Educating the Digital. Interview with Francesca Giulia Tavanti

Educating the Digital. Interview with Francesca Giulia Tavanti

Today is a special occasion: I’M Firenze Digest has published its 100th article. To celebrate the event, the Editorial staff invited the new Istituto Marangoni Firenze Director of Education, Francesca Giulia Tavanti to narrate her views on the world of Fashion, Art, and education.
The column Educating the Digital aims to connect students and the creative industry. Our readers can find interviews with tutors from Istituto Marangoni Firenze and active fashion and art professionals talking with students about their careers. This interview not only considers Francesca Giulia Tavanti’s career path as a motivational example for the readers but also gives a glimpse into the innovative educational practices that the future has in store for Istituto Marangoni Firenze.

By Giulia Piceni. Cover image: Illustration by Jessica García for I’M FIrenze Digest.

I’MF: A good starting point for our interview could be describing what it means to you to be part of the Istituto Marangoni community, especially now as Director of Education.

FGT: The first word that comes to my mind is responsibility. As Director, I feel it towards the community I manage: and it’s more about excitement than pressure. 
I feel that my mission is to enhance talent. Therefore, I perceive school as a tool in the hands of the students to help them know who they’re becoming. That’s why I’m always looking forward to a strategy to enhance talent through initiatives and projects.
Istituto Marangoni is one of the world’s highest-ranking schools in fashion, art and design; moreover, it is an academic environment with a lot of room to create new projects and experiences together. 

I’MF: Concerning your career, how did you become Director of Education at Istituto Marangoni Firenze?

FGT: I started in 2016 as a tutor. I still remember the first time I entered this building at its opening six years ago: I knew I was getting inside a new universe with specific aspects, qualities and values.
I was one of the few teachers in the Art Department who felt like a newborn in the Istituto Marangoni family at that time: nobody knew how to handle this new creation. I “adopted” this baby, and the school immediately allowed me to improve the art courses: I had a voice in the matter. My role naturally and spontaneously improved: I became a Unit Leader and, in 2020, Programme Leader of the Art Department. 
COVID arrived, and my role became even more crucial because of it. It was necessary to rethink education and the academic offer with an eye to Istituto Marangoni’s identity: it was a long process, but we managed to shape a team of tutors. I gradually surrounded myself with many excellent professionals and friends. And now, here I am as Director of Education!

I’MF: To dig deeper, you always had a strong relationship with the educational side of the art world, building bridges between the public, students and institutions. Which previous experiences have influenced most of your current approach as Director of Education?  

FGT: I presume there are two key experiences: the first was to be a student myself. Being Director of Education means that it is essential to understand a student’s point of view. I try to imagine the potential student’s experience for all the projects I propose. 
The second source of inspiration for me was my job at Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi: it allowed me to understand that I wasn’t a curator or an art critic but that I loved staying between the artworks and the audience instead. 

In this sense, being a tutor is being a mediator at first. It’s not about repeating a list of information you can easily find online. A tutor teaches you a method, an approach that the Internet can’t do. I remember many situations where I had so much fun and learned a lot while being a tutor. It puts you in a position of constant exchange with others. 

I’MF: Istituto Marangoni Firenze is a little gem among the numerous Istituto Marangoni venues for its peculiar mix of fashion, arts, sustainability, and technology. Can you predict the digital innovation you plan to bring to the school this academic year?

FGT: You mentioned two keywords that perfectly describe the school’s direction: sustainability and technology. As the new Director of Education, I would like to approach sustainability as an asset, as a method to incorporate into the teaching process: a systematic act towards change is highly needed everywhere. Think about our recent project in collaboration with FENDI and Sarah Coleman: it was about finding a solution to recycle and upcycle waste or scrap materials. Now we should take a step further and avoid creating the problem right from the start.

Francesca Giulia Tavanti with artists Sarah Coleman, and Istituto Marangoni Students, together for Dis-cycling: the seductive allure of creativity in sustainability project for FENDI. Photo: Virginia Niccolucci.

The second keyword is technology, with all its collateral implications, such as the Metaverse and digital innovation. I feel like the digital world is not an extension of our identity but a fundamental part of it. I don’t think one excludes the other: we should integrate it into real, tangible life. 
Richard Sennet’s The Crafsman is an inspiring book that discusses the relationship between humankind and technology; its pages declare that understanding any tools necessitates a tangible experience. That’s what we’re looking for in our programmes: reconnecting with the artisanal Florentine identity. After all, it’s the same thing that Renaissance artists did with art: creating an experience that still doesn’t exist in reality.

I’MF: To close our interview, is there anything you would like to say to the readers and writers of I’M Firenze Digest?

FGT: I would like to encourage interaction from the readers. We would love it if you proposed something or shared your opinions with the team. I’M Firenze Digest is a tool to create a bridge between the people outside Istituto Marangoni Firenze and the students. Please, readers, feel free to email us your comments, ideas and questions.
For the writers, I say: have fun! Write something that you would like to read. Try to be brave. Your vision and perception of the world differ from ours, and the Journal is your generation’s tool of expression, not mine. Speak truthfully about your ideas, and feel free to express yourself in the best way. Do not feel obliged to fit the schemes.

Giulia Piceni is an Arts Curating undergraduate student at Istituto Marangoni Firenze.