Ferrara, the People's Workshop

Written by  Raffaele Fresu
Today, an area's only index of growth is the one that springs from the development of community as a whole.
"In no other part of the world, perhaps, will you find so many exciting destinations as can be found at a crossroads outside Ferrara: you can choose from Bologna, Modena, Mantua. Verona. Padua, and Venice.» So says Cecil Gould in Da Borso a Cesare d'Este. La scuola di Ferrara 1450-1628, Belriguardo 1985. In a few lines, Gould's statement encapsulates the naive amazement of the tourist confronted by a simple road sign, a latterday synthesis of marvellous cities crammed with art.

Marvels produced in an epoch in which the modern state was as yet unborn and the concept of the people was still an abstraction, but it was a world in which everything worked according to the principle of the "multiplication OF energies" (Asor Rosa), moments in an authentic social revolution. What is beyond doubt is that it was a magical moment for Ferrara, a crossroads between unique cities of culture, a happy blend of cultivated art patronage, politics, and artistic expression.

Today in the society of the year two thousand, far from that "perfection OF city life", our thoughts turned towards ambitious European horizons, we are assailed more and more by macro-economic problems, in an abstract search for a common weal wrapped up in statistical research and indexes of profit. But, precisely in the search for a homogeneous criterion of social and economic development, in the definition of a study of our area, we have become aware that the only real index of growth is the one that springs from the overall development of each individual in the community in question: «I know that every line read is profit".
Cristina Campo's words refer back to an ancient Chinese adage, they convey perfectly the idea that without development and cultural evolution there can be no economic development or progress. And in Ferrara today the time is ripe to direct the energies of the entire community to the creation of a lively and industrious cultural connective tissue, so that the idea of the city of the future may take on form and substance.

Only then will decentralization and transformation - set in motion by local politicians in a bid to encourage the growth of a synergical system specifically tailored to the area - be able to develop that natural calling to delve into geographical and cultural roots and therein discover an identity that emerges in the dialectical relationship with other local identities.

The city of the future cannot be merely an evocative stage, but must become an actor in its own story. Together with the great events that grace our city today, it has become necessary to define permanent structures capable of containing the nuclei of new projects and the reflections sparked off by the encounter with some of the great creative minds of our times.
Dario Fo and the plans for a new theatre; the extension of the spaces devoted to art, with the purchase of Palazzo Prosperi e Cesare d'Este; Claudio Abbado and the international music master class: writing workshops, a continuation of the international literary events organized by Roberto Pazzi: all of these can become new tools for communication, open roads at the service of the community where the younger generations in particular can meet and express themselves.

Finally we need areas for a new concept of living, to share experiences open to all; to transform certain architectonic features and give them over once more to a modern concept of beauty. Places to be rethought, such as the former barracks in via Cisterna del Follo and the building facing them, the so-called cavallezza, in which young artists, from Ferrara or elsewhere, can enjoy freedom of thought. Places, therefore, redefined and experienced as the natural means of communication of new social forces.

The aim, finally, is to arrive at a new, multivalent idea, a Ferrarese workshop able to measure itself against current standards, to lend an empirical dimension to our reflections, encounters, feelings, all of which are capable of transforming into a common good that one and only profit that springs from the overall cultural development of a community. A reality made not only of history, but one able, by means of a lively and up to date cultural project, to construct its own history in the here and now.