I never imagined I could find an order in what I was trying to express, overwhelmed as I was with thoughts and emotions pouring out of me, apparently disconnected from my own experience in the association. But as we sat on the steps of the altar and looked up at the sacristy’s ceiling, I felt like “a window had just opened”… I was moved and in awe…
Maria Francesca Pasinelli, President of the Alzheimer Association in Bergamo
During the peak of the Covid-19 pandemic last spring, volunteer associations operating in Bergamo and its territory played a crucial role in supporting local communities; at the same time, they were dramatically affected both in their ability to keep providing their services during lockdown, and by the tragic death toll in their own ranks. In this framework, the project’s aims were to celebrate the significance and legacy of these associations, encourage a symbolical passing of the torch, and promote an exchange between organisations sharing the same scope of action.
“I bequeath myself to the dirt” draws inspiration from a verse by Walt Whitman with a view to highlighting key features of volunteering such as self-giving and a sense of community/belonging. Through the language of storytelling, the heritage sites chosen for the project become spaces of encounter and exchange between volunteers, where individual stories are interwoven with the beauty of the land, as well as a vehicle to promote the local community’s wellbeing and active involvement.
46 volunteers (coming from as many associations gathered in seven theme groups) weave individual experiences with a highly diverse range of heritage sites in Bergamo and its surrounding territory: the Church of the Resurrection in Torre de’ Roveri, with the impressive site-specific work of the French artist Arcabas (Culture and Rights Group); the romanic churches of San Tomè and San Giorgio in Almenno (Disability Group); Moroni Palace and Gardens in Bergamo (Environment Group); the Church of the Conversion and Benedictine Monastery in San Paolo d’Argon (Healthcare Group); the contemporary sculptures located in different areas of Bergamo city centre, including the Sculpture Park of Bergamo Provincial Administration (Interculture Group); the Suardi Chapel in Trescore Balneario, frescoed by Lorenzo Lotto (Poverty and Fragility Group); the baroque Basilica of San Martino and Museum of Sacred Art in Alzano Lombardo (Third Age Group).
The integral texts of the 46 stories are published in S. Bodo, S. Mascheroni, M. G. Panigada (eds.), Lascio in eredità me stesso alla terra. Fare memoria tra volontariato e patrimonio culturale (Masso delle Fate, 2021)