SESC (Serviço Social do Comércio, Social Service of Commerce) is a non-profit institution acting throughout Brazil with the purpose of promoting culture and good-living among workers and traders and their families. It was founded in 1946.
In the State of São Paulo SESC has 30 centers, of which 15 are located in the city of São Paulo. They are organized with a central office and people devoted to each center, all of them work in collaboration (there is no competition among the 15 centers).
Ex factory complex, SESC Pompéia was converted by architect Lina Bo Bardi, and was inaugurated in 1982. It offers a wide variety of services, among which: a 800-seats theater, a restaurant, a library, seven art workshops, a swimming pool, many gyms, a dental office and a cafeteria.
The focus of the center is mainly on Brazilian culture, with the objective of spreading it through alliances. SESC has also a policy of keeping records of its activities, in order to keep a ‘memory’ of Brazilian culture.
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Upon arriving to the SESC, we were guided through an exhibition. Mr. Giannini explained that entrance to the SESC’s exhibitions is free, and everyone is welcome. However, some services are reserved just for SESC card holders, who also benefit from discounts. For example, activities like using the swimming pool are reserved for SESC card holders.
The idea is to provide many different target groups (elderly, young people, kids) with a range of activities (sports, recreational, cultural, educational). In particular, SESC’s activities are aimed towards employees of commercial activities, traders, and their families.
Funding is completely private, in that companies with commercial activities pay 1,5% of their employees’ salary to finance SESC, but they get the card for their employees at 50% off. In this way employees and their families can benefit from SESC’s activities.
Activities include courses, exhibitions, music, dance, cinema, theatre, seminars, debates. Culture is an important part in their services (creative workshops and courses, space devoted to ceramics, painting and weaving, a 800-seats theatre to host performances, dance and music), but is not the only aim of the organization. They also offer sport facilities (swimming pool and many gyms) and health care services (dental office). All these activities are held exclusively inside the SESC centre, that has an attendance capacity of 5000 persons per day.
Despite the generous funding, sometimes the SESC’s services are not as fully up-to-date as they should be (e.g. some gym rooms are quite old).
Two additional features are aimed to spread the influence of SESC beyond its physical boundaries: SESC TV, broadcasting all over the country; and SESC Label record, devoted to promote traditional music and recover audiovisual material from the past.
by Marta Giani