The Cima Norma Art Festival is an event created and directed by Elio Schenini on behalf of the La Fabbrica del Cioccolato Foundation.
La Fabbrica del Cioccolato Foundation
La Fabbrica del Cioccolato is a swiss no-profit foundation created in 2016 in order to promote and favour cultural activities in the former Cima Norma industrial complex in the Blenio Valley (Southern Swiss Canton of Ticino). May 2016 saw the launching of the programmatic and creative activity of the Foundation which in its first years was characterized by its artistic programme called Foreigness, elaborated by Franco Marinotti. During these years various forms of artistic expressions such as painting, sculpture, video, film, theatre, dance and music formed an interdisciplinary dialogue in such a way as to form a dynamic laboratory in constant development centred on the interaction between art in its diverse expressive forms and the territorial context in which it is located. A territorial context that was understood as a cultural, social and political patrimony in constant transformation. With an intense series of events it was in particular possible to investigate the way in which local and global demands and needs were faced within the concrete context of the Blenio Valley.
2017 saw the start of the Foundation’s collaboration with the Re/fugium Association which in the building of the guest quarters – formerly used as a boarding house for the female factory workers – began a residence programme titled Cima Città. The programme’s intention is to promote a creative place, one of reflection and networking, bringing together people involved in different fields: art, society, politics, science and music. The objective was the uniting of people of different disciplines in a place that acted as a laboratory for the development and exchange of innovatory ideas permitting the creation of new transdisciplinary approaches capable of answering the pressing need advanced by contemporary questions and problems.
Besides the Cima Città residency programme the Foundation continues to give its spaces to artists and cultural or scholastic institutions which need a place in which to carry out projects, seminars, work groups and laboratories, in this way establishing collaborative relationships that are durable.
The former Cima Norma Chocolate Factory
The chocolate-making tradition in the small village of Torre in the Blenio Valley has a very long tradition. Documents dating to the XVIII century tell us how during the winter months the villagers emigrated to European cities in order to continue to practice their craft as “chocolate makers”. Over the centuries many families left the Blenio Valley who with their tenacity and skill founded flourishing chocolate industries: from among these we can mention the Maestrani family, active in Lucerne and St. Gall, and the Cima family with factories in both Nice and Milan. The history of the Cima Norma Company is also tied to this tradition.
In fact it was founded by the Cima brothers, that were originally from Dangio but resident in Nice where they produced chocolate. In 1903 they decided to transfer part of their chocolate production to Dangio. The ‘life’ of the Factory here was marked by many problems during its first years. During the night of the 28th of August 1908 the factory was destroyed by the River Soja which due to a very violent cloudburst flooded the area. Courageously the Cima brothers rebuilt the factory and once again began production. The financial difficulties they encountered were considerable. Help was given by Giuseppe Pagani who had established an important name for himself in London in the restaurant industry: from among other things he was the owner of the renowned Pagani’s restaurant in Great Portland Street, frequented by the elite of the day. In 1913, following his purchase of all the shares of the Cima Company, Pagani became the sole owner of the Factory. After having bought the Norma Chocolate Company at the Office of Foreclosure and Bankruptcy in the town of Adliswil (Canton of Zurich) Pagani decided to change the name of the Company, transforming it into Cima Norma. A new accident blighted the Company, however. During the night of the 4th of November 1915, the factory unit used for the toasting of the cacao, situated in the building’s loft, caught fire. Very rapidly the fire spread to the rest of the building, also causing damage to the lower floor spaces. Thanks to Giuseppe Pagani’s spirit of initiative the factory was rebuilt with additional buildings. The Company quickly managed to acquire important ‘customers’ to which Pagani began to sell his production. From among these clients we can mention the Coop, Volg and Usego.
The Cima Norma Chocolate Factory continued to prosper also after Pagani’s death in 1939: it underwent continued expansion both in size and in the numbers of its employees. It achieved the height of its production during the 1950s and 1960s with an annual production of 1500 tons of chocolate and a workforce of 340. However, the growth of competition due to the founding of new chocolate companies, combined with the interruption of its collaboration with some of the large distributors such as the Coop, represented a decisive blow for the destiny of the chocolate factory. The shareholders tried everything they could to save the Factory, desperately trying to find new clients both in Switzerland and abroad. Their efforts proved to be in vain and the Factory was definitively closed in July 1968.
During the following decades the industrial buildings were used in various ways in order to keep this important complex alive and running for the Valley. Today Cima Norma has taken on a new vocation: both as a seat for artistic and cultural activities and as a residence for those who love peace and quiet and the vastness of spaces immersed in nature.