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The end of 2014 also marked the end of Michela Magrì’s mandate as a cultural attaché at the Italian Cultural Institute of Los Angeles. After almost 6 years in sunny California, she will go back to Jakarta, Indonesia, where she had already served in the past. Only, this time her title will be director of the local IIC.
Before leaving, L’Italo-Americano asked her to take stock of this L.A. experience and to share her legacy with the readers.
How would you describe these years at the IIC of Los Angeles?
Working with the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this is one of the most exciting experiences I’ve ever had, not only because Los Angeles is a prestigious office in the diplomatic network but also because I had the opportunity to learn a lot about my job. For that I need to thank the former directors, Francesca Valente and Alberto Di Mauro, whose strong leadership gradually helped me develop an authentic passion, despite my professional background and tendency to work behind the scenes. They encouraged me to get personally involved in the organization of amazing events and initiatives, dedicated to leading figures of the Italian culture the likes of Leonardo Da Vinci, Maria Callas, Erri De Luca, or Dacia Maraini. I’ve learned a lot also from the Consuls General of Italy who served in L.A. during my mandate: Nicola Faganello, Giuseppe Perrone, and Antonio Verde. To all of them goes my gratitude.
How was your relationship with the partner institutions?
Besides the directors’ guidance, I also learned much from the basic integration of all the Italian institutions in Los Angeles – the Italian Trade Commission, Italy-America Chamber of Commerce West, and Italian Tourism Board - whose role is to promote different but complementary aspects of our culture, including tourism and trade, and to show a consistent image of our country abroad. This is particularly true on the occasion of very important events that involve them all, such as the 150th anniversary of Italy’s unification, the Year of the Italian Culture in the U.S. under the auspices of the Italian Embassy in Washington, and the latest Expo Milan 2015.
Who is the public of the IIC?
In Los Angeles, and in the United States in general, there are three distinct types of audience: the Italians, the Italian Americans, and the Americans. Since the IIC aims at promoting our culture abroad, the Italians are not the main beneficiaries of its activities, but of course the IIC is their home. The Italian Americans usually considers themselves as Italian, due to family ties that sometimes date back a few decades, and so does their classic and romantic memory of Italy. The American public is the most critical and attentive towards our cultural offer in terms of fashion, art, and lifestyle. And this is essential for us to understand what aspects still need to be improved to fill the cultural gap. For example, language is a very powerful instrument, which must be properly managed in order to establish a contact. Here, I’ve learned that any speech must be humorous to meet the local taste, and I’ve always tried to do my best with great respect for the IIC guests.
Which is Michela Magrì’s own contribution to the Institute? And what is your advice for the new director?
More than what I did for the Institute, the point is what the IIC did for me. It made me fall in love with my job, growing at a personal and professional level. I’ve started as a deputy director and now I’m leaving as an acting director, and I’m ready to take the lead in Jakarta thanks to my supervisors’ consideration. I’ll treasure so many good memories, and I hope to be able to give back with my next mandate.
I’d like to invite the new director of the IIC in Los Angeles not to be disheartened by the multitude of proposals that she’ll receive, but to remain open and to develop them with local institutions. Planning starts with only 50 events and ends with over 100, just because we love our job.
In your opinion, what are the events that most effectively promote our country?
I think that we need to go beyond the stereotype of Italian classic culture or design, which usually attract investments, by presenting also contemporary aspects like tourism, bio-diversity, or education. As a matter of fact, Italy boasts prestigious universities, capable of competing with the U.S. counterparts. We should stress the promotion of similar assets more frequently.
Is there an event that you’ve enjoyed particularly?
“Sicilia Bedda!” It was so easy and funny for me to promote my beautiful home region, as well as its connections with the museums in L.A. But I also liked “Italy of the Future”, “Maria Callas”, and others. Each and everyone of them has enriched my knowledge and my experience.
What are you going to miss the most? And what do you expect to find in Jakarta?
Throughout these years, I strengthened the relationship with the sponsors and established new ones. Their support is crucial for the IIC: thanks to them we are able to offer so many cultural events and activities, and they have my deepest gratitude. I was also lucky enough to be surrounded by many volunteers, who helped me with dedication, showing respect and love for our country and appreciation for our work. I’m going to miss them all.
I’m also going to miss the simplest things, like the annual marathon, the sun in winter, the dolphins I could see from the oceanfront, and all my friends who will remain in my heart.
Going back to Jakarta, I feel peaceful like I’m going home, but also excited because I’ll be in charge of the local IIC. Even if we move from a country to the other, our mission stays the same: promoting the value of Italy abroad, and I know that Jakarta offers huge opportunities in terms of potential sponsors.
How would you like the IIC visitors and the Italian community of L.A. to remember you?
As a problem solver, who never stops even when something seems impossible to accomplish. I’ve always had the objective of my mission at the IIC very clear in my mind, and here in L.A. I’ve experienced that dreams can come true if you stay yourself. Once somebody told me “Under different skies, under different clouds, but always yourself.” What we are makes the difference everywhere and in every circumstance.