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Where art meets wine

Interview with Alex Urso
During these days of preparations for La Festa dei Colli Ripani, our festival, we went to see what’s happening in Piazza Matteotti, Ripatransone, between civic number 1 – where the Club dei Colli Ripani is located – and number 13 – the headquarters of FIUTO Art Space gallery. We went there to meet Alex Urso* We went there to meet FIUTO Corner al Club. But let’s proceed in order and from the beginning.  

Question: Paraphrasing a Venditti song, some lives take immense turns and then return, like yours. Tell us about your return to Ripatransone, your hometown.
Alex Urso: My education was first literary, then artistic. After starting my studies at the Brera Academy in Milan, in 2012 I moved to Warsaw as a student in the Faculty of Painting. After finishing my scholarship, I decided to continue my stay on Polish soil. For seven years I lived in Warsaw, continuing my artistic research and working as a curator with public and private institutions (among these: National Gallery of Art, Italian Cultural Institute, Adam Mickiewicz Institute). In 2019, I started to cultivate the idea of returning to Italy with the aim of applying the skills I had acquired abroad here. As a curator, I prefer to work in fragile and unusual places and territories: I am stimulated by the idea of creating something where there was nothing before. Hence the ambition to create a small outpost of contemporary art in Ripatransone.

Q: How did the collaboration with Cantina dei Colli Ripani come about? 
AU: In a spontaneous and natural way. The world of culture today seems to depend almost exclusively on access to grants and state support. I prefer to operate from the ground up, teaming up using the tools we already have at our disposal. For this reason, together with Andrea Castelletti, a dear friend and creative mind behind Cantina dei Colli Ripani, we had the idea of joining forces. The opportunity arose with the opening of the new “club” of the Cantina in Piazza Matteotti in Ripatransone, a few steps from FIUTO. We said to ourselves: "Let's do something together." We decided to combine our respective skills, guided by the desire to offer the community new cultural practices. Just like with the Cantina – which is the most illustrious example of this collaborative vision – FIUTO has joined forces with various local realities and associations in this first year of activity. Networking and supporting each other is the only way to create a solid common ground on which to cultivate.

Q: La Festa dei Colli Ripani is approaching, and we know your contribution has been fundamental and the highlight of this year's edition.  
AU: A few months ago, the Cantina proposed that I imagine an exhibition project that could tell and enhance the history of the Cantina, and specifically its mythical Festa, through art. I thus invited ten incredibly talented illustrators, asking them to imagine a series of works in which they interpret, in their own way and through their own language, the spirit of the company. These are top-tier artists on a national scale: Antonio Pronostico, Virginia Mori, Eliana Albertini, Marco Leoni, Giulia Neri, Giacomo Giovannetti, Fernando Cobelo, Marco Goran Romano, Andrea Ucini, Elisa Menini (the latter also the author of the official poster of the Festa dei Colli Ripani). Their works will be exhibited from July 13 at FIUTO, as part of the collective 338 x DIECI. The artists tell the story of Colli Ripani. At the end of the exhibition, the illustrations will be sold, and all proceeds will be donated to charity.

Q: In your opinion, how can art become a vehicle for promotion? And in this case, what does it add to the company's communication?
AU: I believe the answer to this question can be found in FIUTO's own history. It is, in fact, a project born, in some ways, against all odds: a place dedicated to contemporary art in a village far from the country's major cultural centers. Yet the community and public participation is remarkable: the gallery has become, thanks to the quality of its exhibitions, a point of reference not only for local art enthusiasts. In these months, I have welcomed visitors from Pescara, Perugia, Ancona, received collectors and significant figures from the national system, and sent artworks to Parma and Modena. I don't think these are obvious results for a small gallery located in the province. So: if art is communicated in a simple and essential way, and if what is proposed is somehow pure, people become passionate, trust you, and allow themselves to be led into a world that may have been unfamiliar to them before. I am pleased to guide each visitor, after seeing the exhibition at FIUTO, to the Cantina store; I like that they perceive the value of this "grassroots" collaboration; I like, ultimately, that they stop for a glass of wine there, because I consider that glass an integral part of the visiting experience.

Alex, thank you for your availability and La Festa dei Colli Ripani.

*Alex Urso is an artist and curator. He graduated in Painting (Academy of Fine Arts of Brera); has a degree in Modern Literature (University of Macerata, University of Bologna). He completed advanced courses in Arts and Heritage Management (Bocconi University) and Arts and Culture Strategy (University of Pennsylvania). As an artist, he has exhibited at Casa Testori (Milan), Brugnatelli Foundation (Milan), Spazju Kreattiv (Valletta), Magacin Cultural Center (Belgrade), Italian Cultural Institute in Krakow, Spazio Meme (Carpi), Monopol Gallery (Warsaw), Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art (London), Entropia Gallery (Wroclaw), Palazzo Malipiero (Venice), Musei dei Bronzi Dorati (Pergola). From 2012 to 2019, he lived in Warsaw, working as a curator. Among the institutions he collaborated with during these years: Zachęta – National Gallery of Art in Warsaw, Italian Cultural Institute in Warsaw, Polish Pavilion at the 16th International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale, Benetton Foundation, Adam Mickiewicz Institute. In 2017, he was co-curator of the Biennale de La Biche (described by The Guardian as "the world's smallest art biennale," hosted on a deserted Pacific island). Since 2014, he has been part of the editorial team of Artibune. Since 2018, he has been editor-in-chief for the Sky Arte website. He is the director and curator of FIUTO Art Space.