FAME Festival founder Angelo Milano
As the culminating group show of FAME Festival draws to an end, and as more and more mind-blowing photos begin popping up on the internet, and if you’re like us, you’re asking the question: how on earth does one dude organize, finance and curate this whole thing? Or other questions: how did such a killer festival emerge out of a little-known town (try finding a hotel there!), how does it draw such international big names, and what do those little old ladies in the sidelines of the photos think of all this?
In our limb-thrashing excitement for our attendance at the festival, we just couldn’t take it—we had to track down organizer Angelo Milano and find out everything we could. Super busy and ever-gracious, he offered us a glimpse into all that goes on behind those photos we’ve been showing you here on Hi-Fructose.
Hi-Fructose Correspondent Lauren Quinn sits down with FAME Festival founder Angelo Milano for a quick interview.
What’s the story behind the festival: what was its genesis; how did it come about; how has it evolved?
It all started inviting artists to do editions at Studiocromie, which is a DIY screenprinting studio, working with artists from all over. I was inviting more and more [artists] and I thought it was a pity not to do something in town, since they were already coming down here.
Then I also realized that this town offers a lot of ideas and [it] could [be] interesting to give a twist to the static situation of just going to the beach, eating a lot and getting fucked from local politicians and institutional thieves. This festival could [be], and for me is, a new point of view on the town and its image on a global scale. (Try to Google “Grottaglie” now and see how many pictures from the festival come up!)
Can you speak about the artistic tradition of Grottaglie and how you see FAME Festival fitting into that? A stated purpose of FAME is to be “a new point of view on the original structure of this quarter and the city”—how does the festival achieve this?
The artistic tradition is related to the ceramic production. There is a district of the town where you just find ceramic workshops and shops. The good side of this district is that it’s all about ceramics, which is really interesting and unique, very beautiful to watch and walk around for a tourist. It looks like what Michel Foucault would call an “eterotopia”.
The bad side of this is that the town council does nothing to promote tourism, as they’re too busy curating their own interests, and the district is isolated from the rest of the town. There is less and less connection, and the people from Grottaglie very rarely visit the district.
Somehow, what we’re trying to do with the festival is to bring people in [to] town and show them the district and its beauties. And at the same time we’d like to create some bridges between the district and the rest of the town, so that people would come here to visit the “eterotopic” district of the ceramics and then get curious about the rest of the town, its beauties, food, agriculture, culture and history.
This summer there was a pretty impressive traffic of tourists that wanted to see all the murals in the other districts of Grottaglie. And at the final show, which will just opened, there will be a lot of people from the town visiting the ceramic district, where the show will be!
Word to Mother
The festival’s blog has included several anecdotes of residents both supporting and being critical of works. What has been the reception of FAME by Grottaglie residents, and do you think that, now in its third year, that reception is changing? Do you get permission to paint walls, or is it all done illegally, per se?
The reception is totally changed. From the first to the third year, we’re on another planet. Everybody seems to love what we’re doing.
We still love to do it illegally though.
But then again, I don’t like this word, the meaning of it. Painting public spaces is taking back part of it, since being public, it’s supposed to be yours too.
I swear if I had more time now I could explain it on a bit deeper level but my English sucks and we’re running out of time (opening is in less then three weeks!!).
There are no sponsors for FAME. What are the logistics of organizing and executing a festival by yourself? How does this DIY approach affect and fit in with the purpose of the festival?
It makes it more fun.
It makes it real; it makes it possible without doing deals or accepting compromises. It’s also crazy because I go bankrupt every year. But I’m used to it and I don’t really give a fuck. Money come and goes. What stays longer are these beautiful memories and guess what: most of them, the most interesting ones come from improvising things, [doing] them with no proper tools and in this not-organized way. That’s the main point of the whole thing!
How is FAME Festival unique in the world of street art/street art festivals?
I guess for the reasons above.
It’s the first totally auto-financed sponsor-free festival. And also ’cause it’s curated and run by just one person and his mom cooking for everybody, his dad driving artists from and to the airport, and some random lazy friends helping here and there when they see we are in deep shit and we won’t be able to make this or that thing happen.
What do you see as the lasting effects of FAME on Grottaglie throughout the year? How long do pieces stay up? Street pieces tend to be in the “aesthetically depressed” parts of town—does their presence change those areas?
Yes they do, I’d say they do.
They also last pretty long being this town [is] new to the graffiti thing; there [are] no people going over this or that piece. It’s like a museum so far. A few pieces got buffed but that’s another story.
Finally, the festival’s blog spoke earlier about “Paki,” a neighborhood kid who destroyed one of Ben Wolf’s pieces. What’s the story behind that? Any more incidents with “Paki”?
Naaah, he’s cool. I did not meet him yet, but as far as I know he’s young and rocking! My best wishes to him; I hope that all these paintings and pieces will influence him to explore more and produce some nice art rather then destroying other’s artworks.
Thanks Angelo! We’ll be visiting you again next year!