Archive for June, 2008

Remembering Norm Roberson (1941-2008)

June 21, 2008

“Norman Roberson, beloved friend, colleague, and legendary presence at the American Academy in Rome for 20 years, passed away early in the morning of 29 May 2008,” reports AAR President Adele Chatfield-Taylor. “The cause of death was lung cancer. Norm had not been able to be at the Academy for several months, but he was never far from our thoughts and many Academy trustees, staff and fellows were often by his side.”

Norman Marcus Roberson played an unusually essential role in the life of the Academy. His formal title at the AAR was “Gate Reception”, and as such he made a wonderfully warm first impression on new Fellows, Residents and countless visitors that would last throughout one’s stay, and, for many, remain as an indelible memory of Rome.

But Norm also turned the Academy’s portineria into a portal to Italy and Italian life, history and culture as a whole. Dozens of academic books and articles thank Norm for his unfailing helpfulness in everything from obtaining hard-to-find camera film to sharing his (encyclopedic) knowledge of the topography and sights of Rome, Lazio and Tuscany. An avid student of Etruscology, Norm Roberson was the coauthor of Affreschi—Exploring Etruria (2001, with Mary Jane Cryan), as well as a contributor to multiple editions of The Rough Guide to Rome and The Rough Guide to Italy. He served in the US Marine Corps from 1960 to 1971.

For an illuminating (and yet unaired) radio interview that Norm Roberson granted before his illness, listen here (mp3 audiofile, 10 mins.). Radio producer Laura Friedman recorded this as a part of a program she is developing called “The Other Italy”. A superb obituary by British journalist Anthony Smith can be read in the electronic version of the The Roman Forum.

Adele Chatfield-Taylor in her announcement added that the Academy was to hold a memorial service at 5, Via Masina to celebrate Norm Roberson’s life at 5.00 PM on Thursday 24 July 2008. “All Trustees, Fellows, Residents and Friends of the Academy are invited to attend the service, or to send reminiscences to share with Norm’s family, either during the ceremony or in a guest book prepared for his daughters, Cory Cryer and Shelly Desmond.

Contributions are also invited for the Norman Roberson Book Fund in Etruscan Studies. His daughters thought it would please their father to have the Academy remember his scholarship, writing, friendship and the many happy trips and tours he took with members of the Academy family in this way.”

Contributions to the Norman Roberson Book Fund in Etruscan Studies may be sent to the American Academy in Rome, 7 East 60 Street, New York, New York 10022 USA, or made by visiting this site.



Walks and talks galore for Trustees’ 2008 trip to Rome

June 18, 2008

It seems like practically everyone in the School of Classical Studies—and then some—found themselves performing on one site or another in Rome and vicinity from Tuesday 27 May through Friday 6 June. The occasion was the 2008 AAR Trustees’ Trip to Rome, which featured an ambitious program of walks, talks, exhibitions, plus (detailed in previous posts) open studio presentations, readings, and a concert.

One novel feature of the program was a series of “open stacks” gatherings in the AAR Library. There Fellows spoke about a book, manuscript, collection, or map of particular interest to their work in the Library’s collections. Particularly popular were the talks in the Barbara Goldsmith Rare Book Room (designed by Michael Graves FAAR’62)—not least for the room’s superior air conditioning.

Some of the high points of the week-and-a-half (on which see also the great write-up by Patrica Zohn in the 13 June 2008 Huffington Post):

The Last Pagans of Rome: Michele Renee Salzman (California Riverside), Lucy Shoe Meritt Scholar in Residence, with Alan Cameron (Columbia), Franca Ela Consolino (Aquila), and Arnaldo Marcone (Udine)

Markets of Trajan: John Ochsendorf (MIT), National Endowment for the Arts Rome Prize Fellow

The Mystery of the Lost Temple of Trajan: Gianni Ponti, AAR Archaeology Liaison

Archaic Rome: John N.N. Hopkins (Texas at Austin), Frances Barker Tracy/Samuel H. Kress Foundation/Helen M. Woodruff Fellowship of the Archaeological Institution of American Pre-Doctoral Rome Prize Fellow

Highlights of the Villa Borghese Museum: Christina Ferando (Columbia), Marian and Andrew Heiskell Pre-Doctoral Rome Prize Fellow

Galileo and his Judges: Thomas Frederick Mayer (Augustana College), Millicent Mercer Johnsen Post-Doctoral Rome Prize Fellow

Open Stacks Talks in the AAR Library: Jana Dambrogio (National Archives), Booth Family Rome Prize Fellow: Jackie Elliot (Colorado), National Endowment for the Humanities/Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Post-Doctoral Rome Prize; Carmela Vircillo Franklin (Columbia), FAAR’85, RAAR’02, AAR Director; Eliza Glaze (Coastal Carolina University), Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Post-Doctoral Rome Prize Fellow; Rebecka Lindau, AAR Drue Heinz Librarian; Eleanor Rust (University of Southern California), Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman Pre-Doctoral Rome Prize Fellow; Dylan Sailor (California at Berkeley), Andrew Heiskell Post-Doctoral Rome Prize Fellow; Rachel Van Dusen (Buffalo), Jesse Benedict Carter/Samuel H. Kress Foundation Pre-Doctoral Rome Prize Fellow; Gregory Waldrop (California at Berkeley), Phyllis G. Gordan/Samuel H. Kress Foundation Pre-Doctoral Rome Prize fellow; and Marjorie Curry Woods (Texas at Austin), Paul Mellon Post-Doctoral Rome Prize Fellow

Palestrina and Paliano: Trustee Emeritus Laurie D. Olin (University of Pennsylvania), FAAR’74, RAAR’90, Mercedes T. and Sid R. Bass Landscape Architect in Residence and Trustee C. Brian Rose (University of Pennsylvania), FAAR’92

Imperial Monuments in the Campus Martius: Thomas A.J. McGinn (Vanderbilt), FAAR’85, AAR Andrew W. Mellon Professor-in-Charge

Revisiting Roman Arena Sports and their Structures: Trustee T. Corey Brennan (Rutgers), President of the SOF; Robert R. Chenault (Michigan), Arthur Ross Pre-Doctoral Rome Prize Fellow; and Lisa Tziona Switkin, Garden Club of America Rome Prize Fellow

Santa Maria del Priorato: Trustee John A. Pinto (Princeton), FAAR’75, RAAR’06

Biblioteca Hertziana: Rebecka Lindau, AAR Drue Heinz Librarian

Monks and Hermits at the Roots of Benedictine Monasticism: Erik Gustafson (NYU Institute of Fine Arts), Samuel H. Kress Foundation Pre-Doctoral Rome Prize Fellow

Contemporary Art Galleries in Rome: Roberto Caracciolo, AAR Arts Liaison and Daniel Bozhkov, Chuck Close Rome Prize Fellow

Bosco Parrasio and Villa Medici Garden: Laurie D. Olin; John A. Pinto; and Daniel R. McReynolds (Princeton), Donald and Maria Cox Pre-Doctoral Rome Prize Fellow

A new home for the AAR Archaeological Study Collection

June 17, 2008

For years, the American Academy in Rome has boasted a top-rate archaeological study collection, where scholars can get hands-on experience working with ancient Italian material culture: coins, inscriptions, ceramics.

On Wednesday 4 June 2008, thanks especially to the efforts of a very dedicated anonymous donor, the collection found a new home in a spectacular purpose-built seminar room. The location is Via Masina 5B, next to the McKim, Mead, & White building, The superior organization of artifacts and roomy working area should guarantee greatly enhanced use of this key resource, all year round.

The task of cutting the ribbon at the ceremony of inauguration fell to AAR Director Carmela Vircillo Franklin (FAAR’85, RAAR’02). Co-celebrants then spent the better part of an hour acquainting or reacquainting themselves with this venerable old collection made new again.

One evening, thirteen Open Studios at AAR

June 17, 2008

One of the greatest—not to say most overstimulating—AAR traditions is that of Open Studios for Fellows in the School of Fine Arts. This year a large and lively crowd spent 3+ hours on the evening of Tuesday 3 June 2008 trying to navigate its way through 13 studios on three levels of the McKim, Mead, & White Building.

The catalog for this spring show, and that of past years, can be viewed here.

For visitors, the key to success: arrive early, start at the top, and work your way down. And avoid the allure of the roof terrace.

This year’s participants, from top to bottom:

Prince Charitable Trusts Rome Prize Alan Berger (Associate Professor of Landscape Architecture, Graduate School of Design, Harvard University)

Italian Fellow in the Arts Gianmaria Sforza Fogliani (Landscape Architect, Università Mediterranea di Reggio Calabria)

Garden Club of America Rome Prize Lisa Tziona Switkin (Senior Associate, Field Operations, NYC)

National Endowment for the Arts Rome Prize John Ochsendorf (Associate Professor, Department of Architecture, Massachusetts Institute of Technology). Hear Ochsendorf in his Open Studio describe his project on the preservation of masonry vaulting in Rome (audiofile, 1 min.): ochsendorfvault1

Joseph H. Hazen Rome Prize in Visual Arts Tim Davis (Photographer, NYC and Tivoli, NY)

Jesse Howard, Jr. Rome Prize in Visual Arts Caveh Zahedi (Filmmaker, San Francisco)

Booth Family Rome Prize in Historic Preservation and Conservation Jana Dambrogio (Conservator, Document Conservation Laboratory, National Archives and Records Administration)

Rolland Rome Prize in Design John Cary (Executive Director, Public Architecture)

Franklin D. Israel Rome Prize in Architecture Frederick Fisher (Frederick Fisher and Partners Architects)

Chuck Close Rome Prize in Visual Arts Daniel Bozhkov (artist, New York)

Founders Rome Prize in Architecture Daniel Mihalyo/Annie Han (Lead Pencil Studio)

Cynthia Hazen Polsky and Leon Polsky Rome Prize in Design Molissa Fenley (Artistic Director, Molissa Fenley and Dancers). Hear Fenley at Open Studios discuss her “Cosmati Variations”, a dance composition—with music by John Cage—suggested by experiencing the design of the 12th and 13th century Cosmati mosaics (audiofile, 2 minutes): fenleycosmati

John Armstrong Chaloner/Jacob H. Lazarus-Metropolitan Museum of Art Rome Prize in Visual Arts Kate Gilmore (Artist and Visiting Assistant Professor, Art and Design, State University of New York at Purchase)

The AAR Open Studios were made possible in part by a grant from the Cowles Charitable Trust.

Concert at Villa Aurelia: Erin Gee, Yotam Haber

June 17, 2008

A SRO audience packed the Villa Aurelia on the evening of Saturday 31 May 2008 to hear performances of music by Academy composers Erin Gee and Yotam Haber.

Erin Gee, winner of the Samuel Barber Rome Prize in Musical Composition, presented five pieces from her Mouthpiece series, variously for chamber ensemble—on this evening, Rome’s Alter Ego Ensemble—solo voice, or for voice and chamber ensemble. Austrian-born singer Anna Maria Pammer and (memorably) Ms. Gee herself performed the electrifying vocal segments.

Erin Gee is currently based in Graz, Austria, where she completed a Ph.D. in music theory from the University of Music and Dramatic Arts in 2007. Her forthcoming opera SLEEP will be premiered by the Zürich Opera House in January 2009, followed by a premiere with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.

For a 2004 video performance of Gee’s Mouthpiece VI:

Yotam Haber is the Frederic A. Juilliard/Walter Damrosch Rome Prize Fellow in Musical Composition. A 2004 Cornell University Ph.D., he received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2005. Haber has twice won the ASCAP Foundation Morton Gould Award (2002, 2004); in 2004, he also won the second bi-annual Frederick Fennell Prize for his wind ensemble work Espresso.

On this evening Yotam Haber premiered his explosive death will come and she shall have your eyes, a song-cycle in five movements for string orchestra, voice, and archival recordings. Fabio Maestri conducted the Umbrian-based Ensemble in Canto (performing with singer Alda Caiello). The piece “explores the ancient music of the Roman Jewish community in a modern voice”, explains Haber, “combining biblical texts, modern poetry by Italian and American poets, as well as the notorious 1555 Papal Bull by Paul IV, Cum Nimis Absurdum.”

For a video recording of a piano etude by Yotam Haber entitled “Slip”, played by Augustus Arnone:

The Villa Aurelia concert was made possible by the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, the Fromm Music Foundation, the Herman Goldman Foundation, the estate of Kent W. Kennan (FAAR’39), and Janice and George Scantland. ISRAELE60 provided additional funding for the performance of Yotam Haber’s song-cycle.

Reading at Villa Aurelia: Sarah Manguso, Junot Díaz

June 17, 2008

On Friday 30 May 2008 the Villa Aurelia showcased works by two writers at the AAR, Sarah Manguso and Junot Díaz.

Manguso read excerpts from her latest published work, the 2008 memoir The Two Kinds of Decay (Farrar, Straus & Giroux). The book is an unblinking meditation on a life-threatening disease that stole upon the author in her early twenties, taking nine full years to run its course.

This fall Manguso will return to teaching literature and writing at the Pratt Institute in New York, where she will continue work on The Guardians, the novel she began this year at the AAR as the winner of the Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize, a gift of the Drue Heinz Trust/American Academy of Arts and Letters.

For more on Sarah Manguso, see

Junot Díaz teaches creative writing at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is also the fiction editor for the Boston Review. Díaz was at the AAR this year thanks to the John Guare Writer’s Fund Rome Prize, a gift of Dorothy and Lewis B. Cullman.

Díaz unexpectedly found himself double-booked for the Villa Aurelia event. But playwright John Guare himself stepped in to read—or perhaps more accurately, perform—the opening pages of Díaz’s second book and debut novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead, 2007).

“It was believed, even in educated circles,” writes Díaz, “that anyone who plotted against [Dominican dictator Rafael] Trujillo, would incur a fukú most powerful, down to the seventh generation beyond.” As for what’s fukú—”doom” is too mild a translation—you have to experience the book, which won Díaz the National Book Critics Circle Award as well as the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008.

For a videorecorded Junot Díaz reading and Q&A:

The Kirby Family Foundation generously provided support for the event.

Celebrating 2008 AAR commencement

June 16, 2008

The Cortile of the McKim, Mead & White building was the setting for the 2007/8 commencement of the American Academy in Rome, held on the evening of 30 May 2008.

Some thirty Rome Prize winners, affiliated Fellows and Residents received an AAR diploma—and with it, membership in the Society of Fellows.

Academy Director Carmela Vircillo Franklin (FAAR’85, RAAR’02) officiated at the ceremony, assisted by AAR President Adele Chatfield-Taylor (FAAR’84), Chairman of the Board of Trustees David M. Childs (RAAR’04), and SOF President T. Corey Brennan (FAAR’88).

One participant termed it “the best commencement tradition ever…no caps, no gowns, no parents”.

Mellon Professor-in-Charge Thomas A.J. McGinn (FAAR’85) later distributed the SOF lapel rosette to each of the members the class of 2008.