Instituto Figueiredo Ferraz: an action inspired by art’s passion

August 26, 2016

The CPPC is delighted at the social media response to this discussion, and that João Carlos Figueiredo Ferraz, Founder of the Instituto Figueiredo Ferraz, was inspired to write about his own experiences, which we are pleased to publish here.

In 2001 the Museum of Modern Art of São Paulo organized an exhibition devoted exclusively to works from our collection. Their invitation to do this art show was very welcome, since it had been a long time since I had unpacked the art works, and it was a revelation to look at them again. What had seemed in the beginning to be a randomly assembled group of art works bought over time, when displayed together proved to be a coherent and well-founded collection.

From that moment I decided that those works would not be packed up again. I searched for public institutions that could keep them on a loan basis, but without success. Although the interlocutors I met with showed good will, they were unable to meet my requirement that the institution hosting the collection should come to Ribeirão Preto, a city beyond the Brazilian cultural axis of Rio and São Paulo. My dream was to bring culture to a marginalized region. After ten years of being unable to find a public cultural institution that could fulfill my stipulation, I decided to privately build what is today the Figueiredo Ferraz Institute.

When the building was finished, I opened its doors to visitors and for the first time showed an exhibition based on our collection in the city of Ribeirão Preto. Little by little the visitors were coming. Soon, a group of women who had just visited the art show asked to meet me. I was curious to know what they thought, and I came to them. They praised the initiative and said that everything was beautiful, that they were impressed, and thanked me for the generous gesture of opening the doors to the public. I was a bit taken aback at such praise, and answered with a little joke, saying that it wasn’t generous at all, that in fact it was the most selfish thing I have ever done. I explained that for a long time I had wanted to take the art works out of storage and have them hanging on walls where I could see and enjoy them—and, as it would have been unreasonable to close the doors and stay in the galleries alone, I opened them instead to those who would like to join me.

Although I said it somewhat in jest, I am aware today of how much truth there was in that answer. If we try to anticipate what others will think, and act accordingly, we end up frustrated and discouraged because their response is never what we hoped for. On the other hand, when we are moved to do something for our own pleasure, when a project is the product of our passion and turns out to our own satisfaction, it does not matter what others think—it satisfies us and we always feel happy. It motivates us to continue, to face challenges, and move ahead.

We are now celebrating the 5th anniversary of the Figueiredo Ferraz Institute’s opening. In addition to the exhibitions (of the collection and of others whom we invited), we also have an auditorium where we offer courses and talks about the arts. The institute has an enthusiastic audience and it is already part of the cultural fabric of our region. Through an agreement with the Secretary of Education of Ribeirão Preto and of the State of São Paulo, the Institute has developed an educational program that serves thousands of children and teen-agers. Today, this program is an absolute priority of the Institute, and with it we intend (or perhaps expect) to develop a cultural elite in our region, consisting of people from all socio-economic classes.

At first glance, one could easily say that the construction of a private building to shelter artworks is merely the product of a collector´s ego. The idea of constructing such a place is indeed the result of a dream, seemingly unreasonable, but it is a dream that makes sense to the dreamer. At first, friends said I was insane, but the decision to share the collection with the community proved to be just the beginning of the adventure, with the best and the most difficult part coming after. The resources and support that are required in order to offer this service and maintain its quality are not easily obtained. As a non-profit organization, the Institute can ask for sponsorship from the State and apply for federal fiscal tax exemption. However, that sponsorship is not guaranteed.  Had we lent the collection to a great public or private institution, we wouldn’t have this challenge. However, we do have collaborators who motivate us, friends who support us with enthusiasm, and we also have the satisfaction of an accomplished mission. We go on with our work, happy with the outcome, and we carry out our project, in spite of the difficulties and contrarieties, since after all, our dream came true.