33 Officina Creativa (33OC) is a nonprofit association based in Toffia, Italy with the aims of diffusing contemporary art and preserving the local cultural heritage. This is achieved through international artistic exchanges and cultural events that enable the inclusion of the territory in which the association operates into a broader cultural horizon.
33OC hosts a 10-year old international Artist Residency program and produces theater and music performances, workshops, and other cultural events. It aims to operate as a regenerative social and cultural meeting place while becoming a discussion platform for artistic production.
Our goal is to preserve the diversity of nature and culture of Sabina region and to prevent the museification of Toffia – a small and quiet medieval hilltop village 60KM NE from Rome – by offering a shared place of cultural and social exploration for national and international artists, the local community and people from various cultural fields.
Through the Artist Residency program, 33OC wants to engage international artists in a discussion on the possible relationships between art, society, and territory. The program was developed to become a creative space seeded in the local cultural landscape of Toffia, where international artists can share, in one place, their unique experiences and sensibilities.
We think that both artistic action and research are helped in their interpretation of reality through close contact with the object of their study. The creative process is of inestimable worth, not only as a demonstration of ability, skill, knowledge or aesthetic beauty, but also as the process through which the creative expression of the individual and the group can help make us better people.
The 33 Officina Creativa project stems from the idea of restoring the San Bernardino complex. During the 2007 festival of 20 Events, Fiete Stolte – an artist from the Weissensee Academy in Berlin, suggested creating a work of relational art. His project consisted of subverting the hourly subdivisions of the day: three hours were to be lost every day. The objective of this project was to reshape the flow of activity in the San Bernardino complex, which has been described to him as the youth center of Toffia. In reality, ‘the hall’ as it was affectionately known in the village, was in part permanent storeroom, in part No Man’s Land.
Why not follow up this stimulus by constructing a real cultural center? Why not try to create a reality in which there would be a concrete possibility of carrying out a project like that of Fiete Stolte?
In the same period, there was another artist in Toffia, Taro Furukata. His project took some rather interesting turns. Through an informal survey conducted in the bar, Taro asked the inhabitants of the tiny village what he could donate to the community, with only a modest budget at his disposition. From this simple question there evolved a relational project with a remarkable following. The decision to bring a donkey back into the village provoked a level of group participation that was only intensified by the tragic epilog – the unexpected death of the aforementioned creature.
It is possible that Taro’s project was the one to have the greatest impact on the collective imagination of the village. The idea of bringing the donkey, a symbol of our agricultural heritage, back into the village, gave us food for thought. The tragic epilog made us face up to the inevitable passing of our cultural traditions. The death of the donkey, in fact, meant that we had to visualize a new future for our village.
Several months afterward, the nucleus of persons who had taken part in that project gave life to 33 Officina Creativa.
Certainly, the seeds are germinating in fertile fields. The conditions favorable to the development of this project are tied to the changing demographics that Toffia and the Lower Sabina are currently experiencing. New inhabitants escaping from the city are introducing elements of change into the remaining rural culture. What is the future for lower Sabina, torn as it is between the risk of mutating into a suburb or the danger of becoming a tourist wasteland? The possibility of a cultural study that revises the cultural tradition seems to be one of the routes to follow on the crest of modernity.
Interest in contemporary art, in particular for relational pieces, arises, therefore, from the possibility that artistic projects that function on the boundary between social sciences and art can contribute to the reflections on cultural transformations in which we are bound up.
33OC Artist Residency is hosted in a converted 13th Century church and the adjacent building. Over the years the adjacent building was Mayor’s office, post office, pharmacy, and medical building. The buildings have been for many years in a state of semi-abandon, restored with personal labor and funds by the members of the Association over a period of five years. Presently the complex of S. Bernardino includes the ex-church of S. Bernardino converted into a theater, various multi-purpose studios, a kitchen and two bedrooms.
Bellow, you can see a few photos of the space as it was found.