in the dark times of the beginning of the lockdown, we decided to pursue, i.e. the creation a virtuous supply chain able to produce 100.000 face masks for the Red Cross, in the front line in the fight against Covid-19, and 10.000 for Biella’s Health Service. It sounded like an impossible dream when Olga Pirazzi, in charge of Cittadellarte’s Fashion Office, thought about it. But thanks to Fashion B.E.S.T., the project was easily set in motion, from the materials to the manufacturing; obviously, this sustainable and charitable supply chain couldn’t possibly have been created without the generosity of our partners in the project”. Cittadellarte’s director then retraced the evolution of the collaboration with the Red Cross: “The cooperation with CRI has been marked by a series of milestones, but today’s is particularly meaningful”. Next to speak was Marina Maffei, Cittadellarte’s project manager, who moderated the event and presented the guests, guiding the speakers along a rich programme of speeches.
The first part of the conference featured the speeches of the representatives of local and regional institutions: Claudio Corradino, mayor of Biella (“It’s an honour for us in Biella to have Cittadellarte, which launched this charitable initiative. I want to thank all the actors for their precious contribution in the project”); Barbara Greggio, assessor of commerce and economic development, productive activities, tourism, mountain, the project “Biella City of Fashion”; assessor at Unesco (“On behalf of our administration, I would like to applaud the Red Cross, Consulta per le persone in difficoltà, Associazione Inchiostro and, of course, Cittadellarte. We’ll give you all our support, hoping this is only the beginning of our collaboration”); Chiara Caucino, assessor at Regione Piemonte of social and family politics, children, home, equal opportunities (“Regione Piemonte has taken notice of your actions. Today I’m perceiving an extraordinary synergy and the sharing of a common vision. Many compliments for activating an operation in favour of the whole Biellese community. When I hear talking about art and care, my heart fills with joy; art can really be an instrument to help others. I hope, – she added – that this is not a synergy ending in itself, but one that can be exported throughout the Piedmontese territory”).
Mayor Claudio Corradino’s speaking.
Maffei then left the floor to Alessandro Ciccioni, president of Biella and Vercelli’s Chamber of Commerce: “When Paolo Naldini asked me if we wanted to adhere to this initiative, I asked myself how pertinent it was to the world of business. The answer was simple: it is made of people. The link is therefore a close one, and we decided to participate”.
Francesco Rocca (pictured left) was the next speaker: “We’ve been collaborating with Cittadellarte for about two years, and it’s been an important journey of shared growth. Today, actually, has not only marked these two years, but has motivated us to strengthen this collaboration in the awareness that together we can make a difference and change the way to be and live in our communities. I really believe that our two souls, the artistic one and the humanitarian one characterising the Red Cross’s vocation are an explosive mix (in a good way) for their potential impact. This synergy has then led to the donation of 100.000 face masks, which keep being extremely valuable, thanks to the generosity of Lanificio F.lli Cerruti and its workers, of Consulta per le persone in difficoltà and of many other people who have contributed to making sure that these instruments were made available to CRI and to Biella’s hospital. Thanks from the bottom of my heart, today has meant a lot for us at the Red Cross”.
Speaking next was Carla Becchi, administrative director of our Local Health Service (ASL): “I want to thank everybody on behalf of ASL’s strategic management for all the support we have had from the whole Biellese territory, with this initiative representing an important contribution. I also believe it’s important to remark on the fact that we have learnt to collaborate, in the sense of working together”. Becchi then shared a video showing the work of the healthcare staff, in which they also collectively express their gratitude for the help received throughout these months of pandemic.
Simeone Ubertino, key accounts and communication manager for Lanificio F.lli Cerruti talked about the behind the scenes of the initiative: “When our factory was closed because of the lockdown, we felt at fault, we wanted to be useful in a way or another. The call from Olga Pirazzi for Cittadellarte’s project met that need. We were therefore happy to transform part of our productive departments into a sewing laboratory, speaking of which, I would like to thank our workers for their dedicated commitment”.
After these speeches, it was the turn of Michelangelo Pistoletto, who stressed the importance of the conference: “Positiveness is in the air, and we are moving on from intentions to concrete actions. For a long time we have been operating for the regeneration of society starting from art, and seeing these ideals become a reality is a constant and growing emotion for me. I am above all happy to welcome the Red Cross with its president Rocca to Biella and to Cittadellarte”. The Biellese artist than added: “We often only consider the economic profit, but in society gratuity is fundamental, which is what we have here among us today. The true profit is represented by all the people who apply their passion to make something positive happen. Let’s take nature as an example: it doesn’t speculate, it makes everything work for free… in a wonderful way! Art must be accompanied by this ability to combine our artificial vision with our natural vision, as represented by the Third Paradise. Society must keep in mind that the final objective is something free oriented to the common good”.
From the left: Marina Maffei, Olga Pirazzi, Barbara Greggio, Chiara Caucino, Francesco Rocca, Paolo Naldini.
Photograph by Stefano Ceretti.
Next to speak was Olga Pirazzi, who explained how her idea was born and how she developed the network of collaboration with all the organisations involved in the project of producing the face masks. Pirazzi, in charge of Cittadellarte’s Fashion Office, also thanked all the actors for their laudable contribution, letting then speak Giuseppe Antonucci, councillor of Consulta delle persone in difficoltà (“This project has brought different excellences together. Today’s event, which included a visit to the permanent home of the Third Paradise, has moved us”), the owner of Cartotecnica Errebi Antonio Ramella Gal and the president of Associazione Inchiostro Raffaele Abbattista (“In these months, we have understood what separation means, but this project has erased distances, because what united us was stronger that what wanted to separate us”).
Paolo Naldini then concluded the programme of speeches with a wish “We are half way through it, but we’re counting on all of you – he said addressing the people present – to reach our goal”.
Cover image credits: Stefano Ceretti
Please click here to see the Italian Red Cross’s press release of the event.