People's House Library
Books from the collection of the Casa do Povo Library. PHOTO: Disclosure

After a crisis of about 30 years, with the closure of most of its activities, Casa do Povo – a cultural center founded in 1946 by progressive Jews in the Bom Retiro neighborhood – experienced an intense and vigorous recovery from the beginning of this decade. . In just a few years, it has consolidated itself as a prolific cultural space, a stage for artistic experiences and practices in the most varied areas, focused both on experimental and contemporary production and on the preservation of memory.

With the reopening of its library last Saturday, May 11, Casa do Povo takes another important step towards resuming its history and, at the same time, opening up to society as a hub for coexistence and knowledge production. With about 8 books (half of them written in Yiddish) and a vast archive of documents, photos and publications, the library reopens after almost 40 years of closure – since the closing of the Ginásio Israelita Scholem Aleichem, which operated in the building of the 1950 to 1981.

“Several generations have passed through here, including many people who have died, but we have this collection, this archive, which is the core of the House. That's what tells the story”, says Marilia Loureiro, curator and programmer at Casa do Povo. From the 1980s onwards, with the crisis, the library was preserved through the voluntary work of two associates, Marina Sendacz and Leda Tronca, who, even without resources, managed to maintain the collection. “If it was not possible to make this public beforehand, they managed not to let it go into decline. So I would say that they are the invisible heroines of this story”, says Loureiro.

Books from the collection during sorting work carried out at the Casa. Photo: Disclosure

The library brings together collections from different institutions that have passed through there, such as the Clube Cultura e Progresso, the Clubinho IL Peretz and the Scholem Aleichem college, in addition to books brought by Jewish immigrants who fled the Second World War and personal collections donated by intellectuals such as, for example, the architect Ernest Mange, who designed the modernist building that houses the Casa, inaugurated in 1953. Now, the collections of some of the more than 20 groups and collectives that currently inhabit the space are also added: the models of Ateliê Vivo , the typographies of Ocupeacidade, the posters and publications of the Parquinhográfica and the scores of the Coral Tradição, among others.

The reformulation and reopening of the library was made possible by the approval of the “Arquivo Vivo” project at PROAC-ICMS, in 2016, which resulted in the raising of 160 thousand reais between companies and individuals, mainly in the Bom Retiro neighborhood. The approval also triggered an intense debate between directors, associates and the groups that use the House, as Loureiro says: “Our proposal is to deal with spaces in a flexible, collective way, without anyone owning any space and everyone can move between they. So, some groups were uncomfortable and asked very pertinent questions, which made us deepen our reflection: where will this library be? Will she lock up space? Will any group have to leave the place they usually use? Who will read these Yiddish books? What is the point of reopening this collection today?”.

Library furniture designed by Grupo Inteiro. PHOTO: Marcos Ferraz

After almost six months of internal discussions, the need to listen to people with greater expertise in the area became clear. A seminar that had been designed to mark the opening of the library was anticipated, and representatives from the libraries of the São Paulo Cultural Center, the Jewish Museum Memory Center, the People Without Fear Settlement (MTST) and Sesc Bom Retiro were invited to speak about your experiences. Several debates were raised, among them discussions about how to attract readers; what is the profile of the public in Bom Retiro; how to work with Yiddish books; how to make a mobile library – that can be easily assembled and disassembled; and how to make the library not only a space for silence, but also for reading and open activities.

According to Loureiro, the seminar resulted in some insights important. First, the perception that the collections of the collectives that inhabit the space should also be part of the library, so that it is not “immobilized” and disconnected from what the Casa is today. Furthermore, it became clear that in order to form a public – “since a library without readers is a deposit” – it was important to involve people already in the process of making the library, as it was done. And, finally, the realization that the collection would not need to be all in one place, physically static.

Ancestral Voices/How to Read a Library
Simulation image of the project “Ancestral Voices/How to read a library”, by artist Mariana Lanari. PHOTO: Disclosure

To put this idea into practice, Grupo Inteiro – a collective that works in the fields of architecture, design and visual arts – was asked to think about the furniture for the new library. A configuration that can be expanded across the entire floor or retracted into just one corner of the hall was conceived, so that the library would not become an obstacle to the flexible functioning of the House.

The opening of the library included a conversation with Gita Guinsburg, director of Editora Perspectiva. In July, a major library activation activity – in addition to others that have already been carried out, such as a first sorting of books – will take place from the installation Active Voice: Social Library, by artist Mariana Lanari. The 8 thousand books of the collection will be distributed in the biggest hall of the building, replicating the map of some blocks of Bom Retiro and, during a month, visitors will be able to participate in a great “reading task force”. “We are going to invite people and groups to read these books and the audio of the readings will be mixed live by the artist, making it a collective performance that maps the library's subjects, public form and at the same time works as an engine that puts this collection in motion, ” says Loureiro.


Reopening of the Casa do Povo Library

Rua Três Rios, 252 – Bom Retiro, São Paulo

May 11th, from 10 am.



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