Project for Street Art in the Provinces. New itineraries for 8 Lazio municipalities. By Federica Bertini and Francesca Colonnelli

Federica Bertini, Master MANT lecturer – Rome “Tor Vergata” University and Francesca Colonnelli, Director Associazione Cornelia – Valmontone

The street is a place for everyone, the sphere of the everyday; it is the network linking our lives with those of our neighbours, the inclusive environment which excludes nobody. Street Art, which originated in the street and addresses the entire community, is in every sense free. However, it is the ephemeral art form par excellence, subject to neglect and to the ravages of time, and often, because of its nature, forcibly removed, altered, destroyed by the the artists themselves or by others – even by mistake – and not infrequently vandalized.

Hence the importance of keeping a record of these works – through written testimony, photography, video, or any other means of documentation.

In addition, Street Art, which started out as spontaneous and illegal expression, is now recognized as a fully-fledged art form, sometimes performing a patent, undisguised public function, often of benefit to the community.

Proof of this are the increasing number of ventures over the years which have involved run-down city districts and which are now targeting provincial areas where the aim of redevelopment is combined (as our material makes clear) with a determination to evoke the historical and cultural heritage peculiar to these places. Increasingly, undertakings of this kind in urban and extra-urban provincial areas are seen as an opportunity to create a network of relations, give a boost to tourism, and produce real open-air museums.

Project: “Street Art in the Provinces” – beyond the big urban areas

In recent years, Street artworks in the provinces have really come into their own, thanks also to the support of local institutions.

The project “Street Art in the Provinces” grew out of an awareness of the emergence of this phenomenon. It was conceived by Federica Bertini in the course of research carried out at Rome’s Tor Vergata University into the immersive and multisensory enjoyment of our cultural heritage. It aims to document and analyze works of Street Art in the smaller centres and villages, concentrating for the moment on the provincial areas of Lazio where cultural identity is deeply rooted.

Among the further aims of the project is a plan to create sensory itineraries in order to make some of the analyzed art works available by means of specific filing models, based in the main on processing the tactile-sensory descriptive card drawn up according to the cataloging model created by Simonetta Baroni, typhlo-didactic aids (such as tactile panels) and multimedia content.

A start has already been made in the shape of the prototype of a tactile panel devised by Francesca Colonnelli and later included in the work “Street Art in the province of Rome. Mapping, filing and database. An accessibility project”. The protype of the tactile work and the accompanying tactile-sensory descriptive card concerned “Occhio a Polifemo”, an artwork created by Mister Thoms at Colleferro (Rome) in August 2014.

Project Stages

Once the works to be analyzed had been decided on, the aim was to create a system of classification, a raisonné cataloguing, which would feed into a database and then lead to a printed catalogue, with a filing system in accordance with the national guidelines provided by the Central Institute for Cataloguing and Documentation. This system takes account of the specific characteristics distinguishing works of Street Art created in a provincial context (the relationship between the artists, the places, the communities, the techniques used, environmental deterioration).

The result is a mapping of places – accessible online and offline – intended as a tool for study and research but also as a source of information and a means of promoting these localities (for example, through the creation of genuine outdoor museums for inclusion on specific tourist routes).

Filing model for the database

The relations established between the artist, the possible sponsors (public or private) and the general public are of primary importance for the proposed study. These are the people with whom the artist is engaged in an ongoing dialogue both while the artwork is conceived and while it is being carried out; and it is to them that the artwork must communicate and be enjoyed. These are the relations which enable the street artist to draw upon the history and local traditions of the provincial centres.

In this first stage, a campaign was launched in seven municipalities in the Lazio region: Cave, Colleferro, Valmontone and Zagarolo in the province of Rome; Fiuggi, Morolo e Paliano in the province of Frosinone.

These types of intervention, which fall into the site-specific category, thus acquire a socio-anthropological dimension.

These aspects therefore become an integral part of the description of the artworks, where it is not enough merely to analyze the composition, the figures, the objects, the technique; it is equally important to consider the anthropological and social features which have determined the artist’s choices.

It is a question of assigning to these artistic ventures a cultural value which goes beyond the merely aesthetic and material. In fact, whether or not the artist operates legally or illegally, the aspect of Street Art that the project aims to highlight is that of an art which enters into dialogue with the public and the setting, and is not designed to be hung on a wall.

In the choice of the filing model developed to create the database we therefore went beyond the simple “aesthetic criterion” and looked at “cultural value”, selecting some fields of the files for contemporary art, inserting some specific new items, in addition to the models referring to tangible and intangible demo-ethno-anthropological assets.

For an accessibility project: the tactile panel

In tandem with the mapping and census of works of Street Art, the project led to the creation of the first prototype of a tactile panel, in collaboration with the Fab Lab di Lazio Innova of Colleferro which provided a laser machine. The devising of a model in vector graphics entailed the use of Laser Cut software (Rdworks V8).

The panel was achieved by starting out with the forms of the artwork, simplifying them without betraying their meaning. It was necessary to take into consideration not only the type of image represented in the work but also the physical space in which it is inserted, materially (in the case of architecture), conceptually and culturally.

The preferred choice of material for the panel was untreated beech wood. To ensure the best possible reading of the work, the image was separated out into different levels, each of which was assigned a priority in terms of tactile exploration. Different types of texture were chosen and then tested. The result is a manageable-sized (30×30 cm) tactile panel, lightweight and easy to explore, and at the same time relatively uncostly and easily transportable.

The panel contains information in braille concerning the title, the author and the dimensions of the real artwork.

This prototype is an aid which, along with the introductory card, is designed not merely to make works of Street Art more accessible and comprehensible to the blind and visually impaired, but to provide an educational tool for everyone with a view to recalling and reactivating the sensory circuits.

The ultimate aim, by mapping and studying the artworks, is to devise a rational and wide-ranging visitors’ route which will involve several municipalities and entail the production of a series of tactile panels, each of them accompanied by an introductory card and narrative content designed to make known both the original work and the processes and relations which led to its creation.