Jean in front of San Cristoforo church in Lucca, Italy

Italian churches have long been a source for artistic inspiration and a beacon of hope for the downtrodden. Many artists recently have worked to combine the two to transform the beautiful and historic houses of worship into a place of artivism: a fusion of art and activism. 

Around Naples and Tuscany, churches continue to be transformed into an art installation and a message of solidarity for the oppressed. Almost two years ago, Florentine artist Giovanni De Gara started covering the doors of churches around Naples with the thermal blankets given to refugees who were rescued at sea. This started the ‘Eldorato Project‘ and became a symbol of hope from the churches to the migrants seeking refuge in the city.

“The golden doors have become a sign of the times and it is right for gold to shine on welcoming doors,” the artist explained, adding that his gold is “not that of carats, the Church’s gold is the message of the Gospel: love for the people.” De Gara has said he specifically used the gold material to decorate the doors of churches and other symbolic locations across Italy to evoke the “golden land” promised, and increasingly denied, to refugees.

This trend caught on and many other churches around Tuscany have adopted the golden message. Interi founder and creative director, Jean O’Reilly Barlow, had the privilege of visiting the churches in Lucca who took part in the installation and was fascinated and inspired by the meaning. 

We at Interi believe that art has the power to create real change. It grants a voice to the oppressed and can convey a message when words fail us. It breaks down barriers and remedies the soul. 

Just like De Gara’s vision, Jean also uses her ecclesiastical artwork as an expression of hope and activism. Through Interi’s More Than a Fragment initiative, we work to create awareness surrounding the issue of human trafficking. Interi salvages church artifacts that have been thrown out by the Catholic church and give them a new purpose as art in the home. Like the artifacts, there are millions of people who see no future for themselves, feeling worthless with no value. The modern world currently faces a slavery epidemic where 40+ million people are enslaved (Source: International Justice Mission). Of those millions of people, 71% are women and girls, many of whom are being forced into the trafficking industry (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime).

In order to take part in the fight against modern-day slavery, Interi is teaming with organizations that advocate on women’s behalf: Lighthouse for Life and NightLight International. 10% of Interi’s online profits go towards helping women reach their vision to rescue, restore, and empower — giving new hope to the hopeless.

Our desire is that the fragment sculptures can artistically articulate that there is beauty behind brokenness. The pieces reveal that what was once discarded and deemed insignificant can be transformed into something lovely once again. This message applies to people, but someone must offer them hope, a second chance. And Interi’s mission and vision is to do just that.

To learn more about More Than a Fragment, click the link below: