Project Description

THE ART OF VOLUNTEERING
A CALENDAR BETWEEN ART AND COMMUNITY LIFE

Anteas Nazionale (Active Ages for Solidarity National Association) and Anteas Grande Arcella, Padua, ongoing

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.

L'arte del volontariato, Anteas, Palazzo della Ragione di Padova
Photo by Simona Bodo

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.

Watch the calendar in pdf format
Watch the project video

Extracts

We just left for the retirement home.
I never drive, my task is to stay with the patient, look into his/her eyes, comfort him, divert his attention from the fate awaiting him away from home.
And I often manage to bring back a smile on the lips of these elderly people who barely move, but want to touch my long beard and entrust me with their stories. Then, I ask the driver to slow down, to take a different route, so that I have the time to listen […].

In my eyes, this man effortlessly suspended in time tells us that time is a precious gift.

Giorgio Fincato on the Hovering man, XV century

There is a gesture of care between the two women represented in this fresco, a gesture recalling other gestures, and I find myself thinking about you, mother.
I rest my head on your knees, even if you don’t know who I am; you stroke my hair, although you no longer recognise me. Mother… my trust in you never leaves me.

Now I place my wet hands on the head of these young boys and girls. My hands open, and the water washes their faces like a gentle rain. At first they are a bit frightened, and yet they give me their trust. Little by little, they abandon themselves to the embrace of the water. Now their confidence is complete, like the faith of a child in his/her own mother.
A long, time-consuming process, and yet vital to ensure that they eventually trust life, and surrender to it.

Sandra De Altin on Two women, XV century

There comes a time in life, retirement, when you feel the need to look around and inside your heart. You ask yourself: what do I do now, how do I wish to spend part of my time? A time which is meaningful for your soul, rather than profit-oriented, and bearing the fruit of good works.

In this process of self-questioning, my love for hiking in the mountains came to my aid. The struggle to go up and down would never hinder my curiosity, my sense of wonder and awe towards nature. I would often linger, lagging behind the rest of the group, because it takes time to observe attentively.
I saw everything had a meaning. Nothing was there by accident: every flower, every plant, every stone, every animal had a precise task. Mutuality was the glue holding everything together.
Sometimes, I would run into a herd of sheep intent on grazing under the watchful eye of the ram: nothing diverted its attention; it would have fought with all its strength in order to protect its community.

Hence, I made an effort to look with new eyes the world we live in…

Alfredo Steno on Aries, XV century
Finding the right measure in approaching the others is a fine line, in charity work as well as in all human relationships.

In this fresco, two figures stand out against a bare background, which got me thinking how oblivious we are to all that surrounds us when we feel sick, like the woman sitting with her outstretched arm.
A man is standing right behind her. She seems to look for his help, while at the same time rejecting it. […] The arm of the physician is almost transparent, and this reminds me how soft and gentle our caregiving should always be.

When we approach others, no matter how concerned we are with their wellbeing, we must make sure there are no barriers, and if that is the case, we need to understand how to bypass them. It is a delicate process, made of thoughtful small gestures, which little by little can breach the walls people build to protect themselves.

Marina Volpato on Phlebotomy, XV century
L'arte del volontariato, Anteas, laboratorio di narrazione
Photo by Simona Bodo
L'arte del volontariato, Anteas, laboratorio di narrazione
Photo by Simona Bodo
L'arte del volontariato, Anteas, scrittura dei testi
Photo by Maria Grazia Panigada
L'arte del volontariato, Anteas, laboratorio di narrazione
Photo by Simona Bodo
L'arte del volontariato, Anteas, laboratorio di narrazione
Photo by Simona Bodo
Calendar cover

PROJECT PARTNERS

     logo Comune di Padova    logo Padova Urbs Picta  logo Padova Capitale del Volontariato