‘The Art of Migration’ presentation in Willunga Hub, South Australia: 4/1/2019

Willunga Poster-final.jpgOn the 4th of January 2019 our first viewing in Australia of the film  The Art of Migration produced in 2017 by Matteo Fiorucci and Bernardo Angeletti, was presented in South Australia, thanks to the Willunga Circle Of Friends for Refugees,  : members of the audience in the packed hall included artists, therapists, scientists, musicians and community members actively engaged, or interested in, supporting refugees arriving in both the local area and wider Australia .

The Make Art Not Walls approach can be described as holistic:  in the open studio space, resident volunteers and new arrivals are all potentially creating  new  communities and mapping future models of society. This was evidenced in the film, and commented on during discussion.

After the film showing a highly engaged public responded with questions and  comments regarding the role of the arts in ‘creating new worlds’ during transitional moments in the lives of both new arrivals and long-term residents. Our experience  was discussed  through the lenses of both art therapy and contemporary art practice; observed were issues around not only transitions through trauma and change for refugees , but also experiences of (abrupt,unforeseen) terminations of volunteer activities which can be , once again, traumatic echoings of  the precariousness of past experiences.



A special thanks to planner/organiser Fiona Ryan with the support of Maarten Ryder for making the event so successful .

Engage with some of the public after the event as they react to the presentation by clicking: ‘The Art of Migration’ presentation in Willunga Hub, South Australia: 4/1/2019



We are present @ ‘Personne est Invisible’ at the Consulat de la Gaiete’ in Paris 5-25th October 2018

Nel  spazio pubblico a Parigi . presso “Le Consulat” #makeartnotwallsitalia fa parte di un progetto internazionale organizzato da “Imagine” (che ha lavorato con mezzi espressivi nella “Giungla” / Calais) Foto cortesia Phoebe Wood, fotografa/giormnalista la quale ci ha anche filmato l’anno scorso per ‘france24’.

via We will be present @ ‘Personne est Invisible’ at the Consulat de la Gaiete’ in Paris 5-25th October 2018


We exhibit at Rose Gallery,Los Angeles in April 2018.



In conjunction with Human Rights Watch, ROSEGALLERY presents MAKE ART NOT WALLS, an exhibition of paintings by a group of refugees and migrants from West Africa (Nigeria and Gambia) who are currently seeking asylum in Trevi, Italy.

A reception for the exhibition will be held on 24 APRIL 2018 from six until nine pm. Virginia Ryan, the founder of MAKE ART NOT WALLS, will join us for this special event for a conversation about her work with the refugees. Additionally, the Golden Bridge Choir will grace us with a special performance during this evening’s celebration.
Proceeds from the sale of the artworks will go directly to the artists.

In series of sequential, vividly-rendered tableaux, each artist tells their story of leaving their home country. Although each story is uniquely expressed, repeated themes display the commonality of the refugees’ experiences; groups of figures huddled shoulder-to-shoulder in overcapacity boats and trucks; sleeping on floors; hiding in trucks; saying goodbye. The arduous journeys endured have spanned countries and continents and a palpable uncertainty lingers, but as one artist states in a painted text, “A journey of a thousand steps begins with a single step.”

MAKE ART NOT WALLS features six artists: Raphael Benjamin, Foday Cisse, Omoigui Felix Junior, Chinedu Michael Chinweoba, Chukwuemeka Patrick Euria, and Alex Ogbebor Enomah; and includes a selection of portraits all created in association with Make Art Not Walls, an art organization and open studio founded by Virginia Ryan in October 2016 with the subsequent help of Julia Perry and other volunteers. Men who have fled violence and scarcity in their home countries have been given materials, space and encouragement to share their personal perspectives in paint. Whilst awaiting documents, Make Art Not Walls helps refugees in the community of Trevi cope and heal through art as well as find community and purpose in their new surroundings. As the past decade has seen massive upheaval in many regions of the world, countless people fleeing state and interpersonal violence, poverty, and changing climates have been forced to leave their homes and move in search of a more stable life. Since 2014, more than 500,000 refugees have arrived in Italy, with the majority of migrants coming from sub-Saharan Africa. Each artist involved in Make Art Not Walls has been one of the many migrants caught in this global crisis.

RECIPROCUS at Italian Cultural Institute in Edinburgh,Scotland opening 19th October 2017; then at British Institute in Florence in February 2018 as part of Black History Month

As part of the Art of Migration two exhibitions will run concurrently

‘Reciprocus’ Mixed media works on paper by Virginia Ryan and participant image-makers from ‘Make Art Not Walls/Italia’ and  ‘Phantome’ Photographic Essay from the migrant centre in Trevi, Umbria by Matteo Fiorucci 2016/2017


Reciprocus is a recent, on-going collaborative art work between artist/art therapist Ryan and resident asylum-seekers living in Trevi, Italy.

These young men from West Africa are also participant image-makers in the Make Art Not Walls/ Italia project and open studio, founded in late 2016. Most of the members who frequent the voluntary open studio have been attending from a period up to one year; the most recent arrived two months ago. Virginia Ryan is grateful for the invaluable and ongoing support of resident American fine-art restorer and teacher Julia Perry in the ongoing workshop.

Conceived and initiated by the artist in August 2017, Reciprocus layers Italian newsprint and partially ‘whited-out’ local stories from the central Italian newspaper ‘Corriere dell’Umbria’ with subsequent interacting hand-painted images responding to the news/text . Worlds collide, interact and juxtapose in this set of twenty-five mixed-media works on paper and card.

The series presents a universe in which intersections of figures, patterning, hand-written testimonies and Italian newspaper type suggests individual and collective ‘what-if’ imaginings, whilst recording memories of the journey across the Sahara and the Mediterranean.

The process of interaction with local news, discussions in the workshop and re-actions with paint and pencil mirror or suggest moments of integration within the wider community.

Included in this collaboration with Virginia Ryan are interventions by Raphael Benjamin (Nigeria) Alex Johnson (Nigeria) Abubacar Diallo (Guinea) Jacob Camara (Guinea-Conakry) Omogoigui Felix (Nigeria) Blessing Osaigei (Nigeria) and others.

IMG_9487IMG_9483Reciprocus 12 Ryan/Alex JohnsonIMG_9489IMG_9490IMG_9499IMG_9498

Continua a leggere “RECIPROCUS at Italian Cultural Institute in Edinburgh,Scotland opening 19th October 2017; then at British Institute in Florence in February 2018 as part of Black History Month”

La prima lettera/Our first letter. January 2017

Nel 2016 il Comune di Trevi ha ospitato per la prima volta nel suo territorio un gruppo di richiedenti asilo presso la struttura Hotel Calafuria. Questa accoglienza  si è concretizzata attraverso una convenzione tra l’ente comunale e l’Associazione Arci della sede di Perugia (nell’ambito del progetto Emergenza sbarchi- Arcisolidarietà Ora d’Aria). Il progetto “emergenza sbarchi” offre, tra le altre cose, servizi di prima accoglienza dei cittadini stranieri, servizi amministravi e servizi per l’integrazione come assistenza linguistica e culturale.
Nel settembre del 2016 ho invitato il gruppo di richiedenti asilo a visitare la mia mostra dal titolo ‘I Will Shield You’  presso il Complesso Museale di San Francesco (sezione Pinacoteca Civica). Le mie opere contemporanee, sculture in forma di scudi che simboleggiano una protezione verso le paure, si fondono con opere di straordinario interesse storico-artistico del periodo medievale e rinascimentale ospitate nella Pinacoteca.
Il gruppo di richiedenti asilo provengono dall’Africa occidentale (nazioni francofone e anglofone) e dal Pakistan. Nonostante, quindi, non vi fosse una lingua che accomunava il gruppo e nonostante la mancanza della conoscenza della lingua italiana, la visita alla mostra è stata un’esperienza significativa. I ragazzi del gruppo, durante la visita alla mostra, si sono immediatamente riconosciuti in quelle immagini ed hanno  provato forti emozioni manifestando un forte turbamento nel vedere uomini e donne di colore in un contesto così distante dal loro sia in termini di lontananza geografica che di diversità culturale.

Inoltre la visita è stata il presupposto per condividere con l’amministrazione comunale di Trevi e l’Arci l’idea di attivare un laboratorio di arte/arteterapia per esplorare il potenziale espressivo di questi ragazzi e
 tentare così un approccio comunicativo ed inclusivo di integrazione.
Inizia così la storia del progetto MakeArtNotWalls/Italia con la partecipazione di circa 20 ragazzi.

La sala di un Hotel lungo la statale Flaminia ha fatto da sfondo al nostro secondo incontro. La vecchia Flaminia, un luogo simbolico che per due millenni è stata una rotta per viaggiatori, mercanti, pellegrini e dignitari, un luogo di trasporto, di transito, di incontro e di rinnovamento spirituale.
Con un gomitolo di filo rosso, qualche foglio di carta e matite donate da una 
amica mi sono trovata a dialogare con loro.
La mia conoscenza della lingua inglese, della lingua francese e dell’italiano è stata fondamentale in questa prima fase di comunicazione, condivisione e racconto.

In quel preciso istante in un giorno d’autunno,  abbiamo intrecciato e collegato le nostre storie: racconti contraddistinti dal coraggio in una fase di transizione e cambiamento. Transizione da non percepire come una non-posizione ma piuttosto come un momento dinamico e animato nella vita di un individuo.
L’intreccio con il gomitolo di filo rosso tra le dita e i polsi è stato il tramite che ha portato ad unire persone di età e paesi differenti creando un contatto visivo tangibile. Nello stesso pomeriggio, alcuni membri del gruppo hanno preso carta e matita ed hanno iniziato a raffigurare la loro esperienza di viaggio-odissea
 verso l’Italia.
Quando non c’è nessun linguaggio verbale comune condiviso dal gruppo l’immagine serve per attraversare i confini e aprire un canale per la comprensione reciproca.

Da quel giorno, spontaneamente e con entusiasmo, abbiamo deciso di 
incontrarci un paio di volte alla settimana, con carta e matita, alcuni tubi di pittura acrilica e la nostra ‘scorta’ di materiali riciclati in un locale in disuso adiacente l’hotel. Successivamente il proprietario ci ha concesso di usarlo come  spazio riservato al gruppo per l’esplorazione del
sé attraverso un processo creativo.
 Gli incontri sono diventati una “fabbricazione” di creazione a diversi livelli, una 
sorta di laboratorio di arte/arteterapia in cui esprimere e dare corpo ai sogni, ai desideri e alle speranze, e voce alla brutale esperienza del loro viaggio.Un viaggio disperato, in fuga per la libertà fatto con quelli che vengono chiamati “barconi della speranza” nelle fredde e profonde acque del mediterraneo e iniziato ancor prima con la permanenza nei campi di detenzione della Libia.
“Negli ultimi sessant’anni abbiamo assistito all’aumento nella produzione di rifugiati economici, politici e climatici. Spesso considerati rifiuti importati, vengono infatti trattati come spazzatura” scrive il sociologo recentemente scomparso Zygmunt Bauman in “Wasted Lives: Modernity’s Collateral Casualties”. Aggiunge: “Il rifugiato è il caso estremo di individuo che ha perso la propria identità e che è respinto ovunque: i rifugiati sono rifiuti umani, senza nessuna funzione utile da svolgere nella terra e nessuna intenzione o prospettiva realistica di assimilazione e inserimento nel nuovo corpo sociale”.
Oltretutto, poiché non è fisicamente possibile rimuovere tutti i rifiuti – oppure non è possibile tenerli lontani in modo che noi non li vediamo, ecco che si fa in modo che vengano sigillati in “contenitori a tenuta stagna”: campi profughi o ghetti.”

Lo scarto , allora, è vissuto come un risultato sgradevole al punto da essere nascosto dalla società.
Nel laboratorio nelle settimane successive non a caso abbiamo anche usato i prodotti di scarto e abbandonati. E’stata una precisa intenzione quella di incoraggiare i ragazzi a ridare nuova vita a questi materiali -quindi
 sono stati trasformati in nuovi oggetti con nuovi significati  dando voce e rispecchiando la propria esperienza, il proprio percorso e la propria memoria.

Nel laboratorio abbiamo visto così nascere delle storyboard di vita personale che parlano di paesi lontani come il Gambia, la Nigeria e la Guinea, e del desiderio di felicità e accoglienza da parte del nostro paese, l’Italia.
Matteo Fiorucci e Bernardo Angeletti a partire dal mese di ottobre 2016 hanno documentato il progetto attraverso videoriprese e fotografie, hanno saputo introdurre, nello spazio lavorativo, la fotocamera e la videocamera con rispetto e sensibilità così da rendere la loro presenza condivisa dal gruppo e compartecipativa.
Una testimonianza 
costante dello sviluppo di un percorso creativo volto all’integrazione, alla conoscenza e quindi
La presenza della videocamera e della macchina fotografica restituisce in modo puntuale e istantaneo tutto il processo di lavoro che si sta svolgendo con i ragazzi ed è una costante testimonianza delle tante storie delle traversate in cerca di terra, di futuro e di vita. Testimonianza di un forte coraggio necessario a contrastare la disperazione.
Il coraggio di ricominciare da zero su un foglio bianco, la carte blanche, su cui si può “scrivere” quello che si vuole. Il coraggio di ricominciare esponendosi agli altri, a tutti anche a chi non ha nessun desiderio di comprendere.
Dopo tutto, il coraggio è qualcosa che è stato già  dimostrato da questi uomini e da queste donne dopo la lunghissima traversata del Sahara, dopo aver trascorso una notte alla deriva nell’ oceano dove non vi è distinzione tra cielo e acqua, e l’orizzonte lontano non si riesce più a vedere.

Mentre scrivo il nostro laboratorio continua a crescere. Questo è possibile grazie all’aiuto prezioso e costante di Julia Perry, di vari artisti affermati come Jeffrey Isaac e Gary Jo Gardenshire che attraverso visite occasionali portano il loro personale contributo alimentando i processi creativi. Gary Jo Gardenshire ha prodotto un ciclo di ritratti dei partecipanti.
Pian piano gli input che hanno circolato durante gli incontri si trasformano in reali e tangibili e le storie, i desideri e le difficoltà di vita si intrecciano con espressioni artistiche: nascono così case e valigie di cartone, drammatiche storyboard rappresentate su tavolette di legno della vita in Nigeria, bandiere del Gambia e disegni  emotivamente ricchi e speranzosi di futuri happy endings  in Italia.

Un mix di speranze, esplorazione emotiva e ricostruzione per recuperare il proprio passato come ponte per il futuro.
Si tratta di un racconto collettivo  ancora non definito, con un finale aperto.
Cresce in sintonia con le lezioni di italiano fatte da Federica di Marco, con la quale si è instaurato un rapporto di stima reciproca.
Le loro vite che si possono percepire come sprecate si rianimano in sintonia con l’azione creativa in corso, mentre aspettano l’esito delle loro domande di asilo. Cerchiamo di dare forma all’attesa.
Nessuno sa cosa succederà ne’ con il laboratorio ne’ con  queste domande di asilo. Siamo tutti nella stessa barca, quella dell’attesa e del non sapere.
I mesi di attesa nella speranza di un cambiamento importante sono un momento di transizione tra il prima e il dopo, ma anche un punto fermo nel tempo, il qui e ora, pienamente e consapevolmente vissuto e trasformato in una testimonianza di speranza totale: radical hope.

Virginia Ryan
fondatrice, Gennaio 2017


We Refugees: upcoming publication

We Refugees: upcoming publication

Virginia Ryan, founder of Make Art Not Walls, and contributor to Pact Press anthology, We RefugeesYou have lived a fascinating and also a ‘peripatetic life’ – as you put it in your contribution to We Refugees. Were your parents or other people in your family also great travelers? Did you imagine, growing up, that you would live your adult life in so many different places?My great grandparents came from Ireland in the mid-eighteenth century and settled in Victoria. I can only imagine how distant Australia must have seemed, the sadness of leaving loved ones behind, mixed with excitement for making life anew. I think the key word here is ‘imagine’ – we carry the memories over generations, both through storytelling and body-memory.Growing up with my family I moved to Italy for two years at the age of ten. So I had an experience of a ‘big’ world, of a distance travelled but – like many of my contemporaries – we also moved locations within Australia: Bendigo, Echuca, Melbourne, then Canberra. I was always deeply fascinated with people and places afar – the desire to experience that, to immerse myself in diversity was exciting. My experiences with travel taught me how hospitable strangers could be, and thanks to my parents, we were encouraged to be respectful. So it was not unnatural for me to return to Italy for temporary study in 1981 at Florence University for Foreigners; to meet an Italian back in Canberra and decide to travel permanently  from Australia with him – there followed a diplomatic life in many countries, a new identity with an Italian passport, full of experiences but also of responsibility.

You are a trained artist and also art therapist – what led you to pursue postgraduate studies in Art Therapy?We had lived in Belgrade, in Serbia, during the break-up of the former Yugoslavia. I had been immersed in studio work there, in exhibiting and meeting artists, but the situations was very tense and, obviously, violent and tragic. We experienced, for example, how easily language changed – linguistic taboos were broken – and violence followed. We lived through the sanctions and saw the deep stress, the unravelling of everyday life for citizens caught in the upheavals. On leaving Belgrade, we were posted to Edinburgh in Scotland. There I re-set up my studio but was aware of the ongoing reality in the Balkans, of Bosnian refugees arriving in UK, of the fragility of peace, of those we had left behind.I was aware of feeling, initially, so lonely – even though I had a family, support, and was in Scotland by choice. I felt that, if I was so lonely, what must it be alike for those who must flee, who have no choice, who leave families behind? What resilience must they have?I still remember the day I was in my Edinburgh studio (asking myself interminably, why am I here? What is the purpose?) and was listening to BBC Scotland when an interview with art therapist/course founder Peter Byrne was aired. I stopped working to listen, and immediately after, rang to make an appointment to apply. I felt that with experiences such as mine, and an understanding of studio practise and the power of images to help show us the way forward, the study would add another dimension to my work and that it might be useful in the future. I was accepted, and over the next two years met an extraordinary group of people who continue to inform my work.

In 2016 you established Make Art Not Walls with a group of asylum seekers in Umbria, Italy. The group has exhibited internationally and produced some wonderful, vibrant work – some of which we are delighted to be using as the cover art for We Refugees. Do you believe that every person has the capacity to be an artist?

I believe that every person has an inner necessity, overt or latent, to realise his or her true self – the ‘actualising tendency’, to paraphrase the psychologist Carl Rogers; an inherent tendency within ourselves to grow and reach our full potential. Exploring this through visual mark-making is a powerful tool. Whilst not all image-makers can be artists (which I see as a commitment, an identity, a long and hard road for most), we can all make images to tell our stories and to understand our lives, emotional states, and the times we live in. These images can be powerful testaments of our historical moment; of enormous visual importance. A small group within Make Art Not Walls Italia, two or three individuals, say they are now committed to growing their artistic experience long term. Here the title ‘artist’ is being earned.

What is it about the creative process that makes it – at least potentially – therapeutic?

The creative process leads us to ourselves. It connects us to our deep and collective ‘human-ness’ and aids us in understanding the beauty and tragedy of existence. The creative process heals us in times of trauma as implicit in ‘creating’ are active states of courage, connection, and hope. It connects us to the best part of our common humanity.Who are your artistic inspirations? I have met extraordinary artists, mostly unknown outside their city or national sphere, who continue to work, often in financial difficulty and with little recognition, in many different countries. These people are part of the ‘art-worlds’ that I know, so different from the ‘art-world’ of market forces, important thought that is for many artists, myself included. My artistic inspirations are these people – they are my community.

Do you have other people, places, or things in your life that represent important sources of inspiration?

Yes. Apart from my studio, gardening! Walking. Swimming. Deep conversation. My children. Artist friends. Listening to music – jazz and classical mainly – and endlessly strolling through art galleries.

Can you tell us a little about where you grew up, and where you live now?

I grew up in a family of five. I was lucky to grow up in a family where I felt loved. My foundation was solid. Obviously, it was not always clear sailing, but a childhood where one feels acknowledged is the greatest gift a child can have. Although we moved a number of times for my father’s work, our homes always felt safe. Living in Varese, in Northern Italy, as a child meant that I grew up with two languages and a sense of the world as a wonderful, big place.I now live in the ‘centro storico’ in Trevi, an ancient hill-town in central Italy; we are perched on the hill amongst an olive grove in a restored olive-mill. This is my base, my refuge.

Can you tell us about some of the projects you are working on currently?

Apart from ongoing studio work, presently I am involved in the publication of a book in Italian/English with prominent Europe/America-based arts writers, which considers my work in West Africa from 2001 until 2016. The book will be published by Fabbri Editore in Italy next month; plus a number of exhibitions are in progress.

With the organisation ‘Imagine’ – a collective who worked in Calais Jungle with asylum seekers – we have been invited to exhibit works from Make Art Not Walls in  Paris in October 2018, and we are also to set up a permanent exhibition of some of the organisations’ work here in Trevi, our town, in the next few months.

In early 2019 I will be in hosted by Chameleon Art Collective in Balmoral and at the art residence,  Off the Rails, in Dunkeld in Victoria, Australia, to continue developing my practise and be involved in a community cultural integration project: it will be interesting to travel back to Victoria, the state of my birth in 1956, and to see if I can begin to thread together the strands of this peripatetic life.*

September 2018


post report October 2016 – May 2018 (english version)



‘’The group MakeArtNotWalls/Italia grew from an initial encounter with a group of migrants arriving from francophone and anglophone sub-saharan West African countries ; these future participants were residing in the Umbrian comune of Trevi, near Foligno in Umbria, central Italy – an area previously known for wines , truffles, olive oil, a spiritual heritage interwoven with medieval and renaissance painting and architecture.These new arrivals did not have documents and were applying or awaiting the outcome of their applications for residency : their personal situations were/are often precarious.

The encounter in Autumn 2016 was by chance; Virginia Ryan (artist/art therapist)  had recently noticed the men walking up and down the highway towards the local supermarket,  and, on enquiry, was informed by local council that the city was hosting around forty men and women recently arrived by boats in Sicily,then  bussed to centres throughout the mainland.
Through Arci  she made contact with the staff at the centre and asked if it would be possible to invite some of the men up to the local museum where recent work from  her series ‘I will Shield You’ was on exhibition. The visit proved highly engaging and all were warmly welcomed by Museum Staff; the young men and women were enthusiastic to see the work which referenced Ryan’s West African experience; we equally enthusiastic to have conversations with people who had travelled so far with courage;  some seemed eager to of share the trauma of first-hand experience .
After the meeting Virginia  asked if it would be possibile to visit them at their temporary home, the  Califuria.
They said yes.
That turned out to be the decisive moment.

Blessing, from Nigeria, at the first encounter in the ex Hotel Califuria


After the first, tentative encounters in the eating-area of the Hotel Califuria (September 2016) , a crucial workspace was provided so that participants might have free and continual access to basic, donated art supplies and recycled materials.
The first art-space was a disused garage behind the hall of residence.
It was here that Virginia invited and was soon joined by volunteer Julia Perry, an American art-restorer and trainee councelor also resident in the area. Julia’s dedication,assistance and expertise has proved invaluable in the continual period November 2016 – May 2018.
We were introduced to Federica Di Marco, an Italian teacher who was to prove unfailing in her commitment to the importance of transmitting italian to the new arrivals and aspirant residents.

Our first public ‘outing ‘ of works was in December 2016 at the local museum/pinacoteca of Trevi  with a large public in the presence of the mayor Dino Sperandio and his deputy Stefania Moccoli; an installation of works was held before the Dello Spagna painting ,the famous Incoronazione della Vergine.

This was our first public validation of both work and inspired our approach which has become our signature –  being present in public spaces and  presenting frequently to the community-at-large evidence of our activity. In this way we create a bridge between immigrants and local residents through artistic expression. Taking the work outside the confines of the art-room also validated the importance of the process in the eyes of the participants themselves.
After some months, a number of other exhibitions and public encounters were held in Italian museums ; the ‘open studio’ format of the art-space allowed for the unpredictability of the participants’ length-of-stay in the residential centre attached , whilst acting as a negotiated space between the longer-stay image-makers and the arrival of new migrants. The cohesion of a work-space was considered, at least by facilitator- volunteers, as a quasi-essential part of an emotional emergency package .

As time went on, the visual material  presented reflected the instability of the migrants’ status and the duration of their stay in Umbria but also of hope and personal change ; many most showed a level of engagement and exciting graphic and pictorial development.
Other new participants arrived at the califuria and  entered our space  -at times tentatively- t as late as Winter 2017-8 , there creating their first, courageous works on paper or  recycled wood off-cuts.

Overall, the small, unexpectedly numerous works explore a range of subjects , from drawn-out memories of home, of time spent in detention centres in Libya and of the voyage across the Mediterranean, to hopes and heart-felt dreams of a new life in Europe.

Most imaging were completed by men as the women were moved to another centre in Spello in August 2017; the depictions surprised by their tenderness; by the yearnings for a home, children, a romantic love-life cohabiting visually with graphic paintings of crouched bodies in car boots, men behind prison bars in Libya and the arrival in Italy.
For news reporting Summer 2017 read/listen to NPR senior European reporter Sylvia Poggioli:
In Italy, migrants-are-making-art-and-friends


After some months, the art room was heaving with these works, most on recycled wood off-cuts; small, poetic tentative marks or boldly outlined cartoons ; often reminiscent of the West African sign-painting tradition which the migrants will all have seen on the streets of any West African village or city – now, in major cities, being slowly replaced with digital advertising.

Our approach has always been to use as much recycled material as possible; for financial constraints but more importantly to allow for experimentation, risk-taking and as a sign of respect also to the many Italians who might not be able to afford art supplies for their own children in the present economic climate. We believe that by taking abandoned and unwanted supplies considered waste ( wood offcuts in primis) we are also acting on the idea of transformation and ‘new life’ . Paints and paper were donated by our many friends and supporters; individuals and groups such as the congregation of St Leonards Anglican Church in Assisi.
We were joined by master fibre-artist Sofia Verna who ran a sewing group for over a year in the centre (and created some beautiful textile artworks of her own referencing paintings by Camara and Raphael) whilst also engaging with Alessandra Sebastiani, the local  Shoe-repairer  and leather worker, with whom three of the men- Raphael, Lucky and Lamin – would meet twice a week to learn new skills in her workshop all through 2017.Over the same time artist Gary Jo Gardenshire created a beautiful set of drawings of participants;his visits were a further confirmation of friendship and interest in the members.

Visitors often remarked on the density of the work on the walls; all space became exhibition space, which often floods over onto tables and floor.

–The display was democratic; reflecting the approach that We Are All Creatives.
–Over time, those who were the more frequent members would be found in the same place: Alex Johnson from Nigeria,for example, came to think of the art-room as his office and had his own ‘special place’.
–The keys to the room were held by participants-volunteers did not control opening/closing.

At present as we write, the participants do not have permits to cross Europe – but their art-work can still travel freely, empowering them also symbolically, to challenge borders.

Some of the projects we have developed included:


Reciprocus  was collaborative art work between artist/art therapist Virginia Ryan and members of the group, layering Italian newsprint and partially ‘whited-out’ local stories from the central Italian newspaper ‘Corriere dell’Umbria’ with subsequent interacting hand-painted images responding to the news/text . Worlds collide, interact and juxtapose in this set of mixed-media works on paper and card.
The series presents a universe in which intersections of figures, patterning, hand-written testimonies and Italian newspaper type suggests individual and collective ‘what-if’ imaginings, whilst recording memories of the journey across the Sahara and the Mediterranean.
The process of interaction with local news, discussions in the workshop and re-actions with paint and pencil mirror or suggest moments of fusion within the wider community. The works act as ‘visual intergrations’ to imagine a space where different worlds interplay.

Other Humans

2017-04-03 17.38.32

Theses make up a large body of the collective archive: Examples of the many portraits of real or imaginary people created in the artroom; from aspirational figures such as Martin Luther King and Barack Obama to romantic couples drinking champagne in the bath ; from angels to rappers to memories of West African traditions; as one of the men said ‘’a world of heroes, of hope,romantic sweetness and future loves’’.


The Voyage – in Viaggio

Six Sets of works,each comprising ten units by:
Raphael Benjamin, Alex Johnson, Patrick Euria Chukwuemeka, Felix Omogui(j-Boy) and Chineweaba Michael Chinedu from Nigeria;  Foday Cisse’ from Gambia.

These works are a strong testimony of the West African asylum seeker experience: leaving home, travelling through the Sahara to Libya and arriving in Italy. The works required a level of commitment to memory and self-exploration; to self-exposure which put the participants to the test; on completion, each image-maker was proud to present his work firstly to the international public at Rose Gallery in Los Angeles.
Whilst it was not possible for the contributers to travel across borders at present, the works take their place . The participants thanked Susan Morse and Gallerist Rose Shoshana for the invitation; thanks to Rose’s generosity Virginia was physically present to advocate .


The Art of Migration is also a docu-film of approximately 25 Minutes telling the story of the encounters over the first autumn ,winter and spring of 2016-2017 made by Bernardo Angeletti e Matteo Fiorucci from Perugia.Their camera bears witness and accompanies the participants as they begin to negotiate the multiple terrains of image-making, of new physical places , of the Italian language and of each other in an unfamiliar environment – a new home. The film is subtitled and partly spoken in English and will be present in upcoming documentary film festivals :

The Art of Migration PRESENTAZIONE PROGETTO BREVE ufficiale

Previous public presentations included at Sala Pegasus (Spoleto) , Zenith (Perugia), Italian Cultural Institute Edinburgh, San Francesco Trevi,  and the British Institute in  Florence.



We thank Publisher Paolo Lombardi from EraNuova Publications for publishing the first two books, and a further three in progress : Paolo was introduced to us by Julia Perry in early 2018. These books ,written with the help of professional translator/book editor Stefania Proietti, document visually and through text the voyage of individual members from West Africa to Umbria. Stefania is now assisted by Mario Pagliacci, a university professor from Foligno. Once again, these books reflect the growing confidence of the subjects in the use of the Italian language.
The first two books ( Abubacar Diallo,Raphael Benjamin) were presented at Villa Fabri in Trevi in April 2018; one of the most powerful memories we will have is of Raphael smiling as he signed copies for the public! New publications will include Foday Cisse, Alex Johnson and Chinedu Chineweaba..

Those who exhibited with us, supporting each other and making this all happen, during the period include:Aboubacar Diallo / Ibrahima Yallow / Yusepha Suso / Souleymane Banfo Traore / Chidiebere Aghanwa /Alex Johnson / Raphael Benjamin / Blessing Osagie Edegbe / Costante Ukpokolo / Madou Lamin / Emannuel Ituah / Osayuki Omurgi / Camara Yakhouba / Ernest Okplie / Isaia Abu / Joy Osayande/ Sannah Conte/ Foday Cisse/ Chinedu Chineweaba/ Felix j-Boy Omogui

Exhibitions 2016- May 2018

The Art of Migration 1 Pinacoteca of Trevi 2016
The Art of Migration 2 March-April in collaboration with Arci, Palazzo Lucarini, Contemporary Art, Comune di Trevi and Sistema Museo , Museum of San Francesco Cloisters, Trevi March 2017
Cibi del Mondo Self-curated Stand by MakeArtNotWalls Participants (international Food Festival) May 2017 Foligno (Pg);
AntiFestival – Cannaiola (Trevi,Umbria) , invited to one day exhibit during music Festival June 2017
Infiorata/Corpus Christi in association with Vo.La Trevi, June 2017.
Umbria World Fest and Contemporary Art Day AMACI October 2017, Palazzo Trinci 
(Foligno – Pg).
Make Art Not Walls ‘Reciprocus’ Italian Cultural Institute, Edinburgh, October 2017 and Phantome (portraits of members of the group) by Matteo Fiorucci.
Make Art Not Walls Reciprocus at Harold Acton Library, British Institute, Florence on Occasion of Black History Month, February 2018 curated by Justin R Thomson.
MakeArt Not Walls, Rose Gallery in association with Human Rights Watch, Bergamot Art Station, Los Angeles, May 2018.

Encounters/outreach with school children from Trevi and Foligno Public Schools were held at the Istituto Valenti (Trevi),Villa Fabri ( Trevi) and the Pinacoteca di Trevi.
Meetings with visual artists were held at Trebisonda (Perugia); MAD museum, Campello su Clitunno (thanks to Mariella Badiali) , Palazzo Lucarini Contemporary (Trevi) And the Museo del Costume in Spoleto.

Thanks to all Visual artists who visited us, were visited and shared aspects of their work over one or more included resident artists Gary Jo Gardenshire, Polly Brooks and Jeffrey Isaac/ Carol La Lievre-Jennie Temple-Chris Walker-Jane Frere from  Scotland /Lucia Minervini and Michael Walker from the USA; many other artists visited including Michael and Carol Venezia, Myriam LaPlante ,Danilo Fiorucci and Judy Holding from Australia.
Visiting curators included Silvano Manganaro, Manuela de Leonardis, Andrianna Campbell, Maurio Coccia and Mara Predicatori ; anthropologists Steven Feld and Ivan Bargna’ .
We could not have done without the support of Piter Foglietta and Fabio Bravi from ARCI

Further references:
https://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2017/09/30/550164380/in-a-small-italian-town-african-migrants-are-making-art-and-friends NPR
http://www.amaci.org/en/gdc/tredicesima-edizione/make-art-not-walls-italia-special-project umbria-world-fest
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xf9JPCcTkzU France 24 (Phoebe Lanzer-Wood)

 click the link  : On YouTube-an occasional visual diary:

Thank you everyone mentioned above, including those who came to engage with us at the space, especially Silvia Poggioli , Fiona Ryan, Giorgia, Caroline Wooden, Phoebe Lanzer-Wood, Helen Lanzer,Olimpia Campello and Eduardo Munoz, Ruth Ellen Gruber , Giancarlo Izzo , Barbara Allen, Lex Ulibarri, Rob and Janine Cushman, MariaPia Barbini, Dina Sperandio,Vera Martani, Fiona McPeake,Ricard Stourac, Maggie Piper, Pam Moscow ,Teresa Murphy, Amy and Jim and Patricia for your extra Italian classes, Katia Bacchettoni, Rosella Zenobi,Maria Rita Cacchione; Tim Rees, Marco Margheri,Gael de Schaetzen ,Alessandra de Collalto, Carla and Flavia Mattioli, members of St Leonards….to be continued.


In a cosmopolitan community individuals from different places nation-form relationships of mutual respect. As an example, Kwame Anthony Appiah suggests ”the  possibility of a cosmopolitan community in which individuals from varying locations (physical, economic, etc.) enter relationships of mutual respect despite their differing beliefs .
Various cities and locales, past or present, have or are defined as “cosmopolitan”; that does not necessarily mean that all or most of their inhabitants consciously embrace the above philosophy. Rather, locales could be defined as “cosmopolitan” simply by the fact of being where people of various ethnic, cultural and/or religious background interact with each other.”