The Green Room: Overnight Re:view: Alessandro Sciarroni

To spark discussion, the Walker invites Twin Cities artists and critics to write overnight reviews of our performances. The ongoing Re:View series shares a diverse array of independent voices and opinions; it doesn’t reflect the views or opinions of the Walker or its curators. Today, John Fleischer shares his perspective on last weekend’s performance of s. Agree or […] To spark discussion, the Walker…

Cultural taskforce comes to the aid of quake-stricken Amatrice

Italian culture ministry conservators clean the dust off an Old Master painting retrieved from the church of Sant’Agostino in Amatrice<br />Photo courtesy of Segretariato Regionale del Ministero dei beni culturali e del turismo per il Lazio
The fatal earthquake that struck central Italy in the early hours of 24 August, killing at least 295 people, has also dealt a severe blow to cultural heritage. A preliminary survey conducted by the specialist art squad of Italys military policethe Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturalein the immediate aftermath of the 6.2-magnitude earthquake identified 293 historic sites as having collapsed or been seriously damaged within a 20km radius of the epicentre, according to the Italian culture minister Dario Franceschini.

The ministry is co-ordinating recovery efforts across Lazio, Umbria, Le Marche and Abruzzo, with the fire brigade, the carabinieri and around 30 of the blue helmets of culturethe taskforce launched by Unesco and the Italian government in February to protect heritage in conflict zones worldwide. We will remain in these areas until the emergency is over, until the last item has been recovered, says captain Michelange Stefano, the only female member of the blue helmets. The next phase will be overseen by culture ministry experts, who will catalogue the objects and guarantee their conservation, she told our sister paper, Il Giornale dellArte.

Drone-assisted rescue mission

The work is slow but systematic. The culture ministrys prestigious conservation school, the Istituto Superiore per la Conservazione ed il Restauro in Rome, prepared a comprehensive inventory of works of art across the regions after the 2012 earthquake in the northern province of Emilia-Romagna. Along with drones and long-range cameras, the inventory is helping with the evacuation of cultural heritage from churches and other historical sites, says Cristiano Cusin, a commander of the fire brigade working in the town of Amatrice.

Paintings, sculptures, furnishings and historical documents have already been transferred from the Museo Civico, historic archives and SantAgostino church in Amatrice, and from the churches of Santa Maria della Misericordia, Madonna delle Coste and San Francesco in nearby Accumoli. Next will be the Basilica di San Francesco, the Sanctuary of the Passatora Icon and the clock tower in Amatrice, Cusin says.

But for residents of the devastated historic towns, the top priority is the reconstruction of built heritage. The non-profit organisation Italia Nostra and the art critic and politician Vittorio Sgarbi, among others, have urged the Italian government not to repeat the mistakes of the 2009 earthquake in LAquila. Billions of euros were spent on the new towns supported by then prime minister Silvio Berlusconiunpopular quake-proof housing projects hastily constructed on the outskirts of LAquila. The ongoing restoration of the towns medieval centre, towards which the culture ministry pledged an additional 30m earlier this year, has been mired in corruption and red tape.

Recyclable temporary housing

After the third fatal quake in a decade, there are signs that the government is learning from past lessons. Having unblocked 50m in emergency funding, prime minister Matteo Renzi has appointed the former governor of Emilia-Romagna, Vasco Errani, as special commissioner for the reconstruction. He has also followed the recommendation of the leading architect Renzo Piano to accommodate the displaced communities in temporary wooden housing that can be dismantled and recycled. Everything must be rebuilt as and where it was, Piano told the Corriere della Sera newspaper. Uprooting people from their places is a cruel act.

Meanwhile, the culture ministrys secretary general, Antonia Pasqua Recchia, has pledged that the damaged heritage sites will be restored using original materials recovered from the wreckage.

Saving Amatrices Old Masters

Among the 84 dusty but undamaged works of art rescued from the Museo Civico di Amatrice in early September was the painting Madonna with Child and St John the Baptist by the local artist and architect Nicola Filotesio, known as Cola dellAmatrice (1480-1547). The art critic and politician Vittorio Sgarbi is organising a four-part exhibition in December to revive the reputation of the obscure figure and shine a spotlight on the destroyed city. Parallel displays of different aspects of Colas work are due to open at the Pinacoteca Civica di Ascoli Piceno, the church of San Bernardino in LAquila, Palazzo Te in Mantua and the Palazzo Bagatti Valsecchi in Milan.