A Creative Spark in Cianciana, Sicily

Passareddu: A Creative Spark in a Charming Sicilian Town

By Sarah Robertson

Artists using recycled materials to build Passareddu in Cianciana, Sicily. Photo by Hilary Arnold.
Artists using recycled materials to build Passareddu in Cianciana, Sicily. Photo by Hilary Arnold.

gonomad122214banner2Cianciana lights up each summer with laughter and love. Something about the small, landlocked Sicilian town keeps both tourists and Italians coming back each season to share the vibrant culture, beautiful climate, and stunning landscapes with their families and friends.

Italians and tourists alike flock to the town in the thousands to share an experience only Cianciana can offer.

“Cianciana is a picturesque town in the South West of Sicily with a population of 4000 people, breathtaking mountain views and a lovely warm climate,” says Olivia Thompson, president of Passareddu.

“The friendly, welcoming nature of the locals is a big attraction for foreigners along with its relaxed ambience and cafe culture.”

Now a new generation of restless Italian artists from around the world is beginning to notice the magic of Cianciana. A team of artists and visionaries has begun work on a project titled “Passareddu” (Sicilian for path) that will transform the creative face of Cianciana.

A beautiful pasture in Cianciana. Photo by Olivia Thompson.
A beautiful pasture in Cianciana. Photo by Olivia Thompson.

Using entirely recycled goods the visionaries of Passareddu are building an artist residency on a plot of land just outside the town. Their vision is to give both local and traveling artists a place to live, work, and showcase their artwork in a supportive and collaborative environment.

Building Passareddu

Still in its beginning stages, Passareddu has been gaining support of artists and locals who see the value of an eco-friendly artist residency. Artists Scott Thompson and Fabrizio Riggio first had the idea for an artist residency that would be entirely made of recycled materials while visiting Cianciana.

They began recruiting their friends to help them with the project and found their family and friends were eager to help with their endeavor.

“After many years of living in Cianciana and traveling throughout Sicily, we have been captivated by the diversity of Sicily’s culture, art and cuisine,” says Scott Thompson, “Cianciana has thousands of visitors a year, many are artists both local and traveling who come to Sicily for extended stays to work and soak in the culture and inspiration which is inescapable here.”

A Place for Artists

Capitalizing on the cultural melting pot that is Cianciana, the founders of Passareddu are making a place for artists to bring together ideas from all over the globe. Few places in the world have what Cianciana offers its artists: a beautiful landscape, a diverse group of artistic minds, and enough distance from the major metropolises let true creative expression flow.

“The depth of Sicilian culture is hugely influential to my work,” says Dave King, an artist and volunteer at Passareddu, “From the immense Arabic mosaics of the Norman Churches to the modern street-art of Palermo, from the architecture of the Ancient Greek temples to the contemporary works of local artists and artisans of Cianciana itself.”

They have set aside 7,000 square meters of land to build the residency and are currently trying to raise the money to kick off the project. Through their IndieGoGo campaign the visionaries are looking to raise 20,000 euros (or about $27,000) to buy a second storage container, install services, and finance a permaculture garden.

The completed Passareddu Artist Residency will include studio work space, gathering and exhibition areas, and residencies for visiting artists.

The Building as Art

Artists living inside Passareddu will continue working to expand and beautify the space after they move in.

The building in itself is a massive piece of art, continuously growing and changing like the creative minds within. Artists who want to share their skills and experience though classes and demonstrations are encouraged to apply to teach workshops at the residency as well.

The artists turned construction workers have already collected some materials to get started on the residency.

They have their first massive steel storage container that will form the first studio as well as wooden pallets, abandoned doors, and other recycled building materials.

The pallets used to make furniture and platforms for Passareddu. Photo by Marta Roversi.
The pallets used to make furniture and platforms for Passareddu. Photo by Marta Roversi

Keep in mind that all work that goes into Passareddu is done by volunteers and soon to be resident artists who build and create their homes free of charge.

Upcycling For Art

“We have seen during our campaign that people are very inspired and excited by art, creativity and the environment which Passareddu encompasses,” says Olivia, “Our vision is to have a living center where art, tradition, history and diversity of cultures combine to create a fresh experience and exchange, where nature is an integral part of artistic endeavor and ingenuity.”

The founders of Passareddu believe that art and nature are indivisible. By using only recycled materials in their construction, Passareddu has made virtually no impact on the environment. In fact, they are trying to reverse their ecological footprint; a major part of the artist residency is an organic permaculture garden that will provide food for the artists living there and give back to the environment.

“We feel that art is not just painting or sculpture but any discipline which inspires passion and creativity and that art interacts with agriculture, nature, cooking and artisan crafts,” says Olivia, “ Recycling is our passion and reusing abandon items such as shipping containers and pallets to create our residency as well as artwork will be the focus of Passareddu.”

It makes sense that the artists within these eco-friendly walls would live their lives just as environmentally conscious. These artists see the bigger picture and are taking proactive steps to preserve Cianciana and the earth for generations to come. When artists live in Passareddu they embody the project’s creed that man, environment, and art are one.

Original artwork by Dave King.
Original artwork by Dave King.

“Over recent years I have made a concerted effort to be more ‘eco-friendly’ by eating local and seasonal produce, reducing my personal water use, being more aware of the chemicals I use,” says Dave King, “I strongly believe we all need to reduce, reuse and recycle for a more sustainable future.”

The Natural Charm of Cianciana

Located in southern Sicily between the cities of Agrigento and Sciacca, Cianciana is a remote village with a personality all its own. It is a creative spark glowing in the shadows of Mount Calvario overlooking the Platani Valley in Sicily where breathtaking views are just a part of everyday life.

Just a 30-minute drive from the beautiful beaches surrounding Sciacca, Cianciana spoils its residents with beautiful mountain and ocean scenery.

The Clock Tower and Scaletta. Photo Hilary Arnold.
The Clock Tower and Scaletta. Photo Hilary Arnold.

The beautiful architecture of the town is reminiscent of old Sicily and adds to the rich character of the Cianciana. Such diverse beauty in the scenery is a reflection of the diverse cultures and backgrounds of the people in Cianciana.

Old families and newcomers mingle on the streets of Cianciana at the plethora of bars and cafés. During the summer the town lights up with festivals and events that keep the streets lit late into the evenings.

Theater and music are celebrated extensively in the summer months in the supercharged creative atmosphere.

For ten months of the year Cianciana supports a population of 4,000, but during the summer the population jumps to over 10,000 as families return to stay with relatives and foreigners visit for the beautiful climate.

During the summers Cianciana comes alive with festivals and events that keep its residents entertained.

However, the creative energy does not cease when the seasonal residents leave. Throughout the year the residents of Cianciana can always find something else to celebrate.

The town’s main industry is farming which provides the community with fresh eggs, fruit and vegetables daily. In the fall the olive harvest brings residents together, as does the orange season in the winter, the almond blossom festival in February, and the tomato harvest in September.

The freshest ingredients make for the tastiest food in Cianciana where they are famous for their olive oil and wine. The local restaurants use the seasonal produce to make the fresh, delectable dishes year round.

We Believe in Passareddu

Original work by Antonio Palminteri. 2014 "Transfiguration"
Original work by Antonio Palminteri. 2014 “Transfiguration”

Cianciana is fertile ground for the creative minds of Passareddu. The artists know their vision is possible, and having picked the perfect location they just need the support of like-minded individuals who believe in Passareddu as they do.

“We hope Passareddu will become a focal point of the community and achieve more than one goal,” says King, “We aim to connect creative people off all types – artists, artisans, musicians, writers, chefs, the elderly, children, tourists, locals and expats alike.”

The grand opening for the artist residency is scheduled for July 26th, 2014, and will showcase a diverse range of local and foreign artists. The first artist to work in the storage unit studio is Antonio Palminteri, a painter native to Cianciana, whose current work is titled “Transfiguration.”

In support of the IndieGoGo campaign, Palminteri will be giving away free prints of his work to donors, among many other perks for the supporters of Passareddu.

Cianciana’s Place in the Heart

Whether one finds it relaxing, exciting, or inspiring, there is no doubt Cianciana can find its place in anyone’s heart. Contemporary art and new ideas flourish in Cianciana and Passareddu where free expression and is everything and everyone is welcomed with open arms.

For many young artists Passareddu will be just one stop on their own paths and perhaps even the launch pad to even greater achievements.

Perhaps it is not Cianciana that is magical, but the people who come to the town that make it so. Without the culture, farmers, families, and artists to celebrate the town’s beauty Cianciana would be nothing more than a few sun-soaked hills.

Passareddu celebrates the natural beauty of Cianciana, all the while looking forward and embracing every new artist and idea that comes its way.

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Sarah Robertson is a student at UMass Amherst studying Journalism and Social Thought in Political Economy. She is Lifestyle editor for The Daily Collegian and AmherstWire. Follow Sarah on twitter at @srobertson_17 and read her blog at http://robertsonsarah.wordpress.com/.


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