The Metayage and the Old Agricultural Center

Dive into the history of the Metayage (Italian Mezzadria) and discover the uses of some spaces of the old agricultural center converted into an art residency.

The metayage system, Italian Mezzadria, was a type of land tenure whereby the cultivator (métayer) used land of a landowner (proprietor) receiving a proportion of the produce, as a kind of sharecropping.

Italy, Alfred Eisenstaedt, 1947, From the collection of: LIFE Photo Collection
Morassutti family, 1930, From the collection of: Art Aia - Creatives / In / Residence
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By Alfred EisenstaedtLIFE Photo Collection

The farmers

In Friuli, many families worked at "Mezzadria" which was a kind of sharecropping by which the cultivation of land for a proprietor was done by farmers who kept a proportion of the produce (usually half). 

Memories of the metayage (2021) by Giovanni MorassuttiArt Aia - Creatives / In / Residence

The years of the Mezzadria in Friuli Venezia Giulia

During the Mezzadria not only did people work but they also partied. In Santa Caterina there were also moments of aggregation and celebration with cultural highlights.

Farm Crop Meeting Sharecropper Farmer C.W. Allen Of Creedmoor, North Carolina-Was In Favor Of Restriction-Trusting That Increased Prices Would Bring Him More Money And The Unused Land Planted In Other Crops Would Help The Soil, Resulting In Better Cotton When Replanted. (1937-11) by Unknown PhotographerLIFE Photo Collection

The farm administrator

The farmer, otherwise called minister or agent, was the trusted man of the property, who knew how to reconcile the interests of the proprietors and the peasants. He was a partial administrator since his role was to guarantee half to each party.

Postcard of Palace Morassutti in San Vito al Tagliamento (1920)Art Aia - Creatives / In / Residence

The landowners

In the town of San Vito al Tagliamento  in the northeastern Italian region Friuli Venezia Giulia there were several  landowners including the Morassutti family

Sharecropping as seen from the side of the proprietor (2021) by Giovanni MorassuttiArt Aia - Creatives / In / Residence

The point of view of the proprietor

Miss Beppina Bubba, a landowner from Friuli, remembers those years.

Stampa della famiglia Morassutti (1946) by UnknownArt Aia - Creatives / In / Residence

Morassutti family

The Morassutti family is an Italian family that has been active in the  retail hardware trade since the early nineteenth century.  Art Aia - Creatives / In / Residence has been an agricultural center of the Morassutti Family for over 120 years.  Discover more on Wikipedia

Mezzadri e mezzadria (1964) by Istituto LuceArt Aia - Creatives / In / Residence

All over Italy

The Metayage was all over Italy including Toscani and Emilia Romagna

Pio Morassutti (1930) by Umberto MartinaArt Aia - Creatives / In / Residence

Pio Morassuttti

Pio, a member of the Morassutti family, while being the mayor of San Vito al Tagliamento, sided with the farmers on the laws which obliged the landowners some payments to the peasants as compensation due to the war.

Sharecropping book (1950)Art Aia - Creatives / In / Residence

Sharecropping book

The Libretto colonico, whose keeping was obligatory, was a register in which the credits/debits arising between the parties to a sharecropping contract were noted, with an evidentiary function.

Page of a Sharecropping book, 1950, From the collection of: Art Aia - Creatives / In / Residence
Page of a Sharecropping book, 1950, From the collection of: Art Aia - Creatives / In / Residence
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Art-aia disegno no logoArt Aia - Creatives / In / Residence

Art Aia - Creatives / In / Residence

Art Aia - Creatives / In / Residence is located three kilometers from Sesto al Reghena, in the locality of “Banduzzo” (which in local dialect means “Place Banned”). From the mid-nineteenth century it has been an agricultural center gathering people from the territory.

By Howard SochurekLIFE Photo Collection

Aia : The centre of activities

The old barnyard (Aia) was also the center of activites among the farming community of the area. People gathered also to spend time together. The name Art Aia comes from this concept translated to the arts considered also as a vehicle to create a sense of community.

Art Aia Rehearsal space (2020) by Annelisa LeinbachArt Aia - Creatives / In / Residence

Art Aia - Rehearsal space

The old barn now is it used as one of the spaces of Art Aia - Creatives / In / Residence. 

Strasberg at the venue

The old barn now is a place for artistic production and research that focuses on the development of the creative process and facilitates cultural exchange across borders gathering people and fostering a sense of community. Check the online exhibition Strasberg legacy.

By Frank ScherschelLIFE Photo Collection

The old stable

The agricultural center had a stable where cows were kept.

Czechoslovakia (1937) by Margaret Bourke-WhiteLIFE Photo Collection

Plowing with cows

Back then loosening or turning the soil before sowing seed or planting  was done  by plowing with cows. 

Art collective Marsala 11 (2014) by Marcello Norberto AnzilArt Aia - Creatives / In / Residence


You can still find some tools at the art residency near the old stable.

Art collective Marsala 11 (2014) by Marcello Norberto AnzilArt Aia - Creatives / In / Residence

The old stable turned into an exhibition space

For example, the art collective Marsala 11, after researching the topography of the territory installed site-specific interventions using the old stable from the end of the 19th century and its adjacencies as an exhibition area. Discover the online exhibition Mappe Fluide.

Small Church of Saint Anthony from PaduaArt Aia - Creatives / In / Residence

Small Church of St. Anthony of Padua

The owners of these lands decided to build a small church inside the property. Still nowdays, on June 8th, the local community gathers at the church to celebrate the day of St Anthony from Padua. More on Wikipedia

Filtering at the gallery (2018) by Beatrice Lopez, Kelly LeonardArt Aia - Creatives / In / Residence

A fil rouge connecting the past to the present

Art Aia – Creatives / In / Residence forsters sustainabily in the arts integrating the art practices into the natural context of the former agricultural  center.
Check the residency in sustainable practices at ATE

ATE residency (2018) by Beatrice LopezArt Aia - Creatives / In / Residence

Cross-disciplinary Artist Residency Program

International artists have the opportunity to develop their practices in relation to ideas of ecology and sustainability by attending a one week residency at the Italian art center  that culminates with an exhibiting event which is generally open to the local public.   

Art Aia - Creatives / In / Residence . Pinot Grigio (2020) by Art Aia - Creatives / In / ResidenceArt Aia - Creatives / In / Residence

Pinot grigio

Even if the former use of the agricultural center has been changed into an art residency the estate still grows wine to delight its artists in residence.

Credits: Story

Curated by Giovanni Morassutti 
Content from Art Aia - Creatives / In / Residence and Life Photo Collection
Some original video footage from Istituto Luce
Special thanks to Daniela Francescutto and Beppina Bubba for their valuable testimonies.

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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