From the city of the rod to the Italian capital of culture. There is more than one reason to talk about design and planning with Laura Castelletti. The first of her is that in her work as deputy mayor in Brescia the delegations of culture, creativity and innovation are intertwined, an unusual mix that she herself – she says – has insisted on obtaining and which has few counterparts in Italy. The other, that without clear planning it would have been impossible to bring the Leonessa (Lioness) to become the Italian Capital of Culture (in 2023, in tandem with Bergamo), starting from an industrial city background.
“Actually Philippe Daverio said that a visit to Brescia is like reading the history of Italy”, the deputy mayor says proudly. If we add to this the disasters of the pandemic, it becomes even clearer how the commissioner with responsibility for that world that at each lockdown is the first to have to stop and the last to be able to leave, is the best person to understand how it is organized a difficult challenge: that of putting up a bill of five thousand events capable of attracting one million visitors (the average numbers moved in a year by a capital of culture) while still counting the deaths of Covid.
How do you plan a year as a Capital of Culture while cultural activities stand still?
The past teaches us that even during wars, culture is a powerful driver to restart. In planning 2023, we started from the energy of our cultural fabric which also manifested itself during the lockdown, despite the fact that the sector was literally battered. Our spaces are and remain alive. I am thinking of the MO.CA, the center for new cultures or the activity of Carme, center for multicultural ethnosocial arts in an area undergoing transformation. Culture is central to urban regeneration operations. I am also thinking of the Winged Victory, one of the ten most important bronzes in the world that we brought to the Capitolium after an important restoration supported also thanks to the art bonus and the private individuals who did their part. In the Brescia model, participation is fundamental. For this, the work for 2023 will be collective and open.
I explicitly requested the delegation to innovation after having assigned those to culture and creativity. It seems right to me, in a historical moment in which innovation passes from culture and innovation is needed to culture. And, above all, if we want to think about a long-term planning. Brescia is an industrial city, its identity is linked to manufacturing, to work. It is a great challenge to put culture at the center of growth and development, involving, even before the visitors, the Brescians themselves, who in recent years have never lacked their enthusiasm.
For this reason, I always reiterate that the assignment of the Cultural Capital was not a compensation from Covid: the pandemic brought Brescia and Bergamo closer, and at that point it was natural to propose a single candidacy. Two cities, one territory to grow together. It is a large-scale example of the participatory model extended to networks, associations and communities that we have been pursuing for some time. The dossier of the Capital of Culture must be delivered in January 2022 and it is a strength, for me, to know that at the moment we do not know what will be written on it. Because we will write it together.
Being the capital of culture means opening up, physically, to the world. How will you plan 2023 considering the desire of people to live a normality that we hope rediscovered?
With the support of the Cariplo Foundation we are developing the Filo naturale project which is a climate transition strategy designed for five years or more, aiming, among other things, on greener in the city. For Brescia, outdoor activities means itineraries that combine history, heritage and environment, it means enhancing our magnificent Castle even more, it means inventing new functionalities for central and neighborhood public spaces, it means archeology and widespread exhibitions such as that of success dedicated to Mimmo Paladino in 2017. Already this spring, to make a case, we will have the artistic forays of Francesco Vezzoli in the archaeological areas. However, I would also like to reiterate the importance of digital technology, which has been and still is a lifeline that we will not abandon even after the end of the pandemic. Because it connects us with the province and the rest of the country.
If imagining one and only one frame of your 2023, what comes to your mind?
Visitors who travel the cycle path we are planning to connect Brescia and Bergamo. Tourists along food and wine and green itineraries, routes to be enjoyed in a slow key to discover unexpected beauties, the Polittico Averoldi by Tiziano or the foyer of the Teatro Grande. A gentle tourism to surprise little by little.