Not just bread

Publish date 26-07-2023

by Simone Bernardi

During the period of Lent, the CNBB (National Conference of Bishops of Brazil) promotes the "Campaign of Fraternity" which invites believers to reflection, prayer and concrete acts of charity. The theme proposed this year is "Fraternity and hunger", with the motto "Give them something to eat yourselves" (Mt 14, 16).

The Arsenale della Speranza, which has been addressing this issue for years, has thought of proposing an exhibition in its Art Gallery, located at the entrance to the refectory of the house, as an opportunity to raise awareness. It is a space designed to give guests and employees of the house - as well as all those who visit the Arsenale - the opportunity to appreciate exhibitions that address social issues relating to our time. In this period the xylographic Via Crucis by the artist Regina Drozina was exhibited, contained in the publication Via Sacra - O Caminho da Luz (Aldy Carvalho & João Gomes de Sá, Editora Nova Alexandria).

The idea of creating the gallery in this space is not accidental, but strongly desired given that all the residents of the house pass by there at least twice a day to go eat. It is proper to the Arsenale della Speranza to try to satisfy not only the hunger deriving from the lack of food, but also the hunger for beauty, harmony and culture.
The realization of this idea was possible thanks to a set of contributions filled with the desire to make something beautiful come true. In October 2022, inspired by an exhibition of a club in the city of São Paulo, it was decided to create a permanent exhibition space inside the Arsenale.
One of our most active volunteers, the photographer José Luiz Altieri Campos, asked for the support of Mônica Zanon, also a photographer and friend of the Jewish community of São Paulo, for the realization of this project. Mônica went to see the space, photographed it and presented a project. José Luiz, who constantly records the life of the Arsenal with his beautiful images, has begun to raise funds for the creation of an Art Gallery under the portico leading to the great refectory – one of the most significant and "sacred" places in the whole house because it is here that more than 26 million meals have been prepared in 27 years of activity. Various people have begun to get involved around this idea, including many benefactors.

«The Art Gallery is a reality thanks to the help of friends, such as Mônica Zanon, who participated in the planning phase of the project, and other friends who also generously contributed to the purchase of all the necessary material. This space was created in a strategic place: at the entrance to the refectory, which is an obligatory passage for those who need to eat. With the exhibited works we also want to offer another nourishment: food for the soul. The Arsenale always goes further, with a complete welcome and offering material, spiritual and artistic support to each of the 1,200 men who are welcomed there», reports José Luiz.
In that same month, with the collaboration of the maintenance team of the Arsenale della Speranza, the preparation of the entire installation with grids, panels and paints began. The volunteers then installed the panels for the inaugural exhibition: The challenges of a pandemic - Stories that nobody tells, with texts written by our guests, which were also collected in the book of the same name, edited by Patrícia Strebinger, Desirée Suslick and Mônica Zanon. A nice opportunity to mention and honor the authors.
Given the interest aroused by the gallery and the installation, a friend and volunteer, Elizabete Luna, who deals with lighting, decided to give her contribution by involving the owners of the company she works for and sent us free Adjustable spotlights to improve the lighting of the exhibited works.

With the arrival of Lent, Tomás Padovani, volunteer, friend and sculptor, proposed that we install the Via Crucis in woodcuts in the Art Gallery, a technique familiar to many of our guests, coming from the culture of the northeastern region of Brazil. Tomás Padovani, creator of the exhibition, José Luiz Altieri Campos, Luiz Fernando Nothlich de Andrade and a group of guests took care of the editing. The lights recently installed on the portico enhance the peculiarity of each of the stations on display, creating an atmosphere that invites reflection and meditation. It is no coincidence that a guest of the house told us: «I found the figures I saw in the Art Gallery very beautiful. Today it is important to remember the birth of Christ, his crucifixion, resurrection and ascension into heaven. But it would be better if people remembered him not only in this season of Lent, but every day, every morning".

Simone Bernardi
NP April 2023

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