Florence: damage to street artist Stormie Mills' mural
The artist: "I'm ready to do it again"
A few days ago the mural depicting The lost Giant in a boat in the colours of Florence Rowing Club, the "lost giant" that the Australian street artist Stormie Mills had created on a wall in Via Villamagna, in a youth gathering place - in Florence's Quartiere 3 -, near the Kassel primary school and in a building that also houses the Filarmonica Rossini, was damaged. Since then the act of vandalism has caused disbelief and sorrow.
"Art has always been an instrument of civilization and the opening of people's consciences and minds," said Jacopo Celona, General Director of the Florence Biennale, which four years ago promoted the creation of Mills' work. "With this spirit, the Florence Biennale, since its foundation, has promoted the widest dissemination of arts and culture also in the urban peripheries and in particular in places of aggregation. Not only that: over the years several urban art projects have been born. In 2017 the first female street artist from Afghanistan, Shamsia Hassani, was hosted with a mural (the only one in Italy) that was placed on the perimeter wall of the Leonardo da Vinci Technical Institute in Florence. In 2018 the Australian artist Stormie Mills arrived in the city. His works focus on the solitary nature of the suburbs that in many cities around the world are home to his Lost Giants in search of a home. His works draw on a deep sense of isolation and yet each character seems to carry a message of hope. Each 'lost giant' tells a larger story, the work develops and is created by the artist in dialogue with the community that hosts it and becomes its guardian. This is why Mills' work was not only an important artistic legacy to the city of Florence, but also represented something for the community of Quarter 3 to which it was donated. In fact, as a home for this 'lost giant', who wore a jersey in the colours of the Florence Rowing Club, a place was chosen as a meeting place for young people, near the Kassel primary school and in a building that also houses the Rossini Philharmonic. These realities best express the desire to contribute to the growth of our society and the education of the new generations through sport and music. For all these reasons," Celona continues, "it is not easy to understand what could have been the reason for such an act, so deplorable that it did not only affect the artist and his work, but in particular an entire community and the values it expresses. An action perpetrated in a gratuitous manner, apparently without explanation and above all that cannot be justified in any way. If anyone had felt in any way affected by this work or the values it wanted to convey, they probably chose an absolutely uncivil display of dissent, demonstrating that there is still much to be done to make our society and the people in it capable of sharing healthy values of tolerance and civilization. We are deeply sorry and as Florence Biennale we have already made ourselves available to the City of Florence and the institutions of Quarter 3 to collaborate again, with the involvement of the artist Stormie Mills, starting from the very place that was the scene of this sad and incomprehensible event, with the aim of reaffirming the importance of respect and tolerance as fundamental values for a sustainable future".
For her part, Donata Meneghello, President of the 'Gioacchino Rossini' Philharmonic Orchestra of Florence, adds: "He wasn't hurting anyone, that lost giant. The Lost Giant is an ageless, peaceful-looking guy in a little boat, with that half-smile between resigned and dreamy. The mural of a famous international artist has been asphalted by unknown people with brutal roller strokes. We had grown fond of the rather clumsy figure painted on the long yellow wall, the unwitting guardian of our square. It was a bitter surprise for everyone: musicians, sportsmen and women, children from our venues and the Kassel primary school who could see it from the gate opposite. A gratuitous gesture of contempt: fury, censorship, envy, social resentment, or more simply the effect of an existential and cultural vacuum that is hard to die for. We are here to fight it. In addition to the suburbs, we need to redevelop cultures and imaginations, and increase civic awareness. This can also be done through music and sport".
Reached in Australia by the news, the artist also wanted to comment on the incident: "When my friends from the Florence Biennale contacted me to let me know what had happened to the work at the rowing club I was saddened," wrote Stormie Mills, "not because of what was done to my work, painting is only temporary, but because I had such fond memories of the creation of the work, of the process. As part of getting the ok from the councillors of the City of Florence, I attended meetings in large buildings that I had never seen before and when it came time to paint, the friendliness and welcome that the members of the rowing club gave me made me feel like I was doing something special for them. Over the years, people I know from all over the world have been to that rowing club, to take pictures with that giant, sharing them with me: a part of the city that tourists would not normally visit, another connection between people and places created through art. These memories have been contaminated, but not forever, not for long, because if the general situation will allow it and the friends of Florence will want it, by the end of the year I can come back and the mural can evolve: we can make this scar a better memory, that can triumph over everything, thanks to an even greater awareness of the goals to be achieved".