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Art Makes Life Worth Living

The first time I heard singer Roberta Battaglia’s voice, I was scrolling through photos and videos on social media. My thumb stopped on one of our events editor Romina Monaco’s posts from a family gathering, featuring a sweet little girl belting out a pop tune. It turned out to be Battaglia entertaining her friends and family. She was great, the clip was cute, but the next video on my feed was probably of a barista making coffee art, and my 2020 attention span quickly moved on from her performance.

Low and behold, months later, Battaglia appears on the acclaimed NBC series America’s Got Talent in front of a television audience of millions. The Italian-Canadian is immediately championed by Colombian-American superstar Sofia Vergara and praised by infamous British music mogul, Simon Cowell. The rest is history: she finished the season in the top five, and we have the honour of her gracing the cover of our winter issue.

Battaglia is the quintessential preteen—a loving and outgoing girl-next-door. She was also a gem hiding in plain sight. If you moved too quickly, you risked overlooking her and missing out. That’s what happened in my case and, for someone with a background in music, it gave me reason for pause. How many other gems do we often overlook? Conversely, how many outstanding people do we take for granted in our daily lives? More to the point, what value do we attribute to modern-day local artists and their various mediums? In this age of low-cost music streaming, free video-sharing and insta-platforms, it’s no revelation that being a full-time artist usually doesn’t equal a life of luxury, unless you’re part of the 0.1% who “make it” or you luck out with a viral GoFundMe page. Art doesn’t even pay your way through a pandemic, yet we ironically thanked the high heavens during COVID lockdown that an infinite amount of it was at our fingertips to quell our boredom.

What would life be without artists of all kinds brightening and refining our short time on this planet? I’ve always lamented the hypocrisy of eliciting pride from our cultural background—the paintings, music, literature and architecture of Italian masters throughout centuries—while the idea of our community’s children becoming anything other than lawyers, doctors or engineers, makes most Italian-Canadian parents tremble with fear.

The post-World War era and emerging capitalist democracies created unprecedented opportunities for artists to make a comfortable living. Musicians had countless venues in every city and town in which to play live music, while writers, editorialists and photographers had the prospect of full-time work through a plethora of dailies and periodicals that paid good living wages. Everything gradually changed with the advent of the internet, but more specifically the emergence of social media and the monopolies controlling music streaming and the spread (as opposed to the creation) of art and information.

From our beginnings in 2002, Panoram Italia was primarily distributed for free in thousands of retail and dining locations. We also gave away all our content online. This past spring, we took the leap and pivoted into a refreshed, national, trilingual, paid magazine, sending a clear signal that our printed art—written word, photography and all that goes into bringing this publication to life—had worth. The switch was our answer to the notion of “change, adapt or perish,” but it was also our way of saying “no more” to the widening free content vortex we felt society was pulling us into.

We have our many long-time and new advertisers, contributors and subscribers to thank for our sustained relevance and relative success. They had faith in something bigger and greater, and saw value in leaving a permanent written testament to their children and future generations of the Italian language and Italian-Canadian experience.

Let’s make art, and the ones creating it, a priority. When theatres and music venues open up again, let’s get off our rears and enjoy local live performances more than we’ve grown accustomed to. If there’s a magazine or newspaper you’ve always appreciated whenever an issue fell into your hands, subscribe to it and give it a well-deserved boost.

Hoping 2021 is better than 2020. Buon Natale e Felice Anno Nuovo.  

Un abbraccio Adam Zara

We are ready to present our winter issue of Panoram Italia. To receive it at home subscribe here