Italian 2.0: Daniela Nardi’s Salone di Cultura

With the next edition of Salone di Cultura taking place in a few weeks time as an official part of Italian Heritage Month, it seemed like a good time to sit down with founder and creative director, Daniela Nardi.

Daniela Nardi Salone di Cultura

Daniela Nardi’s Espresso Manifesto performing at Salone di Cultura. Photo by Greg King.

If you grew up in Toronto’s Italian community – or another large ethnic group – you’ve probably witnessed the importance of ethnic media and institutions.

From cultural needs, like giving people a sense of belonging, to practical ones, like navigating new realities in a foreign language, they ease the transition from old world to new in many vital ways.

But over time, the needs of second- and third-generation Canadians invariably differ from those of their parents and grandparents. And if traditional institutions don’t evolve, they risk losing relevance, and eventually becoming extinct.

Is mainstream Italian-Canadian media still relevant to the community? Does it foster contemporary culture and connect us with the Italy of today? Or is it stuck in some kind of idealized past? Those were the kinds of concerns that led Italian-Canadian jazz singer Daniela Nardi to create her own cultural vehicle, Salone di Cultura, back in 2013.

“As an Italian 2.0 – someone who’s born here, to Italian parents – I felt there was nothing in this city speaking to my sensibilities,” she says. “We seemed to be stuck in nostalgia – what was, who we were – these freeze frames of images from when our parents came here.

“I wanted to create a vehicle for talking about what we’re doing now, and how we’re moving forward, showcasing the innovators, creators, and thought leaders of today.”

That pretty much sums up the Salone, a series of mixed media events that combine music, visual arts, cultural discussion, and cuisine. It challenges conventional notions of Italian culture, but at the same time it creates a space for contemporary art and ideas that are often ignored by mainstream Canadian-Italian media.

“Right from the start, people have really dug it,” says Nardi, “we went from twenty people at our first event to over a hundred at last year’s Italian Heritage Month event.”

Since launching the Salone, Nardi has worked with a number of key collaborators, including journalist Daniela Sanzone, cultural strategist Vivian Laperchia, Diversity Matters founder Gina Valle, and Italian Chef Massimo Bruno.

Massimo Bruno Salone di Cultura

Massimo Bruno at a recent Salone di Cultura event. Photo by Greg King.

The next installment of the Salone will take place at the Bata Shoe Museum June 23, and will feature music by Nardi and the Espresso Manifesto band, with special guests Lina Allemano (trumpet) and Valentino Assenza (spoken word).

The second part of the evening will include an interactive panel discussion moderated by Mary Wiens of CBC Radio. Participants include Italian Film Festival artistic director Cristiano DeFlorentiis, architect Pina Petricone, York University professor Mark Hayward, and Angela Piacenza of the Globe and Mail.

On display throughout the evening will be a series of bronze sculptures by Toronto artist Julie Campagna, with Roman-themed food creations provided by chef Massimo Bruno.

Julie Campagna Cling

Detail from “Cling” by Julie Campagna

Salone di Cultura: Città Aperta (Open City) takes place Tuesday, June 23 at the Bata Shoe Museum. Here’s the link for tickets: BUY TICKETS NOW

To get you into the mood for the event, here’s a recording of Nardi and her band singing “Un Altra Vita” at their 2013 performance at Glen Gould Studio.




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