About Us - Director
I first came to Italy in 1987, when we traveled throughout Europe and North Africa for a year. Hitchhiking from place to place, and living mostly in a tent, I came to know the kindness of the Italian people as well as the beauty and diversity of the landscape. Italy seemed a magical place to us––seeing the sun rise over acres of dewy lemon trees, the moonrise over the sea, and mountain vineyards and olive groves in the late afternoon sun––I was forever changed. During that time I travelled extensively throughout Italy, exploring its varied regions from the mountains to the sea, while seeing some of the greatest works of art in history–in unexpected roadside chapels, well-known monumental cathedrals and in distinguished museum collections.
Seeking to study the frescos of Pierro della Francesca I found a small apartment in Arezzo and settled there for the summer- only to find the frescos closed for restoration. Explaining my situation to the Superintendent of Monuments, he solved the problem by simply allowing us to climb the scaffolding while the restorers were away at their lunch break. I was there everyday, and seeing the silvery tonality and intricate rhythms of the frescoes at eye level was an experience shared by few besides Pierro himself. Later, strangely enough, I encountered the same situation in Florence at the church of Santa Maria del Carmine. A kindly priest took pity on a skinny art student desperate to see Masaccio’s paintings. Climbing the stairs and seeing his frescos at eye level under the light of a bare bulb was mesmerizing and moving beyond words. Like confronting an ancient talisman or primeval cave painting, the pictures seemed to contain all the collective experience of humanity.
Deeply moved by the experience of these passionate works as well as by the rarefied beauty of the Italian landscape and light, I have returned again and again. My desire to share my adventures and insights in this rich and awe inspiring country led us to bring the first group of painting students from the University of South Carolina in 2000. It was that year that my friend Dan Gustin introduced us to the small town of Monte Castello di Vibio in Umbria where we found a thriving community of artists from all over the world. I have been in love with this tiny heart shaped town on a little mountain ever since, returning each summer to paint in our studios, exchange insights with colleagues, teach students, and explore out of the way places in this region and beyond. During this time, it has been my privilege to deepen our appreciation of the legacy of Italian culture––ranging from its food and wine to its arts––and our joy to cultivate its ethos in my own work and life, while developing local friendships, hosting guests, and raising two children. I hope you will join me as students, artists in residence, veteran visitors and curious travelers with whom I can share my knowledge and love of this unique part of the world. Above all, it is my sincere desire that your experience at the International Center for the Arts will nurture your creative spirit as much as it has mine. I don’t think I will ever get enough of being here and painting here, because oddly enough, there is something vast and universal about this idiosyncratic little place on a hill.
I founded the International Center for the Arts in 2014 in cooperation with our partners and friend in Italy, Massimo Capoccia. This would not have been possible without the support of my family and friends both in Italy and America who contributed their time, lent me photographs, gave us advice, read through ideas, facilitated contacts, and designed the website. Without the encouragement of our families, Corrine and John Abraham in particular, we never would have taken this on. We especially appreciate the help and advice of all our friends in Umbria: Dan Gustin, Cynthia Bridgeman, Barry and Diane Nemett, Alan Feltus, Lani Irwin, Langdon Quin, Caren Canier, Richard Picolo, Marjorie Portnow, and Bill and Sandy Bailey. A very special thanks to Ross and Sarah Slade for bearing with us through countless manifestations of Project Phoenix––Ross’s tireless work on the website and Sarah’s iconic photographs and for Jaime Misenheimer’s work on the Facebook site. Above all, I am eternally grateful to Helen and Lorris Bowers for always believing in my dream and encouraging the highest level of ambition in my actions. And finally, to our fearless leader, Uncle Louie, who taught us to see the magic in everyday and to believe in crazy ideas. They are not able to be here with us, but their legacy is.