The Heroine of a Thousand Pieces: the Judith Mosaics of Lilian Broca

A full house was present at il Centro’s Museo to celebrate the opening night of the exhibit “The Heroine of a Thousand Pieces: the Judith Mosaics of Lilian Broca.” Not even a torrential rain storm could stop the crowd from attending to view the stunning results of four years of meticulous, hard work. “This will be one of the highlights of my career. I will never forget this,” said Angela Clarke, the Museo Curator, to the group during her introductory comments. 

Mosaics have been around since the 8th century BC, and have been discovered in most areas that

were part of the Roman Empire. Coined by ancient writers as the art of ‘lapide pingere,’ (painting in stone), the images not only functioned as artwork to beautify one’s dwelling, but as dramatic storytelling, illustrating the valued stories from that age.

Fast forward to present day, and Canadian artist Lilian Broca utilizes the mosaic medium to recount the story of Judith: a town is on the verge of being invaded. Judith, a widower, leaves her town and goes to the military camp (where the invaders are finalizing preparations to siege her town), seduces the General, gets him into a drunken state and finally kills him (spoiler alert: he is beheaded), saving her people from total inhalation. What makes the story even more sensational is the fact that the protagonist is a woman.

But as time passes, the iconography of Judith finds itself slowly detaching from its original text, such that by the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, there are many instances where she is depicted in a negative light: a seductress, a murderous, more associated with the likes of the Solomon’s of the world.

The intent of “The Heroine of a Thousand Pieces” was to recreate the story of Judith as told by the original text from the Biblical Apocrypha. Lilian dedicated four years of her life to the story, and persevered to uncover the true authentic essence of her subject. It may sound like a taunting task, but this is the life of an artist.

Consisting of seven panels, each panel captures a pinnacle moment of how Judith single-handedly saved her village. Upon entering the perfectly lit museum space, the six-foot-high panels are intimating, but the starry, smalto glass tiles ease the uncertainty and embrace you, guiding you on this journey from the mourning widower to the victorious heroine.

The colours on the first panel are subdued, and with each panel the colours intensify and spill further outwards, until in the final panel, jewels can be seen glistening from Judith’s crown, amplifying her personal transformation.

Mosaic artwork may seem like an ‘ancient’ form of art and storytelling, but as Sheila Campbell explains in the Exhibit Catalogue, in these contemporary times “we are conditioned by television and the internet to concentrate for only a few moments at a time,” pushing us “to speed, rather than reflection.” However when you are faced with these powerful panels, and there isn’t a screen to hide behind or a cell phone app to support your interaction, you are left to stop, discover, linger, and contemplate in the spirit of a tale penned long ago, but its layers of morality still relevant today.

The exhibit will be on display at il Centro’s Museo from November 12 – March 31, 2016, and then at the Joseph D. Carrier Art Gallery at the Columbus Centre in Toronto in May 2016. For more information on Lilian Broca and the art of mosaics, visit

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Looking back at Vancouver’s original Italian Pioneers


“It’s a bit surreal to see this project finally come to fruition, but it’s been great,” says Angela Clarke, il Centro’s Museo* Curator, who has been tirelessly working on coordinating this exhibit amongst other events for the past two years. The exhibit, entitled “Società degli Emigrati:** The History of Italian Canadians in Vancouver,” is part of Performigration, a global, European Union project spanning over 5 countries and 16 cities.

The exhibit is comprised of photos from the Ray Culos Family Archives and Photos Collection. Ray, the extremely knowledgeable community historian, did the research and was the foundation for the exhibit.

Photos on display included the three main pillars of the Italian community in Vancouver: the Sacred Heart Church, the Silver Slippers (a social venue) and the Italian Cultural Centre. In addition, there were photos of prominent and influential mutual aid societies, showing a glimpse of what the social activities (and outfits) used to be.

“It surprises me how many people could identify a relative in these photos,” Ray exclaims. “These are photos of the original ‘Italian pioneers’ in BC, who, without their hard work, we would not be where we are today (as a community).”

The story of one photo in particular was pointed out: an image of Angelo Colori, a patriarch of the Italian community in Vancouver during the late 19th/early 20th century. The photo was taken circa 1905, and he’s on his horse, in front of the famous 600 year old “hollow tree” in Stanley Park. At the time, Italians would flock to the park, dressed up in their best attire to take a photo with the tree. This photo would later be mail to Italy to the family there who would be asking, “I wonder how they are making out in America…”

The exhibit is part of a week-long series of events in Vancouver, including a video presentation in collaboration with VIVO Media Arts Centre, a national conference in partnership with ICAP, an event with the Collingwood-Renfrew community, and a digital arts series. As a whole, the series looks at what it means to be part of an immigrant community, the impact of immigration, and at the same time, the shift in Italian identity amongst the generations over a long period of time.

The exhibit will be housed at il Centro’s Museo until October 30th. For more information on Performigration, visit

*Definition: Museum

**Definition: The Society of Immigrants

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Two Green Thumbs Up for il Centro’s Community Garden


Italians show their love through food and eating well, so here I arrive, at the Italian Cultural Centre (fondly known as il Centro*) armed with a box of pizza from Sciue`, a couple of limonate*^ in my purse, ready to chat with Angela Falco, the creative, savvy, Communications Coordinator at il Centro, about the soon to be launched Community Garden project, “Il Giardino.”**

Her enthusiasm for the project makes you want to go out and buy yourself a pair of gardening gloves. The project idea is simple: Il Centro has this fantastic green space – why not develop it into a garden, which in turn, will help sustain and engage the surrounding community?

Besides being one step closer to the ‘farm to plate’ utopia, il Giardino will be an amazing opportunity to connect the ‘seasoned gardeners’ in the Italian community to the third and fourth generations who are interested in exercising their ‘green thumb’ skills.

“Our goal is to partner our ‘seasoned gardeners’ with students from our Italian Language School,” says Angela, “especially now with this culture of urban farming and sustainability, our mentorship program will be a great vehicle to allow our first generation Italian-Canadians to share their knowledge and talents with the younger generations.”

Expect nothing but the best with il Centro’s take on the Community Garden – Italian-style. Highlights involved with this garden include 40 spacious plots, an orchard, which will house fruit trees such as fig, plum and apple. Vancouver’s first oven will be built to meet all your breads, focaccia and pizza crust baking desires. There is an apiary which houses two beehives, and yes, the bees are actually Italian – they are Italian honey bees! (I passed the apiary and I could have sworn I heard one of them say ‘buzz-ciao!’)

The paths in the garden will be marked by Italian street names, such as Via del CorsoVia Centrale, etc. But at this point in the conversation, nothing surprises me – marble slabs for street signs – please roll the credits to La Dolce Vita.~ ~

Of course, Rome was not built in a day, and this project definitely saw a few obstacles, “It was a learning experience,” says Angela. The design of the landscape proposed the biggest challenge: the area is on a slope, prolonging the development stage by over a year while the City of Vancouver and il Centro figured out the logistics of how to executive this aspect of the plan. The project finally broke ground in December 2014.

It’s wonderful to note how the neighbourhood surrounding il Centro has gotten involved. It seems that the Italian ‘famiglia’~ is ever expanding as different organizations in close proximity to il Centro partake in this venture. For example, BCIT designed and will build the garden shed, and the Art Institute has been instrumental in finding volunteers (i.e. their students) to assist with the construction of the plots. Westside Montessori Academy, il Centro’s onsite school, will be including the garden as part of their curriculum, so has the Art Institute in incorporating il Giardino into their culinary program. And Ilana from Fresh Roots Urban Farm has become their ‘Garden Guru.’

So how will Angela celebrate when the project is launched? “I’ll have a glass of wine with all the gardeners and toast to a great gardening season and a plentiful harvest.” Salute!*~

Il Giardino will have a ‘soft launch’ on May 15th which will coincide with il Centro’s first il Mercato – Night Market event for 2015. Keep an eye on il Centro’s online event calendar for the Grand Opening, to be scheduled sometime in July 2015.

*Definition: The Centre

*^Definition: A type of soda lemonade drink, Limonata, but in this case, it’s in the plural form

**Definition: The Gardens

~Definition: Family

~ ~Definition: The Sweet Life. Also the title of a Fellini film.

*~Definition: Cheers!

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The ‘Finale’ of Vancouver’s Istituto Italiano di Cultura

After 34 years of constant activity, the Istituto Italiano di Cultura will be closing its doors at the end of September.

The closing of Italian Cultural Institutes is not an uncommon practice these days. Due to budget cuts in Italy, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has decided to close several other institutes around the world, such as the istituto in Thessaloniki, Greece.

So what is the Istituto Italiano di Cultura? The Istituto is a not-for-profit organization subsidized by the Italian government to promote the Italian culture abroad. Vancouver has had the fortune to participate in many seasons of rich, cultural programming produced by the Istituto, from presentations on Ancient Roman History, to musical performances, to supporting the Italian film submissions at VIFF.

The Istituto may be physically closing its doors in the coming weeks, but an element of the organization will continue to exist: with this change, the government has mandated that the employees of the Istituto be transferred to the Consulate General of Italy office. The objectives and future activities are still unclear, but at least we don’t have to say arrivederci to our friends at the Istituto, but perhaps only ci vediamo.

The Istituto has a robust calendar of events for their grande finale, which are listed on their website. Grazie Istituto, per tutto!

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More Events During Italian Heritage Month

Ciao Ragazzi!

There are still more events happening before the end of June for Italian Heritage Month! On Sunday, June 24th, there will be the ‘Festa Italiana at the Italian Cultural Centre in Vancouver. It’s an outdoor festival for the family (Friends of Ferrari will be there for the little Ferrari drivers). Of course there will be food, live music, etc, for more information visit the ICC website

And as for the Euro Cup – Forza Azzurri!

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Day 3 of Season 2 – It’s a Wrap!

Ciao Ragazzi!

It has been an exciting few days, and our last day was no different: Domenico and I had a wonderful time at the Strawberry Tea festival in Yale, BC. Located at the Historic Yale Site, there were lots of games, entertainment, food, and a wonderful crowd.

Thank you to Deb Zervini at the Historic Yale Society for assisting us with the interviews, and congratulations on such a successful event!

Ciao for now,
The IA Team.

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Day 2: The Trail Extravaganza!

Ciao Ragazzi!

Driving through a green, rolling hillside, up the side of a mountain (there was snow! And it’s June!), then down the other side to arrive in the very welcoming town of Trail. We met up with members of the Colombo Lodge, grabbed a fantastic coffee at the Trail Coffee & Tea shop (they roast their coffee beans on-site!), and then we really felt like at home when we stopped by for dinner at The Colander Restaurant!
Thank you to Roland, Sergio, Larry, ‘Buzz’, Tony and Cathy at the Colombo Lodge, Bruce and his staff at the Trail Coffee & Tea shop, and Gary and his staff at The Colander Restaurant for all their hospitality and sharing their wonderful (Italian) stories of Trail!

The IA Team.

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Day 1 Complete of Season 2 Filming

Ciao Ragazzi!

Day 1 of filming has wrapped for the day; we had a great time hanging out at Hester Creek Estate Winery (a gorgeous Tuscan inspired venue, with an incredible view of the desert valley).

A huge thank you to Mark Sheridan for assisting with the coordination of the scheduling, and ‘mille grazie’ to Rob Summers for giving us a tour of the facilities and sharing with us his insight on the Trebbiano wine (a unique Italian wine to Hester Creek).

Ciao for now,
The Ragazzi at Italian Adventures (Lia, Domenico, Matteo and Josef).

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Italian Day on the Drive 2012

If you’re in the East Vancouver area on Sunday, June 10th, stop by Commercial drive to enjoy of the of ‘La Dolce’ Vita’ vibe! Party starts at 12:00pm until 8:00pm. For more information please visit the Italian Centre calendar

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Updates for Season 2

Ciao Ragazzi!

We are 1 week away from filming Season 2 of Italian Adventures! We will be traveling through the gorgeous Interior of BC, meeting up with local Italians of all generations, and of course: having some fantastic meals and drinking some very good wine!
We will keep you posted on who we meet; our first visit will be at Hester Creek Winery in Osoyoos! We’ll be chatting about their fabulous Trebbiano wine – the only Italian grape that is grown in British Columbia!

Lots more to come, on Italian Adventures!

Ciao for now, from the Ragazzi at IA.

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