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The Stories, the People and the Magic of BCBF

The International Illustration Contest BOit!

A journey with Sara, Carlotta, Marta and Costanza to discover the contest

  |   TOPICS: Awards
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Created in 2018, the international contest of illustration BOit! has celebrated its third edition in 2023. The aim of the Contest is to help emerging illustrators by providing economic support and international visibility. The contest also offers important moments of education and training thanks to workshops focused on art techniques and qualified talks about the world of illustration.

Let’s find out more about the Contest in this interview to the BOit! team: Sara Bernardi, Marta Viviani, Carlotta Artioli and Costanza Rosa. 

Starting from the beginning, when and why BOit! was launched?

Sara Bernardi (co-founder and creative director): It was back in 2018 when I was contacted by some members of the promoting association of the Contest “Civico 32” and “Menopermeno”. We were inspired by a similar idea developed in Turin “That’s a mole” by Eleonora Casetta, who was later invited as jury member of our first edition. We decided that we wanted to create a valuable illustration contest connected to our city, Bologna (here comes the “Bo” of BOit!), but at the same time open to an international public. This operation is mutually beneficial: the city is nurtured by the vision of a vast public and the artworks of the artists can have an international visibility.


What’s the uniqueness of your contest?

Sara Bernardi: Well, in every edition the illustrator is asked to engage with a specific theme and a shape that recalls an element of the architecture of Bologna. For example, the first year we chose the shape of the Towers of Bologna, in the second edition it was the shape of the Portici and in this third edition we chose the external walls of the city, which also recalls the cell of a beehive. The contest is biennial, it gives us the time to organize and plan all the necessary steps. The prizes are economics awards and the possibilities to be exhibited in galleries or cultural spaces.  


Tell us more about the theme of the last edition

Carlotta Artioli (external relation and public strategist): The theme of the third Edition was “city, ecology, boundaries”. Our generation faces every day the consequence of environmental issues. We are all concerned with how climate change will re-shape our lives and our cities and we asked the artists to imagine the future of our living. In BOit! we carefully choose themes with a social impact. For example, the first year we chose the theme of welcoming migrants, in the second edition it was “social life after Covid-19”. We aim to prompt a reflection on current issues that affect our society. As we believe that the purpose of illustration is to communicate a message, we take this Contest as an opportunity to inspire a collective reflection through images.


How was the response to this call?

Marta Viviani (art director and member of the jury): First of all it was huge in terms of numbers: we received more than 1200 applications and it was really hard to cut down to only 30 (the selected short-list) as the general level of the entries was really high. Some artists imagined a dystopian future, with fire and endangered species, others took a more positive stand: parks, green roofs and a lot of cycling. It was also interesting to see how the shape was re-interpreted sometimes as the boundaries of an imaginary city, with an architectural view, some other as the boundaries of a room, with an intimate approach. 


How was the experience with the jury?

Marta Viviani: We make our best effort to select the jury. This year we were delighted to have some of the greatest expert among professional illustrators and publishers: Elena Pasoli of BCBF, Marzia Corraini of Corraini, Victoria Semykina, Marika Fasoli of Il Saggiatore, Alessandro Manzella of Autori di immagini, Della Passerella of Sinnos, Andrea Pesce of zeroCO2. It was a very interesting experience to sit among such inspiring people and the discussion was really animated as we all cared a lot about both illustration and climate change.


How do you give visibility to the artists?

Costanza Rosa (social media manager and digital strategist): The purpose of this Contest is to give a “stage” to the artists to be seen and discovered by professionals and illustrations’s enthusiasts. To achieve that goal we use both offline and online communication channels. Of course, as we are international, the “digital reach” is very important to us. We have a very responsive community on our social media where we publish all the artworks and the biographies of the artists so that they can be easily contacted. To create even more engagement, this year we introduced the audience award: through our website the public could vote for their favorite artwork. This was a good idea not only because we received a great number of votes but also because it contributed to further the dissemination of the themes at the core of our contest!


What about the “offline” stage?

Sara Bernardi: We organized the award ceremony in Sala Borsa, one of the most prestigious places in Bologna and there we had the exhibit of the selected 30 artworks running for one month. Plus, in May we will organize the solo exhibition of the first prize Silvia Baccanti at the Millenium Gallery in Bologna. Not only, as the theme was about ecology, cities and boundaries, we decided to go beyond Bologna and bring the exhibit of the final 30s around Italy: so BOit! has gone on a national tour! We started from Palermo (South of Italy) in October 2023 and we will arrive in Turin (North) in April 2024, by stopping along the way in Bologna during the BCBF. We want to map cultural spaces, libraries and bookstores BOit!-friendly in order to set the roots for the 4th edition.


When will it take place?

We will open the call by February 2025. We can’t disclose the theme yet, but we are already working on it.


How is your relationship with the BCBF?

Carlotta Artioli: It’s simply amazing! We feel we are just in the right space at the right time. Thanks to the help of BCBF we have our own stand and that’s an incredible opportunity to meet artists, potential investors and partners. I remember that last year I bumped into Sinnos Publisher’ stand and I exchanged contact with one of our future members of the jury. BCBF is something exceptional that when it’s over you are exhausted, but so full of inspiration that you can’t wait for next year. Last year we were launching the call for the third edition and this year we will exhibit the 30 finalist artworks to “close” the circle. We will also host the “artist talks” inviting some artists who participated in the third edition to inspire new emerging illustrators and we will later publish excerpts of these interviews online.


What are the next steps of BOit!?

BOit! is mainly a hub for creativity. We are all young professionals working with creativity and we see constant evolution in our project. We are also non-profit and this gives us freedom even if it is a lot of (hard) work to find partners and make fund-raising to fuel this huge machine. For example, this year we have started to make art labs for kids and adults based on the theme of the third edition. With our labs we will be part of BOOM! Crescere nei libri, one of the most important events in Bologna regarding the children’s book and the world of illustration. We would like to follow this unpredictable direction and open up our group so that BOit! could become the home for those who have creative ideas and are looking for a community to realize it

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