Malta’s oldest art institution, the Malta Society of Arts (MSA), has just launched its programme of events to celebrate 100 years at its seat, the 400-year-old Palazzo de La Salle. During a press conference held on Tuesday 10 January in the opulent Sala dei Cavalieri – just one of the numerous stunning spaces within the Palazzo – the MSA launched a year-long calendar of celebrations: 2023 marking the important anniversary of its permanent move to Palazzo de La Salle in 1923.
Opening the press conference, President of the Malta Society of Arts Arch. Adrian Mamo described how Palazzo de La Salle was first established in the early 17th century, when Valletta was being built. The Palace was inhabited by various families, including families related to the Order of St John’s grandmasters over its first 300 years, including the La Salle Brothers, whose name is now mainly associated with the Palace. In 1923, Palazzo de La Salle was given to the Malta Society of Arts by the newly-formed Maltese government, to enable the Society to continue fulfilling its mission of promoting the arts and crafts.
During the last ten years, the Palazzo has been rehabilitated into a state-of-art venue that hosts classes in art, crafts and music, exhibitions, concerts, conferences, and many more events. MSA President Mamo explained that the rehabilitation works serve the MSA’s mission to support excellence in the fields of visual, performing and applied arts by providing space, education and outreach opportunities.
During his intervention, MSA’s Vice President Roderick Camilleri commented that “this anniversary is an important marker, not just for the Malta Society of Arts but also for the local artistic community. Since its inception, the Society has worked to sustain the artistic community by supporting them in developing and establishing their artistic production. The MSA has also assisted local artists and art students to further their studies overseas, and endorsed their creative production.”
Camilleri went on to say that the programme of events involves collaborations with numerous artists from several fields. He then highlighted some of the main events of the programme, starting with the launch of the MSA’s new website, designed to create new networks with different audiences, and to provide better accessibility. In spring, the MSA will also launch an extensive publication which will shed new light on fascinating elements and cultural layers of the Society throughout its long existence.
The Malta Society of Arts’ 100 years at Palazzo de La Salle celebrations programme will also feature unique workshops, activities, and public lectures, including a specialised lecture focusing on the architectural features and history of the Palazzo itself, and its gradual development and transformation throughout the centuries. Moreover, in August and September, the Society will organise two exclusive exhibitions revolving around its identity, memory, and legacy.
In addition to these special events, this year’s centenary will celebrate the Society’s musical history through an exceptional and extensive musical programme curated by Karl Fiorini. This series of concerts and free masterclasses will look at Malta’s classical music heritage while embracing new works from today’s composers. “The idea for these monthly events came to light with the discovery of Carmelo Pace’s original handwritten manuscript Conversazioni – Two movements for piano quartet while researching the Malta Society of Arts’ archive last Summer,” explained Fiorini. “I also wanted to focus on the Maltese musicians and composers who had left Malta to study abroad and then returned to the island, because these are the artists who are currently creating Malta’s musical legacy. I urge all music students to attend the masterclasses as these will be a one-time golden opportunity to learn from some of the best musicians we have.”
The press conference was peppered with musical interventions by some of the musicians forming part of the MSA’s celebrations. The Concert Hall hosted a rehearsal for the celebrations’ first event this Thursday 12 January – Christine Zerafa’s quartet concert – while the Courtyard echoed saxophone notes performed by Philip Attard, whose concert is planned for 4 May. Several MSA lace students and teachers held a lace-making demonstration in various parts of the Palazzo, while attendees also visited the ongoing exhibition ‘Enlightenment’ by Rebecca Cassar at the Art Galleries, and the Chapel.