© Palazzo Grassi, photo: Matteo De Fina
Strategy type (tool, event, training course, etc.)
Cultural mediation training course, addressed to refugees, asylum seekers and migrants
Scope of the practice (local, national, international level)
Local: it is a two month course, with a weekly meeting. Only people living in Venice and in the surrounding areas can apply
When did it start?
The first Altri Sguardi edition took place last autumn, from September to the end of October 2019. The second edition is ongoing. The call was published on Palazzo Grassi website on the 17th August and the workshop started on the 14th of October. The public presentation will be - if the overall sanitary situation will allow it - on the 12th of December in Punta della Dogana, where some of the works displayed in the exhibition Untitled 2020. Three perspectives on the art of the present will be interpreted and explained to all visitors.
Palazzo Grassi Punta della Dogana
City and country
© Palazzo Grassi, photo: Matteo De Fina
1. Describe your project briefly
The workshop consists in a weekly meeting for 2 months; participants observe and discuss the displayed artworks, without any previous explanations: the accent is on personal interpretation and personal view: our staff are there as facilitators, and never hold the ‘correct interpretation’. Every meeting is facilitated by one of our museum educators and by one of the participants of the 1st edition. There are currently 16 people in 2 groups. A flexible structure is designed on the participants’ needs, so only a kick-off activity is designed. Along the process, participants select 1/2 pieces of art they feel relevant and they observe, discuss and analyze them in deep detail. A final public presentation is held: all participants are invited to share their interpretation and analysis of the chosen artworks: Altri Sguardi offers a shift of perspective, weaving a new narrative based on personal memories, perceptions, knowledge shared and connected with those of the public attending. Our general public will thus discover some of the artworks with a different mediation, by someone who might not have a degree, who comes from a different cultural background and who is usually associated with a perception of need and fragility. In fact this person is taking the lead along the museum.
2. What is the aim of the project?
Altri Sguardi tries to offer a diverse perspective on the exhibitions at Palazzo Grassi and Punta della Dogana: we try and involve diverse publics in visiting our venues and we wish for a large variety of voices to find their stage here… teen-agers, young adults, people affected by dementia and Alzheimer, senior citizens and university students. The Education Office has been working hard on giving a voice about art to those who are not usually associated with it. With Altri Sguardi it does so, and it also grants visibility in museums to people who - at least in our country – are not usually connected with museum mediation. Another scope of the workshop is thus to be perceived by the participants as a form of social integration through the construction of a dialogue with people and environments they seldom encounter spontaneously. We do believe it is important for the museum to offer a new perspective on contemporary word. A shift in the general perception about refugees and asylum seekers would be a very interesting outcome. About this, Michael Danner, Migration as Avant-Garde Verlag Kettler 2018, was very inspiring. Furthermore, Altri Sguardi aims to offer also a basic training and knowledge of what cultural mediation in a museum is and of the various forms it can take.
3. Who was involved in designing process?
The project was born thanks to the intuition of one of the staff members, Jacqueline Feldmann (Exhibition Office), who is personally involved with the local branch of Refugees Welcome. The idea of getting the museum involved in some cultural activity addressed to refugees and asylum seekers was then collectively launched. The project Altri Sguardi in particular was designed by her and by the Education Office. The second phase, currently ongoing, results from the close collaboration of the Education Office, Exhibition Office, two of our museum educators (Edoardo Lazzari and Anna Vercellotti), two Altri Sguardi ex-participants (Patricia Ojo and Mohamed Kaba), involved in the conduction of the workshop.
4. If you could change something, what would you change?
The project is still at an experimental stage and is constructed on an empirical basis, step by step, so different parameters can be adapted from one edition and one encounter to the other; for instance, as far as duration is concerned, one could think of extending the workshop on a longer period of time to get to create an even deeper group dynamic among and with the participants.
5. How do the project impact on civil society?
Altri Sguardi generates a double take: on one hand, refugees and asylum seekers find a beautiful and welcoming environment, where to be challenged in a new activity, such as the mediation of contemporary art. On the other hand, our general public largely benefits of the encounter with an unusual mediator. The project might even generate a shift in the general perception, where the leading narrative is about migrants being fragile human beings who need to be protected, while they can instead be perceived as competent and in charge. On this respect, this article by Marta Foresti on the ODI blog is very telling.
6. How do you evaluate the project’s impact?
An informal evaluation has been undertaken via questions to the participants and to the local associations who host the youngest amongst them. No questionaries or formal interviews have been used so far: the project and the process are still in a ‘trial and error phase’, so we rather keep the discussion open and on an every day basis.
7. Is there anything else would you like to share with us?
It might indeed be very interesting to investigate how our unconscious bias affects (or not) the design process and the team approach to the discussion itself. It is not an issue we are capable of addressing at this phase, but it is an aspect that will need further thinking soon. On this respect: Praga Agarwal, Sway. Unravelling unconscious bias, Bloomsbury 2019.