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Smart young Italians refuse to quit the country

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(L-R) Claudia Arriaga, Lucia Pedrana and Sarah Cornejo run I AM along with Laura Casarsa. Photo: Itinerant Art Museum (I AM)
17:31 CEST+02:00
In the midst of an unrelenting recession and record youth unemployment, many young Italians are fleeing the country. But for four young university friends, the hard times have brought out an entrepreneurial streak.

“This is a delicate moment for Italy, culturally and economically. The easy thing for most young people to do is leave Italy. But we are proud to stay here and try to do something important for our country,” 25-year-old Laura Casarsa tells The Local.

Last week Italy’s national statistics agency, Istat, announced that the youth unemployment figure had jumped once again in June to 39.5 percent. 

Such a shortage of jobs has prompted many people to leave, but Casarsa and three friends are instead taking an entrepreneurial approach to the crisis.

Together they created the Itinerant Art Museum (I AM), a transportable art project to tour Italy.

The initiative will showcase the work of young Italian and international artists, starting in the country’s central and northern regions.

The idea was developed as the group was studying for a masters in arts management and launched as an association last week.

Claudia Arriaga, 30, says the idea quickly developed from a university project to reality.

“We worked on the project in collaboration with a number of different art foundations and got in touch with a company in the UK that works on flexible structures,” Arriaga tells The Local.

The result is a white cube, which can be transformed into an interactive art centre and moved from place to place.

While the €40,000 bill for the cube structure alone would put many creatives off, the group instead set up a website for online donations. The aim is to fund the project through donations large or small.

The team will not make its millions from I AM - their business model is non-profit - but the group aims to prove that it is possible to balance the books in Italy. This is something of a struggle in the country that goes right to the top; the government is currently trying to make up a €4 billion budget shortfall from scrapping a property tax.

While Prime Minister Enrico Letta has pushed for job creation to tackle the growing youth unemployment crisis, those behind I AM believe Italians are more likely to succeed through their own initiatives.

Arriaga says that despite the tough competition there are a lot of opportunities if people take an entrepreneurial approach. In the art world or elsewhere, this means analysing the market and pinpointing where improvements can be made.

For I AM curator Lucia Pedrana, 27, a dose of determination is also vital. “The only way you can have space in the art world is to create your own project and work for it,” she says.

Such an approach can also be taken by other young Italians trying to succeed in other industries in the crisis-wracked country, says Pedrana: “I AM can show people that if you have a good idea and if you believe in it, then you can do it.”  

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