The intensity of our experience lay not only in expanding our ability to look, but also in turning our group into a “sounding board”. Looking and listening are a powerful way of taking care, but in order for this to happen we need to give ourselves time, and giving ourselves the time to contemplate an artwork together is a gift.
Simona Bodo and Maria Grazia Panigada, project curators
This is the ultimate meaning of “The art of volunteering” project, which took place inside “il Salone”, i.e. the upper floor of Padua’s Palazzo della Ragione, a landmark medieval building where human activities were judged taking into consideration the influence of celestial bodies, as depicted in a magnificent XV-century cycle of frescoes (originally painted by Giotto, but destroyed by a fire in 1420).
Twelve volunteers from Anteas Grande Arcella – a local division of Anteas Nazionale – were engaged in an intense process of mutual listening and self-reflection on their experiences of charity work and community life, triggered and amplified by the encounter with the frescoes, where not only the influence of the stars and the turn of the seasons are represented, but also man’s work and the relationships between human beings.
Anteas volunteers went through this process together, savouring the pleasure of staying in front of an artwork for hours on end, expanding their observation skills, and acknowledging how familiar and relevant cultural heritage can become, when we allow it to resonate with our lives and memories.
Along the way, the twelve storytellers became witnesses and, at the same time, agents of the close relationship which can be established between a city’s heritage and the community taking care of it.
The short stories brought to the surface by this shared experience – each one associated with an image representing zodiac signs, allegories, scenes of everyday life – embody concepts which are closely connected with the experience of volunteering: “trust”, “time”, “gift”, “cooperation”, “perseverance”, “mutuality”, “taking care”, “sharing”, “community”.
In order to disseminate the project at a national level, Anteas chose to produce a calendar that could accompany family and associative life throughout the year, while at the same time creating a meaningful connection with Padua European Volunteering Capital for 2020.