On Project Development
RISD Maharam STEAM Fellowship in Applied Art and Design
Follow The Fellows Blog Post 2
July 3rd, 2019
After settling in fully at ABCittà (and getting accustomed to the scorching Milanese heat!) I have been able to actively partake in the development and ideation of a series of projects for the ABCittà areas of Urban Regeneration and Museums & Culture, and I am excited to finally look over the work I have done over the past couple weeks, and reflect on the realities of participatory planning that I am learning day by day by being involved in the operations of an organization like ABCittà.
With regards to the BinG project –which I covered in my previous blog post– we finally have had a chance to present our ideas for the BinG basketball court railway arch to a couple of stakeholders in the sponsorship process for this project, and to do so we developed a small publication that articulates the ideas for this area, starting at the scale of the city of Milan and ending at that of a single railway arch. Developing this publication was challenging at times, but I am so grateful that I had Valentina (ABCittà facilitator and graduate from the Politecnico di Milano) by my side to bounce ideas off of and compare and contrast the work I was producing with the long-term goals of the BinG project.
A drawing I produced to include in the presentation book for the basketball court construction proposal. Whilst using a visually pleasant and accessible style of representation, the main goal of this drawing is to communicate ABCittà’s overall vision for Greco, which is that of re-populating the area with initiatives catered to its residents whilst staying true to the neighborhood’s identity and environment.
Throughout the development of this project proposal, I found it extremely valuable and meaningful to put myself in the shoes of those consulting the work once completed. I often find myself underestimating the power –and limitations– of different representational techniques, and being able to use the expertise of those around me as a sounding board to test my ideas before they became physical products was an incredibly valuable learning experience –and time saver as well!–
The material that is contained in the presentation book I developed ranges from photographs of the site to fully articulated technical drawings. The planning process that preceded the construction of this presentation document really pushed me to consider the different groups of people who would be consulting this publication, and the visual language they would be able to interact with best (photographs, technical drawings, illustrations or budgetary documents to name a few)
Overall, the presentation of this project proposal was successful, and I was pleased to see that the representational language I selected for this document was positively received both from ABCittà’s collaborators and those whom we addressed in our presentation. I can’t describe the feeling of excitement and gratitude I felt once the booklet was fully compiled and printed: seeing people actively comment upon and work through the drawings and text in the BinG book was a wonderful reward for the work I invested in this project.
One huge aspect about the innerworkings of a no-profit organization that I was able to quickly understand since joining ABCittà, but especially this week, is that priorities are constantly shifting because of a multitude of factors –such as staffing, fundraising, deadlines for public and private calls and so on– and that being able to reorient one’s focus whilst still being able to remain on top of a project’s demands is a very much needed skill. I am extremely lucky to be supported by wonderful colleagues that are willing to help divide the load of projects as evenly as possible, but I also believe I am learning prime skills for my academic –and professional!– future!
Over the past couple days, I have been taking on another project in parallel to BinG, which is the development of similar presentation materials for a participatory planning project taking place in the town of Dairago, in the Province of Milan. This project in particular works in a participatory manner with children and young adults, and therefore the implications of the visuals presented is even stronger. I am currently working through assessments of representational techniques with Simone and Valentina, ABCittà planners and collaborators, and I am excited to see what the outcomes of the institutional meeting these materials are being produced for will be.
An in-progress image from the planometric study of the Dairago area I am working on with Simone and Valentina for an upcoming meeting with the Major and Urban Redevelopment representatives of the town.
As of now, in parallel with the projects taking place in the Urban Regeneration area, I am extensively working with Anna and Chiara, ABCittà members focused on Museums and Cultural institutions, on the development of new training tools to be used within the scope of the Museums and Stereotypes International Training School to foster productive discussions around the ideas of museums and the stereotypes that these institutions –and their collections– bear. With a specific focus on the stereotypes that institutions place on their visitors –both consciously and unconsciously– we are in the process of developing a series of activities, envisioned to be collected in a kit, that aim to address the stereotypes that bear on visitors of museums and their interactions with these –often way too institutionalized– spaces. Discovering the project Look at Art. Get Paid. by previous Maharam Fellow Josephine Devanbu was an incredibly important catalyst for this project.
A promotional gif for a workshop scheduled for next Thursday, July 11th aimed at testing a first iteration of the kit I am developing with Anna and Chiara. The title of the workshop is “Museum and Prejudice,” and the conversation is framed around the question “Quanti pubblici per quali musei?” (How many audiences for which museums?) This workshop will become a wonderful occasion for me to develop facilitation skills, as well as to test how the ideas and concepts I am developing are received by a broader public.
The discourse that I am engaging in right now regarding the position of visitors within the framework of museums and other cultural institutions is extremely significant in Italy’s contemporary cultural framework. Recent re-organizations of the Ministry for Cultural Heritage and Activities and its objectives have brought many curators and professionals in the fields of museum curation and development to question whether the direction in which the Country’s plans for where cultural institutions are heading as of now is the most appropriate –and future savvy–
While at ArtLab19, I was able to attend the eye-opening panel discussion “Multiple Narratives: Challenging Museums,” which featured many wonderful contributors. From L to R: Simona Bodo (Fondazione Ismu,) Stephen Welsh (Living Cultures Curator, Manchester Museum,) Imara Limon (Curator, Amsterdam Museum,) Alessandra Gariboldi (Fondazione Fitzcarraldo,) Carolina Orsini (Senior curator, MUDEC,) Cristina Da Milano (ECCOM President,) and Annachiara Cimoli (Project Developer, ABCittà)
I had the privilege to attend the panel “Multiple Narratives: Challenging Museums” at ArtLab 19, a conference held by Fondazione Fitzcarraldo which addressed some of the most pressing changes that are happening in the world of cultural institutions and their partners. Anna was a part of this international panel and I was able to understand a series of critical perspectives on cultural institutions and their narratives that I believe I would have never been able to grasp from some written works or “textbook like” materials. These insights have given both myself and Anna and Chiara new ideas for the direction in which our project for the upcoming training kit is heading, and we’re excited to complete the first iteration of this project for the workshop that will happen next Thursday.
Overall, I am thoroughly enjoying my experience with ABCittà so far, and I am endlessly appreciative for the time and knowledge that all of the people that I work with are able to dedicate to me every single day. Having the opportunity to be at the forefront of project development in a professional setting, and being able put in practice ideas at such speed is revealing to be an incredibly motivating experience, and I am looking forward to seeing how a more general public will react to the work that we are producing in the coming weeks.