Matera 2019

Sport and urban art merge, energise and transform public spaces, so people can enjoy the city beyond the historic centre. This is the guiding spirit of Open Playful Space, a project produced with Uisp Basilicata, which culminated in the Festival that ended last week.

This urban regeneration operation uses games, sport and urban art in a new way, by discovering and regenerating spaces for people to experience as accessible cultural places.

From 29 May to 2 June, with a preview on the weekend of 25 and 26 May, a large number of residents were involved in generating a new vision of public spaces and returning them to the whole community by highlighting what is usually invisible.

The festival preview featured a variety of games and circus arts, attracting the attention of children and families. The preview concluded with a 5-a-side football tournament, bringing together young people from Matera, European volunteers and migrants in an atmosphere of friendship and solidarity. 

Since 29 May the Festival has taken over the streets, squares and parks of the city with taster workshops and advanced ones for a more experienced public. The two symbolic places of the project were Piazza Cesare Firrao and Piazza degli Olmi, where regeneration work had already been introduced through street art, with the collaboration of students from the Istituto Comprensivo Bramante and the residents’ association of Piazza degli Olmi.

During the Festival street art was relaunched through two art installations. On the steps of the skating rink at the Parco Papa Giovanni Paolo II a brand new work was designed and made specifically for this space by Giorgio Bartocci, a street artist who explores the complex relationship between people and the local area. Bartocci enhanced the urban architecture that resembles an upturned boat with signs and symbols in gold, silver and copper.

The second installation was by designer and muralist Skolp, who added a vertical work to the actions he performed in previous months in Piazza degli Olmi, continuing with regeneration work on a public space belonging to a community that has already been involved in Matera 2019 activities. This artist from Bari signed his work with the geometric shapes and composition principles characteristic of his art, while students from the Scuola Bramante ‘adopted’ the columns in the square, using paint and varnish.

All of the Festival workshops were coordinated by leaders of international standing. The Art Du Deplacement workshops (an arts/sport discipline that combines freedom of movement with free thought) were coordinated by Laurent Piemontesi, one of the founders of this discipline which was established in France in the 1980s, with Muvt ASD. Lots of enthusiasts and keen participants got to grips with ADD and learned to overcome obstacles, walking and running along urban routes with amazing acrobatics, jumps and climbs.

The workshops focusing on circus arts, juggling and capoeira also featured professional artists with many years of experience, like the young Anglo-French family The Sprockets, the Pachamama company and the Brazilian Mestre Aranha from the Sao Salomao centre.

On the evenings of 1 and 2 June, the final event of the Festival was a performance in the Parco Giovanni Paolo II and Parco del Castello Tramontano of the multi-disciplinary show TransformAction directed by Pino Di Buduo, founder of the Teatro Potlach, a renowned and long-established Italian contemporary theatre company. 

The concept of TransformAction derives from the local area where it is performed. Green spaces and open spaces become a natural stage for the performance, which follows a winding artistic path for half a kilometre. The spectators become travellers in search of performances located in various places in the two parks, which are completely transformed by lighting, sets and projections on the central keep and lateral towers of the Castello Tramontano.

Performances included juggling, acrobatic dancing, stilt walking and circus arts accompanied by percussion rhythms, live music and Brazilian songs. On previous days a peaceful colourful caravan went through the city’s streets, astonishing local people with this invasion of their space by music and acrobatics.

Through Open Playful Space, Uisp Basilicata and all the partners involved want to send a clear message: the residents themselves can be the real protagonists of change, starting with young people capable of regenerating urban spaces and relationships by means of sport and street art. This great social phenomenon starts from the local area and drives a cultural revolution that improves lifestyles and health, representing an opportunity to which everyone has a right.


The project was carried out in collaboration with the following partners: ISCA, Uisp, Teatro Potlach, ADD Umbria Academy, Muvt ASD, Momart Gallery, Lacaposciuc ASD, TeatroPAT, Associazione Giallo Sassi, Associazione Joven, Basilicata Board and ASD Sk8ong Team.