Isola Art Center is an open and dynamic experimental platform, combining international-level contemporary art, emerging young art, and theoretical research, with the needs and desires of the neighbourhood’s inhabitants. It is powered by energy, enthusiasm and solidarity. It sprouted its first roots in the occupied factory known as La Stecca degli Artigiani in Isola, a post-industrial working-class neighborhood in Milan. Here it found itself in the middle of a conflict where it firmly aligned itself with the struggles of the inhabitants against the top-down urban planning and gentrification. The battle was lost and the Stecca and the two nearby parks were evacuated and demolished to make space for luxury skyscrapers. This struggle tied Isola Art Center to the neighborhood and established the fight-specific way of working that became a strong foundation for our work. This story is narrated in the book FIGHT-SPECIFIC ISOLA. ART, ARCHITECTURE, ACTIVISM AND THE FUTURE OF THE CITY, Archive Books, 2013.

Without the Stecca Isola Art Center became a dispersed center, causing its activities to sprawl into bars, bookshops, piazzas, and as in the Rosta Project on the shutters of shop windows and businesses, continuing the collaboration with the neighborhood. At the same time, it joined the neighborhood associations and inhabitants to lobby for a new self-organized community space and draw attention to the need for more public green space. The result of this lobbying is Isola Pepe Verde, a self-organized community garden.

This new garden coming to life was seen as a concrete little Utopia in progress. This created a moment for Isola Art Center to take flight, to travel and cast our research wider. That was the start of Isola Utopia which took off in San Mauro Cilento, stopped by in Vienna and Riga, to return to Milan and eventually passed by Casale Monferrato. In this project Isola Art Center became part of Isola Pepe Verde and collaborated with Rimaflow a self-managed, fully functioning occupied factory in Milan. It is an ongoing research that is collecting fragments and moments for new Utopias. This research continues with the hope to produce both practical examples, text and art works that could help us construct a part of the world that we desire to live in.

Paola Di Bello, Foto di gruppo, a cura di Edna Gee e Isola Art Center, 2014
Paola Di Bello, Collective portrait, curated by Edna Gee and Isola Art Center, 2014