Recently The FuseBox received an exciting invitation from the British Council in Italy to take part in a creative hub panel discussion they helped to curate at conference; ArtLab Milan. Hub Manager; Rosalie Hoskins shares her experience of taking The FuseBox on tour.
Upon receiving the invitation, it didn’t take us long to discover that since ArtLab was set up in 2006, it has grown into the most inspiring and powerful, cross sectorial, independent event in Italy. Split into four events across Italy, Artlab sets out to innovate new practices and policies by curating discussions and workshops among the policy makers and leaders of the cultural and creative industry.The title of our panel discussion was ‘European creative hubs: revitalising our cities’ and was part organised by the British Council to help promote their current project; European Creative Hubs Network. A 2-year campaign of supporting and championing the impact of creative hubs across Europe via a programme of workshops and events. Jumping on the chance to contribute to Artlab17, I waved goodbye to the Wired Sussex team and packed my bags for Italy. Not only was I keen to meet and make firm ties with fellow creative hub panellists, I was also looking forward to meet ArtLab Milan hosts; BASE Milano.
BASE Milano is a centre for culture and creativity and stands as a grand laboratory of 6000 square metres, a place designed to house a myriad of experiences and experimentations. I learnt BASE took over a converted crane factory, which explained the impressive dimensions and despite being in its fledging years and having a small team behind the helm, the hub was bustling with activity. I was greeted warmly and shown around their beautiful event space, shared work space, wood workshops and maker space. BASE seems to do what Italy is so renowned for, imbuing design into every element of what they do. I was fed at their eatery and over lunch I was explained that even the food is presented to replicate the factory line as a nod to the industrial history of the building.
Every room in BASE Milano I visited, was lively and full of people working in different ways. Their bistro is open to the public from breakfast to cocktails in the evening and seemed to be the epicentre of activity in the building. Young teams of creatives gathered around small tables with espressos, emphatically talking over sketch books and the staff seemed to know everybody as our conversations were frequently paused for warm hello to passing people. BASE sets to support people from a wide range of sectors including Art, Creativity, Enterprise, Technology and Welfare and with their continuous programme of events and many work spaces, I would recommend anyone visiting Milan to check them out.
I got acquainted to the creative hubs that I would sharing a panel with and we got stuck in describing our hubs and hometowns and our expectations of being a part of Artlab. My fellow pannelists were; Jessica Capra, Co-founder, The Artist and The Others, Maastricht, Emre Erbirer, Communications Lead, ATÖLYE, Istanbul, Valentina La Terza, Head of programme, BASE Milano, Valérie Senghor, Deputy Director for Development and Innovation, Centquatre, Paris and Marieke Zeegers, Head of International Development Projects, SAMOA – Creative Factory, Nantes
One of the first commonalities we pinpointed as a group of creative hub leaders was recognising the value of experiencing spaces, other than our own, first-hand. We agreed it was paramount to be able to walk through a space and be able to engage in one to one conversations with the people that work there. It gives you a real sense of the direct impact of the hub and can also give you greater insight about the challenge areas it has to overcome to thrive. For some places its being in a difficult location, for others it’s struggling to secure funding. Encountering these various issues directly improves the chances of being able to make connections and take real learnings away to implement and share with others in your own community.
One of the highlights of being in Milan was the hub tour arranged for us by our hosts BASE Milano. We were shown around the City and visited WeMake, a bustling maker space that, at the time was full of textile students appropriating digital practices to the process of making clothes. Fondazione Feltrinelli, a book store, a literacy archive and research hub that was preparing for a conference about innovation in employment law. And Culturale Urbano, a centre that offered the local community event and work space. Here, we saw old and young local residents coming together for music and food. These spaces were all very different and proved the definition of a creative hub is still being challenged and redefined. However, it was clear that all three hubs offered invaluable support for their respective communities by offering a space for people to come together, gain access to resources and work collaborately.
This emphasises the importance of having the European Creative Hub Network. Our ethos at The FuseBox is about putting ideas into action and we are committed to being an active part of the network. Ready to share knowledge and ideas to help develop and strengthen many our networks locally and far afield. In Milan, I learnt the importance of social responsibility. I got to witness the way the different hubs responded to their own individual communities, by not only offering space but also resources and curated activities to give people the opportunity to work together and not alone.
A massive thank you to British Council, BASE Milano and my fellow panellists for giving us this experience. If you would like to know more about The FuseBox and the projects that we run, please check out our blog or drop an email directly to me Rosalie@wiredsussex.com. We would love to hear from you.