The Phillips Returns to Italy

In partnership with the US Department of State, The Phillips Collection collaborated with museums across Italy in fostering diversity and inclusion for audience and program development. Anne Taylor Brittingham, Deputy Director for Education and Responsive Learning Spaces, and Donna Jonte, Head of Experiential Learning, discuss the workshops conducted on their travels to Italy, October 15-19, 2022.

After finishing up our time at the EDI Global Forum in Naples, Donna Jonte and I shifted to presenting workshops in collaboration with the U.S. State Department. The workshops were a continuation of the projects we conducted May 2-6, 2022, in Rome and Naples. However, this time we expanded our audiences and the region in which we worked.

Procida, Italy

On Saturday, October 15, we participated in a Cultural Hackathon on the island of Procida. Procida was awarded the Italian Capital of Culture 2022. The colorful destination is the first island to be given the title since the award was established. Recipients of the award become a focus for improved cultural heritage and tourist development, with numerous projects and initiatives to benefit the region. During the application process for the title, Procida presented a vision entitled “la cultura non isola” (culture doesn’t isolate). Procida planned 44 cultural projects with 330 days of programming, involving 240 artists and eight cultural spaces, including a 16th-century palace turned prison, now transformed into an arts-space with site-specific installations.

As an island, Procida is at an interesting moment—the award brought an influx of tourists. How will the island maintain the momentum generated by the rise in tourism, while not forgetting their local communities who are with them 12 months of the year? Hackathon workshop participants thought about ways of engaging new audiences (both local and tourists) and how to balance new media and technology with more low-tech opportunities for engagement. We focused on the role of empathy in identifying and growing audiences, starting with the user at the center of all the programs and resources we develop.

Left to right: Agostino Riitano, Director of Procida 2022; Michelle Lee, Public Affairs Officer US Consulate Naples; Anne Taylor Brittingham; Raimondo Ambrosino, Mayor of Procida; Donna Jonte; Martina Romanello, Program Assistant Procida 2022 at Palazzo d’Avalos

Procida Hackathon workshop participants

On Monday, October 17, we led a workshop for university students at the Fine Arts Academy, Naples. In the morning, the students gave us a tour of their collection, using different strategies to engage people in looking at art. In the afternoon, we thought about connection—what connects art together, what connects art to us, and what connects art to today. First the students picked the image from The Phillips Plays Art Cards that they felt connected to. Then working as a group, they picked five connected artworks and identified emerging themes such as “You see what you want to see,” “Absence and Presence,” and “Movement and Confusion.” They thought about why they were attracted to certain images, how their biases affected their choices, and how it was different to select images as a group versus as an individual.

University students working in small groups

University students with Director of Fine Arts Academy Professor Renato Lori and US Consul General Naples, Tracy Roberts-Pounds (center)

On our last day in Naples, October 18, we presented a workshop for teen immigrants at the Dedalus Cooperative’s art studio in the Officine Gomitoli’s Intercultural Centre, located in the Formiello neighborhood in a restored building that has had a past life as a convent and a woolen mill. Dedalus has been working with immigrants in Naples for more than 30 years, offering social services especially to unaccompanied minors, trafficking victims, and vulnerable women. We met Dedalus’s artistic coordinator, Alessia Montefusco, on our previous trip to Naples in May, when she brought teen immigrants to the Museo Madre for our workshop.

Alessia and a new group of teens welcomed us to the Dedalus art studio. First, we introduced ourselves by choosing one image from the Phillips Art Cards game that reflected a part of our identity. Then, to begin our exploration of the power of landscape, past and present, interior and exterior, we discussed Sam Taylor-Johnson’s Self-Portrait as a Tree, a photograph from our collection. Next, with watercolor pencils and paintbrushes, we sketched details from real or imagined landscapes. Finally, we put all three images together in a narrative sequence that depicted our different landscapes—past, present, and future.

Teens engaging with Phillips Art Cards in the Dedalus art studio

After wrapping up in Naples, we went to Rome for one last day of programming on October 19. In the morning, we met with museum employees from Civic Museums across Rome. After our presentation in May 2022 on the development of games to engage visitors, the network of museums developed a single game designed to connect multiple museums in multiple locations across the city. They presented their prototype to us for feedback. We discussed challenges and opportunities for engaging audiences, in particular local Roman audiences that may not regularly visit the civic museums.

Presentation by Civic Museums of Rome

Then in the afternoon, we were able to meet with the director of the Pantheon, Gabriella Musto, about ideas for how we could collaborate with them in a similar way to what we did with the Civic Museums of Rome. While they get millions of visitors a year, they are interested in ways they can more deeply engage with their local communities.

We are grateful to have had the chance to build global relationships, sharing our audience-engagement strategies with museum educators from around the world and continuing our work with colleagues in Naples and Rome.

Bice Lazzari: Music and Poetry

Bice Lazzari in her studio in Rome_Photo by Sergio Pucci

Bice Lazzari in her studio in Rome. Photo: Sergio Pucci

“Bice Lazzari had a unique mind. Her early work was a precursor to abstraction in many ways, as she was always striving to go beyond the usual vision to the next level, seeking the essence, the core of the painting.”-Renato Miracco, curator of Bice Lazzari: The Poetry of Mark-Making (on view at The Phillips Collection through February 24) and former cultural attaché to the Embassy of Italy

Born in Venice, Bice (Beatrice) Lazzari (1900-1981) was a pioneer in postwar Italian art. For most women in the early 20th century, there were limited opportunities to pursue a career in the fine arts. Although trained as a figure painter, Lazzari began her career in the late 1920s in the applied arts, which emphasized a geometric style. In the postwar years, she made Rome her permanent home and it was there that she found her own artistic path. Her paintings of the 1950s are expressive and abstract, while her works of the 1960s and 70s, though increasingly reductive, are highly experimental in materials and have a singular focus on rhythmic mark-making.

Lazzari’s work resonates with utmost control and minimal gesture. Using pencil, ink, and pastel, Lazzari creates poetic compositions that resemble graphs, maps, musical staffs, and notes. Later in her career, she used acrylics and further simplified her imagery, creating grids, lines, rows of dots and dashes, and irregular shapes using a limited palette. Reflecting her lifelong passion for music and poetry, Lazzari’s lines and forms create rhythms that interact with each other, making her works come alive in a manner akin to musical notation.

Through February 24, The Phillips Collection is proud to showcase four paintings by the artist recently gifted to the museum by Lazzari’s family and the Lazzari Archive in Rome, the first of her works to enter the collection, along with several loaned works on paper.

“Everything that moves in space is measurement and poetry. Painting searches in signs and color for the rhythm of these two forces, aiding and noting their fusion.”-Bice Lazzari, 1957

Bice Lazzari, Sensa titolo, 1974, Acrylic on canvas, 9 13/16 x 9 13/16 in., Gift of Mariagrazia Oliva Lapadula and the Archivio Bice Lazzari, Roma 2018, courtesy of the Embassy of Italy, Washington, DC

Bice Lazzari, Sensa titolo, 1974, Acrylic on canvas, 9 13/16 x 9 13/16 in., The Phillips Collection, Gift of Mariagrazia Oliva Lapadula and the Archivio Bice Lazzari, Roma 2018, courtesy of the Embassy of Italy, Washington, DC

Canaletto’s Venice

Canaletto_Grand Canal Venice

Giovanni Antonio Canal, known as Canaletto, The Grand Canal, Venice, Looking South-East from San Stae to the Fabbriche Nuove di Rialto, c. 1738. Oil on canvas, 18 1/2 x 30 5/8 in. Paul G. Allen Family Collection

Venice, one of collector Paul Allen’s favorite cities, is represented in Seeing Nature with scenes of the grand canal, gondolas, and the signature bridges of the Italian city. Among these sumptuous scenes is Canaletto’s The Grand Canal, Venice, Looking South-East from San Stae to the Fabbriche Nuove di Rialto (c. 1738). Canaletto mostly made views of famous sites in Venice for tourists, but lesser-known areas often inspired his finest evocations of the unique poetic qualities of his native city. This handsome stretch of the Grand Canal is lined with the stately palaces of great Venetian families and the lovely church of San Stae, designed by Domenico Rossi. The artist exploited the long, straight vista and raking light to create visual drama. His mastery of subtle Venice-specific effects is revealed in the differentiation of still and ruffled water and in the sun-drenched building facades bleeding into their reflections in the canal.