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Spotlight On: Italian Cultural Institute of Marseille
Portal of the Italian language

Spotlight On: Italian Cultural Institute of Marseille

Categories: Culture and creativity -Cinema and Audio-visual

Interview with Director Paola Ciccolella.

Paola Ciccolella

Paola Ciccolella graduated in Modern Foreign Languages and Literature from the University of Naples L’Orientale, in her native city, and has a specialization in Theatre Studies from the Université de la Sorbonne Nouvelle Paris III and a PhD in French Studies. For more than twenty years, she has been working to promote Italy abroad, first as an Italian language assistant posted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs at the Lomonosov University in Moscow, then as a Cultural Attaché. She has directed the Italian Cultural Institutes of Zagreb, Warsaw and Seoul and since September 2020 she has been at the head of the Italian Cultural Institute of Marseille. She has numerous theatrical publications to her credit and is a translator of theatrical texts from French to Italian.

Could you describe the Italian Cultural Institute you direct and its history for our Italiana readers?

The Italian Cultural Institute in Marseille is located in a very large architectural complex dating from 1935. The building was influenced by the monumental-rationalist architecture of the time. For years it has been studied by historians and art historians at the Universities of Aix-Marseille and Paris. Recently, an exhibition was held as part of Manifesta 13 and the documentary “La casa d’Italia – Finestre su una terza Roma” (Casa d’Italia – Windows on a Third Rome) was made. In the beginning, the building was the Casa d’Italia, a reference point for the many Italian immigrants in Marseille; it is currently home to the Consulate General of Italy, the Italian Cultural Institute, the Comites and several patronages. The Italian Cultural Institute has a long history; it was established in 1951.

How would you describe the city and its cultural scene? What are the most important partnerships that the Institute has with other cultural institutions and practitioners?

Marseille is a large and culturally vibrant city. For some years now, the most interesting cultural venue is the Mucem – Museum of Civilizations of Europe and the Mediterranean – located right by the sea at the edge of the picturesque Old Port. The truly original design of the museum is by the Marseille architect of Italian origin, Rudy Ricciotti. At the moment, the Institute is collaborating actively with Mucem on a series of exhibition projects and side events. Looking just at the most recent years, there have been a great number of collaborations and they even extend to more distant areas, such as the cities of Avignon, Toulouse, Montpellier and Nice.

In a situation based on integrated promotion, where all the components of the “Italian System” – culture, economy, science and innovation – contribute towards and aim at the overall and specific success of one ambitious proposal (in its various forms), what have been the top experiences of this Institute?

I would mention in particular the Italian Week in Avignon with events ranging from commercial to cultural; it has been held every year for five years in collaboration with the Franco-Italian Chamber of Commerce in Marseille, the Consulate General of Italy in Marseille and Avignon City Council.

What role does communication play in the Institute’s relationship with the public? What innovative strategies, approaches and ways of working have been adopted in recent times to maintain and facilitate this relationship?

In addition to the usual communication channels such as press releases, newsletters, announcements on the website and various social networks, we document groups of related events with short films that we then upload to our YouTube channel: a concise and effective way to advertise and document our activities.

Although in a gradual and uneven way in the different countries and regions, we are starting to come out of the emergency phase. The time has come to design the new normal. What approaches will it be appropriate to adopt in the light of the experience of this Institute? How do you imagine the coming years?

Unfortunately we cannot consider ourselves completely out of the pandemic; only COVID certificate holders are admitted to the Institute. In spite of these limitations, since September there has been considerable interest in both our language courses and the cultural events held at the Institute. In any case, the Institute organizes some courses online and we will soon be able to stream the events: new technology makes it increasingly easy to resume events and share them on the various social networks.

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