The SAM space in Via Giano della Bella was restored by the Fondazione Michelucci and by a participatory project (at a cost of € 4 million) and it reopened to the public in 2008. There is no similar structure in all of Europe which will be used for training young people, to protect and pass on the local traditions against world anti-globalization. This is a challenge against the current crisis implemented by the local institutions in order to pursue common paths towards renewal and generational change.
The Florentine artisan has a long tradition starting with the Major Arts and Minor Arts, which were very much alive and present in the city since the Middle Ages. The fourteen corporations, also called minor arts, began to form separately and each with its own statute after the middle of the thirteenth century. Despite having contributed significantly to the success of Guelphism, the Minor Arts were not widely appreciated because they had less political influence in society. In 1770 the Grand Duke of Tuscany Pietro Leopoldo abolished all the Arts with the exception of the Judges and Notaries, thus moving all functions to the Chamber of Commerce, Arts and Manufactures.
The Conventino (Convent) is located just outside the walls of the Oltrarno. It was originally called the Monastery of St. Teresa of the Discalced Carmelites and was built between 1893 and roughly 1896. During the war the building was abandoned by the nuns and housed wounded soldiers. It was also the location of a clandestine press of the Unità ‘newspaper’, where the famous partisan Sandro Pertini hid and it was the meeting place for the Oltrarno anti-fascist organizations activities. In November 1920 the monastery and the adjoining land were purchased by the Fiorentina Gusmano Vignali Artistic Company, a company which produced bronze objects. The convent was later sold to Paolo Uzielli who leased the premises exclusively to workshops and artists’ studios.
Since the ’20s the former monastery was renamed the Conventino in popular language. During this period it became a place frequented by intellectuals, artists and philosophers. International artists settled there and helped transform the building into a center for cultural exchange. It later hosted Florentine artisans.
The Multipurpose Center, renamed SAM which means Space for Arts and Crafts, is spread over an area of over 3,500 square meters, 1,100 of which are used by around 50 shops. The shops are active in various fields such as the processing of wood, iron, decoration, sculpture, painting, restoration and much more. In this new space the Florence Artistic Artisan Foundation promotes exhibitions, international conferences, seminars, workshops, cultural exchanges and workshops for children and adults.
Inside the beautiful Coventino workshops the visitor, guided by the craftsman or the artist, can be part of the production of manufactured goods by handling the material, by stimulating their creativity and skills. These workshops are open to everyone and its contents are adapted to the different age groups.
Itinerant visits will also be organized among the craftsmen’s workshops and the artist’s studio in order to familiarize with the material and information relating to the artisan world. The kids can be left at the numerous “I did it” laboratories, while parents can discover the Oltrarno Florence workshops and the complex building ( with me as their guide, see Artisan Tour).
Although there are quite a few initiatives in Florence that enhance and protect the local crafts which risk being extinct, they are not sufficient enough and much more could be done to improve the present situation. Florence owes its worldwide fame to the many artisans without which the Renaissance masterpieces, such as Brunelleschi’s dome, could not have been created.