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05 June 2020

Saving lives through art

PhD student Alfio Puglisi has raised over €2,000 for a hospital in Sicily by auctioning artworks

A pink poster with an illustration of lungs. Below this white text reads: Arte Salva Vita (art saves lives)
Arte salva vita - art saves lives

Alfio Puglisi, a PhD student in the Department of Political Economy, founded the ‘Art Saves Lives’ project to raise money for the treatment of COVID-19 patients in his home city of Catania, Sicily.

Alfio is the founder of the Sicily Artists Residency Programme (SARP). In collaboration with the Palazzo Previtera cultural center, based in Sicily, SARP brings together artists to conduct research on artistic practices and engage with the local community through workshops and events.

During the COVID-19 emergency, Alfio has refocused the activities of SARP to raise vital funds for the intensive care unit at Garibaldi Hospital, which serves a particularly vulnerable community in the city of Catania.

Using the relationships developed through SARP, Alfio brought together a group of nine established and emerging artists who shared a connection to Sicily. Despite their varied backgrounds and art practices, the artists were united by their passion for the island and jumped at the opportunity to donate their artworks for a raffle. The raffle has so far raised over €2,000 for Garibaldi Hospital and SARP are continuing to fundraise vital funds through an auction.

Alfio has called the initiative ‘arte salva vita’ – art saves lives – in recognition of the transformative power of art.

The "Art saves lives" project is the meeting between medicine that heals the body and art that heals the soul. We accept with deep gratitude the noble gesture of solidarity that comes from the Sicily Artist Residence Programme and Palazzo Previtera: the donation represents a precious contribution for the purchase of protective devices for medical and health personnel who fight COVID-19 every day.

Dr Giovanni Annino, General Administrative Director, Garibaldi Hospital

These examples show that we can stand together, united, despite living in different countries, time zones, and confinements. Art unites us. Art doesn’t know any barriers. Art is not useless, it can bring people together.

Alfio Puglisi, PhD student and founder of SARP

Alfio, a Royster Global Fellow at King’s, was inspired to start SARP after listening to a talk two years ago on King’s civic engagement strategy by Baroness Deborah Bull, Vice President & Vice Principal for London. Speaking about this talk, Alfio said ‘Deborah Bull gave an incredible speech about how King’s can help support communities.’ ‘It was really inspiring and made me think, how can I help support my community?’

Inspired by this talk, Alfio decided that one way he could give back to his community during his studies at King’s was through his passion for art. ‘Doing a PhD is sometimes very lonely and when you research a topic for two or three years, it’s good to have an outside interest’, he explained. ‘Art has been my outside interest since I was very young, and I thought it was good to engage my interests and also contribute to the local community where I’m from. Although I have been living in the UK for eight years, it’s nice to be connected to your roots.’

SARP is part of the Clinton Global University Initiative, a leadership programme where students develop new, specific, and measurable projects to address pressing challenges in their communities.

SARP’s Arte Salva Vita project has been recognized on Twitter by Chelsea Clinton, as well as being featured on Skye Arte in Italy.

The artists involved in Arte Salve Vita are Angelica Hicks, Carolina Mazzolari, Costanza Chia, Enzo Tomasello, Guy Yanai, Laura La Monaca, Lola Schnabel, Mathias Malling Mortensen, Ophrah Shemesh and Salvo Rivolo. Actor Enrico Lo Verso was the face of the fundraising film.

I participated in this effort due to my deep appreciation of the endurance of the Sicilian people and my faith that art has the power to reveal the emotions of the observer through beauty, and the capacity to exhibit feelings and thoughts. Above all, art shows solidarity in humanity.

Ophrah Shemesh, artist involved in Arte Salva Vita

During this period of uncertainty, members of the King’s community like Alfio are #ContinuingToServe, by supporting their local communities in London, across the UK and around the world.

Visit the #ContinuingToServe webpage to discover the many ways in which King’s is making a difference, let us know how you can help or discover existing projects that need support.