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In 1935, São Paulo was a city of a million inhabitants. With a diverse, emerging immigrant population, it was known as the Chicago of South America, a city in the midst of industrialisation and urbanisation dealing with housing and educational growing pains. It was in this context that writer Mário de Andrade ran the Municipal Department of Culture of São Paulo (DC) – the equivalent of today’s Municipal Secretary of Culture.
The exhibition ‘Ocupação Mário de Andrade’ focuses on work by the writer – best known as one of the founders of Brazilian Modernism, a key player in the 1922 Week of Modern Art, and author of avant-garde books such as Pauliceia Desvairada and Macunaíma.
Curator Silvana Rubino and her staff present 400 items, including letters, films, photographs and objects at the exhibition, which is the 14th event in the Série Ocupação (Occupation Series), held at Itaú Cultural since 2009. ‘Mário invented a cultural policy. Some of his ideas are still impressive and current; this is a journey that deserves to be revisited,’ says Rubino.
During his administration, de Andrade proposed innovative activities including a public music library (note that in 1935, people had little access to records), a travelling library, and ethnographic research groups, among other initiatives. He also developed projects for schools while at the DC, for students to participate in activities including sports and art. ‘It’s very similar to the current CEUs (community education centres),’ Rubino says. There could hardly be a more apt name for SP’s municipal library than the one it proudly carries – ‘Mário de Andrade’.