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Posts Tagged ‘depression’

6Photo: Fondazione Manifesto
Poggioreale, Sicily, one of the towns destroyed by a 1968 earthquake. A public art project has helped to heal the region’s survivors, many of whom were still suffering from depression decades later.

I’ve blogged a lot about the healing power of various arts in various contexts, but I think this is the first post about what art can do for a traumatized region after a natural disaster. The story takes place in Sicily, where a 1968 earthquake flattened an already impoverished region.

Patricia Zohn writes at artnet news, “On a recent day this summer, I [descended] into the rural, arid Belice Valley. I was accompanied by Zeno Franchini of the Fondazione Manifesto, an advocacy group that leads tours of the region, which was devastated by the 1968 earthquake in Sicily. …

“More than the number of people who died (approximately 400), or the number rendered homeless (approximately 100,000), the earthquake exposed grave fissures in the socioeconomic and political fabric of one of Italy’s poorest regions — disparities that linger to this day.

“While thousands of earthquake victims lived outside Gibellina, an isolated agricultural community, in two shanty towns with barebones infrastructure, in 1970, the National Institute of Social Housing in Rome, determined, after numerous plans for reconstruction were abandoned, to build an entirely new city, a Gibellina ‘Nuova’ for the victims at a site 11 miles from the ruins. …

“By 1979, scant progress had been made due to government corruption, the Mafia influence, and red tape, and victims were still living in dire conditions. That’s when Gibellina’s flamboyant, powerful gay Mayor, Ludovico Corrao, invited a number of leading Italian and German artists and architects to participate in a rescue mission. …

“Though there was no budget for art or culture, Corrao had already begged and borrowed to found the Orestiadi performance festival, just outside the ruins of Gibellina, with the help of performers like John Cage and Philip Glass. Emilio Isgrò, an artist and dramatist, described a wind-chilled night of 1983

‘where artisans, sheep farmers, housewives, anti-Mafia judges and theater directors and personalities from all over Europe sat together to watch’ his performance in the festival. …

“The concrete Utopian city of Gibellina Nuova [became] an open-air laboratory for assessing the healing capabilities of public art. Today, 50 years since the earthquake struck, many look back on Corrao’s radical experiment in civic engagement, rehabilitation, and unification as a cautionary tale. But new efforts are now underway to realize a more pragmatic version of [his] utopian dream.

“ ‘The city needs to really become an Art Town,’ says Alessandro La Grassa, president of the Center for Social and Economic Research of Southern Italy, the organizational heir to the early activist efforts. He envisions it as a place ‘where artists live or stay and where empty buildings and spaces start to find a new function.’ …

“Today the region is a symbol of hope. A newly revitalized combination of social activists, municipal agencies, educational institutions, and private support is finally bringing the unique art interventions of more than five decades in the Belice Valley — and especially the city of Gibellina — to the attention of a wider public. …

“Tours of Poggioreale, Burri’s Cretto, and Gibellina Nuova are available until November 14 through fondazionemanifesto.org.” More here.

I wonder how public art might by employed to rebuild after a hurricane like Michael. Something for art leaders in Florida to think about.

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In case you missed it, there’s a new movie about using elderly people’s favorite music to call them back from dementia or Alzheimer’s.

The website for Alive Inside: A Story of Music and Memory says the movie is an “exploration of music’s capacity to reawaken our souls and uncover the deepest parts of our humanity. Filmmaker Michael Rossato-Bennett chronicles the astonishing experiences of individuals around the country who have been revitalized through the simple experience of listening to music.”

The documentary follows “social worker Dan Cohen, founder of the nonprofit organization Music & Memory, as he fights against a broken healthcare system to demonstrate music’s ability to combat memory loss and restore a deep sense of self to those suffering from it. Rossato-Bennett visits family members who have witnessed the miraculous effects of personalized music on their loved ones, and offers illuminating interviews with experts including renowned neurologist and best-selling author Oliver Sacks (Musicophilia: Tales of Music and the Brain) and musician Bobby McFerrin (‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy’).”

At the Washington Post, Michael Sullivan writes, “The benefits of music to enliven and awaken the senses are not limited to those with dementia. ‘Alive Inside’ also focuses on a woman who suffers from schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, and on a man with multiple sclerosis. The scenes in which they and others are shown listening to music that has personal meaning are absolutely joyous, but they also might move you to tears.

“As the movie makes clear, none of these conditions are reversible. Music isn’t a cure for anything. But it does seem to be a key to unlocking long-closed doors and establishing connections with people who have become, through age or infirmity, imprisoned inside themselves.” More.

Hmmm. It seems that in addition to making wills, we should all be writing lists of the music that we have enjoyed in our lives so that people know what to play. Should I go with “Swan Lake” and “The New World Symphony” or “For the Beauty of the Earth” and “Mary’s Boychild”? Or how about the Platters and Elvis and Nina Simone and Edif Piaf or musicals like Nine and Chess. Anything in a minor key.

I haven’t even scratched the surface.

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When a do-gooder from the nonprofit Kounkuey Design Initiative told poor farmworkers at a California trailer park she wanted to work with them to build a place to relax and play, they didn’t think much would come of it.

Patricia Leigh Brown writes at the NY Times why the community is happy to have been proved wrong.

“When Chelina Odbert, the 36-year-old co-founder of the nonprofit Kounkuey Design Initiative, based in Los Angeles, showed up two years ago and asked residents to propose ideas for a park that they might design and build collaboratively, most assumed she was yet another do-gooder bearing ‘muchas promesas’ that would come to naught.

“And yet, after more than a year of drawing, debating, hauling rocks and waiting out bureaucratic delays, the residents had a fiesta recently to celebrate the opening of the park, a public space built out of railroad ties and other simple materials. It has a playground, a community garden, an outdoor stage and a shade structure where neighbors can gather and gossip even on 110-plus-degree days.

“The park, which doubles as a zócalo, or traditional town square, exemplifies a new phase for both Kounkuey (KDI for short) and the field of public-interest design, which tries to put design tools into the hands of neighbors who can create local change. …

“Alberto Arredondo, 51, lives across from the garden and has become its keeper. … Before, he said, he would come home after a day in the fields picking grapes and collapse on the sofa. The park, he added, has ‘de-stressed the women.’

“His theory was borne out by Rosa Prado, whose commitment to the park never wavered. ‘It helps with depression,’ she said. ‘You go out your door, and you see a lady in the park and sit next to her.’ She added, ‘Then a few minutes later, you forget what you’re worried about.’ ”

More here.

Photo: Monica Almeida/The New York Times
Residents of all ages turn out for the opening of a new public space, by the Kounkuey Design Initiative, in St. Anthony’s Trailer Park, home to farmworkers east of Palm Springs, Calif. 

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I keep a folder of things I want to check out in walking distance of the office. Today I pulled out a Boston Globe article from 2-1/2 years ago, “Depression-era mural gets a second chance to shine,” and set out.

A Stephen Etnier mural of Boston Harbor that had been rolled up and stored away in 1981 was back on display.

Etnier, as Brian Ballou wrote in the Globe, was “one of hundreds of artists across the country picked by the federal government in the late 1930s to early ’40s to depict characteristic scenes of their region in post offices. …

“In early 2005, postal employee Brian Houlihan came across the painting and alerted Dallan Wordekemper, the federal preservation officer for the United States Postal Service. The mural was sent to Parma Conservation in Chicago, which began to restore the artwork in late 2008.”

The restored painting, “Mail for New England,” was unveiled in April 2010, but it took me until today to get to the post office branch at Stuart and Clarendon.

I got an extra bonus, too, because on the way I saw a completely unexpected bit of street art by the famed Gemeos twins, whose work at the ICA and Dewey Square was described in an earlier post.

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I really like Michelle Aldredge’s blog on writing and the arts, Gwarlingo. (The word gwarlingo, Aldredge says, is Welsh for the rushing sound a grandfather clock makes before striking, “the movement before the moment.”)

See my post about Gwarlingo and artistic Japanese manhole covers here.

This week Aldredge wrote that she had recently “stumbled across a small online collection of rare color images taken by photographers from the Farm Security Administration and Office of War Information. The … photograph of Jack Whinery and his family was so remarkable and surprising that I immediately began exploring the online archive of the Library of Congress, which owns the images. The 1,610 Kodachrome transparencies were produced by FSA and OWI photographers like John Vachon, Marion Post Wolcott, Jack Delano, and Russell Lee. They are less well known and far less extensive than their black and white images, but their rarity only increases their impact.”

Check out the America in Transition photos.

*Jack Whinery, homesteader, and his family. Pie Town, New Mexico, October 1940. Photo by Russell Lee. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress*

Another great Gwarlingo post was on poetry bombing.

“Since 2001,” writes Aldredge, “the Chilean art collective Casagrande has been staging ‘Poetry Rain’ projects in cities like Warsaw, Berlin, Santiago de Chile, Dubrovnik, and Guernica – all cities that have suffered aerial bombings in their history. The most recent event took place in Berlin in 2010 and was part of the Long Night of Museums. Crowds of thousands gathered in the city’s Lustgarten as 100,000 poems rained down from the sky.” Read more here.

I also found a happy video.

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