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Articles by: Roberta Cutillo

  • Events: Reports

    “By Hand and By Lens”, Redefining Italian America Through Art

    The Italian American Visual Artists Network (IAVANET) was founded in 2007 by sculptor Richard Laurenzi, with the intention of bringing together artists from similar Italian-American backgrounds who could, through their art, promote a positive image of their culture, an alternative to the negative stereotypes often associated with Italian Americans.

    This exhibit, held at Casa Italiana Zerilli Marimò, is the group’s fifth show and its largest one yet, as Laurenzi explained during its opening on March 4th, a successful event – complete with servings of Italian food and wine - , which introduced IAVANET to a community of Italian culture devotees.

    The group’s work encompasses a full range of expression from abstraction to representation, through the use of varied media, including: painting, sculpture, photography, design, and installation art. Some amongst its current 18 artists focus on making explicit references to Italian and Italian-American themes, like family, religiosity, and so on.

    These themes are particularly present in the works displayed at the “By Hand and by Lens” exhibit, which feature portraits by ten IAVANET artists: Robert Franca, John Milisenda, Rita Passeri, Antonio Petracca, Siena Gillann Porta, Richard Laurenzi, Donald Vaccino, Peter Vaccino, Angela Valeria, and Joe Zarba.

    In fact, these portraits, each in their own way and form, depict people that are somehow significant to the artists. And most, whether they are family members, friends, or the artists themselves, are Italian-American or Italian. The pieces therefore voice questions of national identity and culture.

    A painting by Donald Vaccino, “Dario”, shows his father as a young child in traditional Italian schoolboy clothing and holding a wooden hoop, a once popular children’s toy. Similarly, Rita Passeri’s “Nonna Maria” and “Nonna Anna” show her two grandmothers, one a farmer plucking a chicken, the other a better dressed, more severe-looking, but equally a “classically Italian” woman.

    Italian references of the sort are present throughout the exhibit, for example through the names of the people portrayed, which include typical ones like “Peppino” and “Gina” but also American ones like “Judith” and “Mackinly”.

    The richness of the exhibit lies in the broad range and mixes of cultural elements present in the works. The public encounters various aspects of traditional Italian culture: familiar but nuanced by regional and class variations. The artists also incorporate American and Italian-American elements and their art echoes their own personal mixed cultural experiences.

    By working together, the artists at IAVANET can share their stories and their views with each other and identify what it is they all share and what is relative to each of them as individuals. The result is an exhibit that feels extremely real and personal. The pieces have both an air of warm familiarity and one of exciting originality and uniqueness.

    In the above interview  Laurenzi expresses his desire for IAVANET to establish a rapport with Italian artists, to mentor emerging Italian-American artists, and to broaden the group’s network in a general sense. He seems hopeful – and rightly so – that an event such as this one will help circulate their art and its different and heartfelt portrayals of Italian-American culture.

  • Events: Reports

    Il Dolce Suono: Music from Donatello's Florence

    The innovative “salon-style” concert venue, Salon/Sanctuary Concerts, founded in 2009 by Artistic Director Jessica Gould as an alternative to the conventional concert hall, will be bringing a piece of Medieval Florence to New York City.

    This critically acclaimed organization, which can flaunt the endorsement and co-sponsorship of institutions such as the American Philosophical Society, the Museum of Jewish Heritage, theColonial Dames of AmericaCentro Primo Levi, and many others, will in fact be hosting two concerts with the aim to convey the musical essence of Medieval Florence.

    The first of these events, titled Music for Brunelleschi’s Dome will be held on Saturday February 28th, inside of Christ and St. Stephen's Church located at 120 West 69th Street. It will feature a recital performed by Lucia Baldacci, an official organist of the Duomo of Florence, the iconic dome built by the Italian artist and architect, Brunelleschi (thus the title of the concert).  

    The construction of the grandiose structure was completed in 1436. The repertoire will include the works of composers ranging from the roughly contemporary Dufay, to later Renaissance musicians like Frescobaldi and Zipoli.

    The Concert will begin at 7pm but those interested in the Art and History of Florence may choose to also attend a lecture on Donatello and his context in Florentine Art History. This event be held in the same location, at 6pm, just before the concert. It will be guided by Dr. Giovanni Matteo Guidetti, an Art Historian and Guide to the City of Florence.

    Another concert will be held on Thursday March 12th. This concert, titled Il Dolce Suono – Ki Kolech Arev, Jewish and Christian Music from Late Medieval Italy, will also be held at 7pm, however not in a Church, but in a Synagogue this time: The Stephen Wise Free Synagogue located on 30 West 68th Street.

    It will offer a different and likely unexpected version of Italian Medieval music and culture.

    The globally acclaimed countertenor Doron Schleifer will perform accompanied by Corina Marti on the clavisimbalum – an early keybord dating all the way back to the 1300s – and recorders. They will be playing energetic fourteenth century polyphonic tunes, a genre compared that flourished in Medieval Florence, and the main exponents of which were composers of the likes of Francesco Landini, Gherardello da Firenze, Don Paolo da Firenze, Laurentius da Firenze, and Jacopo da Bologna.

    True to the dedication of Salon/Sanctuary Concerts to the unconventional, the

    performance will also feature the music of the little-known shadow world of Jewish musicians, who lived in Italy during that same period and influenced the music of that time and of times to come.

  • Life & People

    Happy Birthday America (and New York)!

    It would be impossible to list every single one, but we have selected some of the most interesting ways New Yorkers can choose to celebrate the United State’s Birthday this year: from securing a spot to see the famous Macy’s Fireworks, to experiencing improv shows at the much more underground Indie-pendence Day Festival.

    How do New Yorkers celebrate Independence Day? I don’t actually know but they sure aren’t lacking in options. As always, the Big Apple doesn’t fail to offer a vast range of activities for all types of people.
    Perhaps the most well-known of these are the Macy’s Fireworks, which, according to the store, will be held regularly at 9 pm this year, in the event of rain or shine. However, one thing that will definitely be different is that, for the first time in Five years, the fireworks will be held on the East River, above the Brooklyn Bridge, not on the Hudson River.  
    This means that the viewing spaces have changed. But not to worry, we have a pretty good idea of where to get the best firework-viewing experiences.
    If you want to keep it simple and inexpensive, head out early (at least before 5pm) and find a spot on Piers 1 to 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park, on the Brooklyn Heights promenade, in South Street Seaport (except for piers 15 and 17, which will be closed), the Grand Ferry Park in Williamsburg, or the Columbia Street Waterfront, between Degraw Street and Atlantic Avenue. In these places you can enjoy some nice American snacks and relax outdoors with friends as you wait for the fireworks to start.
    You could also head to Havemeyer Park, where from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m., North Brooklyn Farms is hosting a 4th of July BBQ.
    If you would rather enjoy the view from a rooftop, there are quite a few restaurants offering Independence Day deals. Such as Fornino, a pizzeria and café on Pier 6 in Brooklyn Bridge Park where for $75, guests get pizza and a buffet, plus a prime spot on the rooftop to see the fireworks. Likewise, The bar, Berry Park’s huge Williamsburg roof deck will be a great place for firework-viewing.
    Same goes for the Red, White and View event at the Z Hotel rooftop in Long Island City. And the Brooklyn Bridge Garden on Pier 1 of Brooklyn Bridge Park is hosting a private, ticketed event that will offer the best views without the crowds.
    And if you want to get even closer to the fireworks, you can take one of the many ferry services, from the luxurious Infinity Yacht to the more affordable Festival Yacht, there are many options if you want to experience the fireworks while partying on the river.
    Another way to celebrate the 4th of July is by heading down to the lovely South Street Seaport where there will be events going on for the entire weekend with live music and open air movie screenings.
    If you want to witness something really American then you should definitely go out to Coney Island and check out Nathan's Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest. This contest is a serious affair. It’s neatly organized with different categories, people all around the United States participate, and the whole thing is broadcasted on live television.
    After this you should stick around for Coney Island’s very own fireworks starting at 9:45 pm: Although less famous than Macy’s, just as festive and worthwhile.
    Another all-American experience can be had at the Independence Day celebration in Historic Richmond Town, Staten Island (378-410 Clarke Ave). This event goes on from 11 am to 5 pm, during which time you can indulge in fun activities like the pie baking contest, help to churn old-time ice cream, participate in the Pinwheel Parade, and even meet patriotic villagers from the 1800s and earlier.
    You could then spend the night on the South Beach Boardwalk at the FDR Boardwalk and Beach still in Staten Island, where from 9pm to 11pm there will be a free screening on the beach of the movie National Treasure.
    Otherwise, if the Independence Day spirit has made you interested in the country’s history, this could be a great time to enjoy the Revolutionary Era Manhattan Walking Tour and discover the city’s beautiful historic landmarks, which played a role in the Nation’s fight for independence. Tours depart daily on Broadway and Murray St. at either 10 am, 12 pm or 1pm and last about two hours and a half. This could be a fun opportunity to brush up on your American History.
    Perhaps the most official way to celebrate is by attending the Star-Spangled Celebration at Avery Fisher Hall: a beautiful concert held at 3pm on the 4th, at 8 pm on the 5th and at 3pm on the 6th by the New York Philharmonic and “The Commandant’s Own” to celebrate America’s birthday with this spectacular display of musical fireworks.
    And if this type of celebration just isn’t for you but you still want to do something special for the 4th of July, you should check out the Indie-pendence Day Festival at the PIT in Manhattan (123 East 24th St). The venue will host independent improve teams from across New York and beyond for hours of shows, live music, BBQ, drink specials, and fun (from 12pm to 11 pm). Here you can enjoy Independence Day with a dose of irony.
    But regardless of how you choose to spend it, have an amazing Fourth of July!