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Italian artists visit BAM

From left: Nora Atkinson, Marirosa Ballo, Oliviero Toscani, Stefano Catalani and Larry Wright at the Zoom Symposium.  - Keegan Prosser, Bellevue Reporter
From left: Nora Atkinson, Marirosa Ballo, Oliviero Toscani, Stefano Catalani and Larry Wright at the Zoom Symposium.
— image credit: Keegan Prosser, Bellevue Reporter

In celebration of current exhibit "Zoom: Italian Design and the Photography of Aldo and Marirosa Ballo," the Bellevue Arts Museum hosted this weekend a symposium on Italian design, and the effect it's had on design scenes around the world.

Held at the museum on Saturday, the Zoom Symposium brought together museum curators, design enthusiasts and a number of design professionals. The day long event also featured presentations by Italian photographer Marirosa Ballo, and her brother Oliviero Toscani.

Marirosa Ballo, along with her late husband Aldo Ballo, played a pivotal role in securing worldwide appreciation and recognition for Italian design, through the images they created. Toscani is the creative force behind some of the world's most successful brands including Esprit and Chanel. Toscani is also known for his controversial advertising campaigns for Italian clothing company United Colors of Benetton in the late 90s.

"We invited them specifically for this symposium," said Elizabeth Martin-Calder, director of strategic marketing & engagement for the museum.

The morning portion of the symposium opened with presentations by museum curators Eileen Herbert and Nora Atkinson, as well as a joint presentation by Ballo and Stefano Catalani, director of art, craft and design for the museum. Topics covered included a history of the Ballos' imagery and the importance role it played in showcasing Italian design of the 1950s and 60s.

The afternoon portion of the symposium included a panel focusing on Pacific Northwest design. The panel - featuring Paula Rees, principal and founder of Fore Seer, Charlie Schuck, photographer and founder of object design store, and Debby Steiner, Publisher of LUXE PNW magazine - was entitled "The Design of Synergy".

Moderated by Catalani, the discussion explored how different players within the world of design - planners, photographers and business people - work together to create a flourishing local design community.

Rees said her role is to stand-up for the people - and work with cities around the world to make public spaces comfortable for the people living in them.

"We have to look at public spaces and figure out what [people] really want," Rees said.

Schuck added his role as a design photographer is to share with others the importance and beauty of detail through the images he creates.

"I fall in love with local designers based on the things they create," said Seattle-based Schock. "When you fall in love with [the items you are photographing] - it's easier to translate that energy to an audience."

Addressing the business aspect of design in the Pacific Northwest, Steiner talked about the success of LUXE, and it's reputation as the most-circulated design-oriented magazine across the country.

A transplant to the Pacific Northwest (she worked in Los Angeles and New York before relocating to Snohomish in 2007), Steiner also discussed the importance of honing in on the identity of the region you're operating in.

The symposium concluded Saturday evening with Toscani's presentation, "Power, Marketing, and Creativity."

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