Rome’s Forte Prenestino

The CSOA Forte Prenestino is known by the locals as a communist hangout. Taxi’s refused to pick me up from this location. When entering this place, I understand way. It is filled with unique characters liberated from societal restraints on decorum. Those living on the outside of their societal normative occupy the grounds of this forte and work together to put together the event for Crack Festival Prenestino.

Before entering the fort and exploring on my own, I received a pink bracelet indicating that I was an art vendor. This bracelet allowed me to enter and exit the fort with much ease. Once inside the forte, I combed through many work spaces and vendors. Many spaces were one and the same. This fort is a squat for artists, no one is given much privacy. This seems to work to their advantage by creating an open and social gathering space wherever you go.

To go from one side of the fort to the other, you must walk through each of these spaces, forcing you to confront environments you may not want to confront, but the ability to see the space and confront the people within it gives you the informed choice to linger in a space or cruise on by. You will hear a plethora of music, clashing together. Complimented by the sounds of chattering from people and dogs.

Fumes from alcohol, weed, cigarettes, paint and other chemicals waft the breathable air in a manic tangent of creativity and attitude. Compared to the Western Avenue Art Studios, there is a stark difference. There is stricter adherence to safety and outer appearance of the facilities. Classical music plays in the background and, although it may be a decent place for creativity to grow, it is restricted by cost and limitations described by the studios for various cosmetic reasons.

As far as I know, the CSOA only provides the artists with a space and minimal furniture to be shared. But the artists use everything and anything to get their work up. Works range drastically from one artist to another but themes tend to include sexual freedom/fluidity, dark allegories, comics, collages and prints, products coupled with animations, and stuffed items.

The Western Avenue Art Studios follow a more perceivably classical art interest with an emphasis in painting. There is not necessarily a focus at the western art studios, but there is a focus on female power and sexual freedom at the Forte Prenestino manifested as the coyote, also known as the world play on the word prostitute.

It isn’t easy to find people at the Western Avenue Art Studios because studio doors are always closed. However, at Forte Prenestino artists and visitors are to be seen everywhere. Generally, people from both places are friendly but there is a level of openness I only get from Forte Prenestino which is only faltered by my lack of Italian language.

I feel that artists in the Forte Prenestino are freer to express themselves. Politically, I believe them to be more helpful than those at the Western Avenue Art Studios in making meaningful political works. However, work felt like it done accomplished more at the Western Avenue Art Studios than at Forte Prenestino due to the everlasting party atmosphere.

I believe that the social function of Forte Prenestino lies within its Punk roots, emphasizing a freedom to create anything. Western Avenue Art Studios is more of a facility being used by artists to bring themselves up in their careers by networking and working amongst other artists in a perceived “professional setting.”

I liked Forte Prenestino better than Western Avenue Art Studios, but perhaps that opinion will change if I had to continue working in Forte Prenestino, and if it was not the Crack Festival. I enjoyed the music that played every night, and the people that passed by the vending stand. The conversations were always friendly and their interests seemed to lie closer to mine, then the other artists I’ve spoken to at western Ave Studios.

There is also a stronger sense of personality in their artwork and finding how to connect themselves to their art at Forte Prenestino, whereas there feels like there is a disconnection in the Western Avenue Art Studios, between the artist and their work. Where I hear the artist always speaking of making what they want and making what sells. And sadly, I’m not sure if the works at Forte Prenestino sold as much as it feels, but it feels right because it’s such a happy face and people felt proud of their work.

I believe a CSOA squat space like this would be beneficial to the United States’ art world, with its ability to fester creativity without the pacification of the current art culture and lack of cash.

Also, perhaps as a side note, those crank-flush toilets at CSOA Forte Prenestino suck. Totally traumatizing.

-Matthew Jarbeau