"My summer began and ended with art symposia, with some music in the middle. During the summer solstice, I was in the Irpinia region of southern Italy for the third international Irpinia Art&Nature symposium organized by Vito Rago with other collaborators – more here. In these symposia, artists live together while working on a common project. I love the energy of these gatherings, and I was also curious about this part of Italy, which is probably best known for a tragic earthquake that took place in 1980, but it is certainly worth getting to know better for its natural beauty and hill towns.

We first stayed in the village of Castelvetero, where the ruins of the once thriving center have been converted into an albergo diffuso, or scattered hotel, where lodgings are not in a single building or block. This innovative form of hospitality was conceived in the 1980s as a way to revive small historic villages and towns off the beaten track and involve the community in the tourist industry. We artists had our own apartments in a cluster of stone homes arranged around a central courtyard. For my project, I created a singing head in terracotta, to be installed somewhere in the village. While there we met apprentices in the local school of paper mache, who make the allegorical parade floats and masks for their great Carnevale festival.

When we weren’t working on our projects, we took hikes in the surrounding natural parks and reserves like Montemarano, Ripa Della Falconara, and the sulfurous lake of the Mefite, an archeological site in the Ansanto Valley. The municipal officers and heads of organizations and associations that welcomed us are dedicated to promoting knowledge of the region by taking care of their heritage and raising awareness that preserving and documenting their culture is essential to the recovery of their material and immaterial history.

My summer ended with another symposium at the opposite end of Europe, in Lapua, Finland, with ISEAS Finland, an international symposium on socially engaged art created by Katja Johola. This year’s theme was Food, and I was in one of the three teams of artists and researchers at work on projects involving different sectors of society: young farmers and a senior citizens’ book club, elementary school children, and high school students (mine). Together with two choreographers and a food ethics researcher, we held workshops in performance art, sensibility-raising, and action painting. Although our encounters are over for the moment, the symposium will be active until our final exhibition on the work that came out of this past week’s communal projects and the work we will pursue individually over the coming year. If possible, I would like to bring Katja Juhola – curator, visual artist, and the founder and creator of ISEAS – to Franklin University Switzerland for a workshop and a lecture.

At midsummer, I was in Tuscany, where as part of the Italian amateur musicians organization’s chamber music workshops for amateur musicians, in Sesto Fiorentino near Florence. 

After an eventful summer, I’ll be starting the 2022-23 academic year with an arts festival, where three big canvases on the theme of the circle as a symbol of exclusion and inclusion. These works are actually Franklin-inspired as they were originally destined for a project planned for Earth Day 2020 but never carried out.

Finally, after an arts-packed summer, I’m ready to get down to work during the Fall '22 semester!"

Written by Clarice Zdanski, Instructor, Art History and Studio Art; Faculty Chair