A provocation: let's close the Academy of Fine Arts in Carrara

New shingles fall on Carrara Academy of Fine Arts. Given the continued cuts, we launch a provocation: let's close it!

While there was (and still is) discussion in Carrara about the article, published on our website a few days ago, about the vicissitudes that have affected the last six years of the presidency of the city’sAcademy of Fine Arts, a new, onerous stone has fallen on the Carrara institute: the halving of funds granted by the Ministry of Education has led the Academy’s management to decide on a 50 percent cut in the teaching hours of the School of New Technologies of Art. And of course, faculty and students have not taken it well at all: in fact, a protest is planned, which started with the proclamation of a state of agitation.

The director of the Academy, Lucilla Meloni, simply says that little can be done: it is up to them to take note of the cut and “maintain the educational offerings in the logic of maximum savings.” Premising that “we cannot afford to spend 100,000 euros on the New Technologies of Art school, despite the fact that it represents excellence in Italy.” One then wonders what the Academy would plan to invest in, if not in a course of high interest and primary utility, as well as among the institution’s most successful courses. The Academy of Fine Arts does not only train painters and sculptors, as per the collective imagination. From an Academy of Fine Arts, and the one in Carrara is no exception, also come out other figures that are indispensable for a modern and civilized society, on a par with artists: designers, webdesigners, camera technicians, sound technicians, filmmakers, multimedia developers, photographers, animation technicians, 3D modelers, advertising graphic designers... in short, every day we probably have to deal with something that has been produced, edited, made, modified, arranged by someone who has completed their training at an Academy of Fine Arts. To reduce the quality of a school from which figures will emerge who will be entrusted with the task of working with new technologies would be a glaring act of self-defeat. The school’s contractors, for their part, quantifying the cut at about 30,000 euros, are proposing chapter items for management to save on, thus avoiding cutting educational offerings.

But beyond all that: there is something far more serious than cuts. First of all, the fact that, to hear the leadership, one gets the impression that nothing can be done against these cuts. They seem to have fallen from the sky. Perhaps we should think about really fighting to affirm the role of education in our society: how is it possible to passively endure decisions so harmful to the quality of the educational offerings of such an important institution as the Academy of Fine Arts of Carrara? And then the climate of resignation seems to have taken over: we are navigating by sight, attempts at discussion with the Ministry or with the entities that are supposed to finance the Academy are minimal. It would be something if a strong and incisive discussion could be established. On the contrary, the Academy continues to lose pieces: after losing the restoration course, which as of this year has been suppressed, despite the presidency’s vain attempts to save it, the institution is in danger of seeing the school of New Technologies of Art close as well. And we cannot afford that.

Palazzo Cybo-Malaspina, home of the Carrara Academy of Fine Arts. Photo by Davide Papalini distributed under a Creative Commons license.

The Academy should be renovated from top to bottom: it completely lacks, for example, a dialogue with the city. Translated: the Academy does not involve the city in the organization of events (and vice versa), except in a few sporadic and extemporaneous cases, and there is a complete lack of initiatives, conventions and whatnot, that would bring students to fully experience the city and integrate with the natives. There is a lack of private involvement, but this is a common problem throughout Carrara: Carrara entrepreneurs are notorious for their very little inclination to invest in the area, with the result that the territory is one of the most depressed in northern Italy. Wouldn’t it be nice if the turnaround started right from the Academy, the flagship and excellence of the city? What’s more: ongoing projects have been dragging on for years without any effective planning or, at least, a term in sight, and funds continue to be cut with all that this entails in terms of the quality of teaching, services, events, exhibitions ... in short, everything.

They feel like, the top management, to talk. Or to give the local newspapers cloying and useless interviews, published, moreover, just three days after our article, in whichself-congratulation reigns supreme: it seems that everything goes well and everything runs smoothly. Well, all that remains then is to launch a provocation: let’s close the Academy of Fine Arts. What sense does it make to keep up an institution that goes on by inertia and that attracts students from outside not because work has been done to attract them, but only because the top management has had the good fortune to find itself leading an Academy that has two hundred years of history, from where people such as Lorenzo Bartolini, Jean-Baptiste Desmarais, Benedetto Cacciatori and others have passed, and which is located in the city that provided the main material to the greatest sculptors in history. If the Academy had been located in any other city in Italy, of the same size but without Carrara’s history, it might have closed long ago.

In the last few hours, moreover, the trio from which the new president is to be chosen has been produced. It must be said that it went better than one might have thought until a few days ago. The new president will have to have what has long been needed: a solid culture, ability to plan, ability to organize, ability to manage, ability to pose as a reliable interlocutor with the city, with institutions, with companies. Provocations aside (I love my city and its Academy too much to think of seriously considering them), let us hope for a president who can restore to the Academy of Fine Arts of Carrara the prestige it deserves and the polish it has unluckily lost in recent years.