Archive for May, 2009

Celebrating Pina Pasquantonio, for 25 extraordinary years of service on the staff of the AAR

May 28, 2009

In Rome, it’s the start of Trustees’ Week at the Academy. And one of the most important items on the AAR community’s agenda is to celebrate Pina Pasquantonio, who now marks her 25th year on the staff of the American Academy.

PinaPortraitPina Pasquantonio. Credit: James Bodnar FAAR’80

Pina, who holds the title of Assistant Director of Operations, has had a unique and extraordinary effect on the life of every Fellow and Resident since 1984.

That is saying a lot, especially since fully half of the 1700+ individuals who have held a Rome Prize Fellowship or Residency at the AAR since its founding in 1894 have done so in the last quarter century.

When one adds in all the persons other than Rome Prize winners and Residents who comprise the AAR community—the Trustees, Affiliated Fellows, the Visiting Artists and Scholars, and the Fellow Travelers and family members—a conservative guess puts the number of folks at well over 10,000 who have directly depended on Pina Pasquantonio to facilitate their stay, study and work.

“I am committed to keeping the doors to my office open and to being available,” Pina told the SOF News in 2004. That’s a very modest self-description of how she approaches her role.

As a measure of Pina’s enormous impact on the creative life of the AAR, consider the fact that authors in dozens of books over the past couple of decades have acknowledged her help in the most glowing of terms. Reads one typical Foreward: “All of the members of the [AAR] staff are courteous and helpful, and I especially single out the assistant director, Pina Pasquantonio, who can do, and does everything.” A list (inevitably quite incomplete) of authors who have thanked Pina Pasquantonio in print follows at the end of this post.

“Mention her name to anyone who has spent time at the Academy,” says new SOF President Drew Beattie FAAR’95, “and the praise and gratitude, the sense of real friendship, is instantaneous…The institution can brag about an amazing history, a thrillingly beautiful building and grounds for the housing of American scholarship and creativity. But Pina Pasquantonio is a huge part of what is at the heart of the place, the sense of welcoming and facilitating the extraordinary plans of those newly arrived to realize their work in a life-altering environment.”

Indeed, in any number of ways, Pina has defined a generation of life of the Academy—with many more years, one hopes, to come in the ‘Saeculum Pasquantonianum’.

ManshipFrom the fountain in the cortile of the AAR, sculpture by Paul Manship FAAR’12 of infant Hercules strangling a serpent: Youth triumphant over Adversity

Here’s Pina Pasquantonio in her own words, from  interviews with the SOF News published in 2004 and 2008. (more…)


This spring, spotlight on AAR composers: Bermel, Carter, Currier, Makan, Norman, Rohde, Ueno

May 25, 2009

It’s been quite a season for American Academy in Rome Fellows in Musical Composition. Here are just three snapshots from the last few months…

On 11 March, the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton NJ) announced the appointment of composer and clarinetist Derek Bermel FAAR’02 as its Artist-in-Residence. His term begins on 1 July 2009.

Bermel-James-Pomerantz-1Derek Bermel FAAR’02. Credit: James Pomerantz

During his stay at the Institute, Derek Bermel will pursue his scholarly and creative interests while developing major work, profiting from opportunities similar to those offered by the Institute to visiting scientists and scholars. As the IAS resident composer, Bermel also will arrange the Institute’s annual Edward T. Cone Concert Series.

A composer, clarinetist, conductor, jazz and rock musician with numerous high-profile commissions to his credit, Bermel made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1998 as soloist performing his own critically acclaimed clarinet concerto, Voices. He held a 2001/2 Rome Prize Fellowship from the American Academy in Rome; his composition Spider Love is featured with those of other Academy luminaries on the Americans in Rome 4 CD set (Bridge Records, 2008). Bermel is published by Peermusic Classical.

Bermel’s awards also include the Alpert Award in the Arts; Guggenheim and Fulbright Fellowships; the Trailblazer Award from the American Music Center; the Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters; the Paul Boylan Award from the University of Michigan; commissions from the Fromm and Greenwall Foundations, Meet the Composer and the Cary Trust; and residencies at Yaddo, Tanglewood, Aspen, Banff, Bellagio, Copland House, Sacatar and Civitella Ranieri.

Bermel comes to the Institute from a three-year position as the American Composers Orchestra’s Music Alive Composer-in-Residence. In that position, he played a central role in programming and serving as curator and artistic advisor to the organization’s Orchestra Underground series.

As IAS Artist-in-Residence, Derek Bermel succeeds Paul Moravec FAAR’85, University Professor at Adelphi University and winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in Music. You can read more about Bermel and Moravec at the IAS on p. 10 of the Spring 2009 number of The Institute Letter.


Our next glimpse of AAR composers comes from the weekend of 20-22 March, when the American Academy in Rome hosted a concert series by Berlin’s Scharoun Ensemble in memory of Avv. Vittorio Ripa di Meana (1927-2008). During its time at the Academy, the Scharoun Ensemble came to meals and in general totally integrated itself into AAR life.

Vittorio Ripa di Meana, one of Italy’s leading corporate lawyers, a co-founder of the national daily La Repubblica, and former chairman of the Capitalia investment group, had served as a valued Trustee of the Academy from 2003-2008. Ripa di Meana died on 28 December, aged 81.

Among Ripa di Meana’s many significant accomplishments must be counted his work first as Commissioner and then Vice-President of the Rome Opera House (1994-1996), which he succeeded in restoring to both administrative and artistic health.

In December, the President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, addressed a message of sympathy to the Ripa di Meana family for its loss, recalling of his departed friend “the refinement and human kindness, the quality of cultural commitment, the deep democratic and republican faith, the professional passion and integrity.”

The President concluded his message by speaking of “a grave loss for those who believe in the ideals and moral values that Vittorio Ripa di Meana stood for throughout his life.”

AARPresidentsPresident Napolitano signing the guestbook of the Villa Aurelia as AAR President Adele Chatfield-Taylor FAAR’84 looks on. Napolitano came as a private citizen to the concert series out of friendship with the Ripa di Meana family, and spoke briefly at the memorial concert.


A new SOF President for 2009: painter Drew Beattie FAAR’95

May 20, 2009

BeattiePortraitDrew Beattie, in Cambridge MA, May 2009

The Council of the AAR Society of Fellows has elected painter Drew Beattie, FAAR’95 in Visual Arts, interim President of the Academy’s alumni organization for the remainder of 2009.

Beattie, who takes office 21 May, replaces T. Corey Brennan FAAR’88, who is stepping down to join the staff of the Academy this July as Mellon Professor-in-Charge for a three year term.

The SOF President has ex officio membership on the Academy’s Board of Trustees, and with it, full voting rights. This September, the SOF membership as a whole will elect a President and other Council members for the regular two-year term 2010-2012.

“For all the Fellows I know”, explains Beattie, “the year in Rome remains on the shortest list of what has been truly great in this life.” He continues: “the Society of Fellows plays an important role in maintaining the lines of communication about the changes that can advance the original mission—the relevance of productive time spent in Rome brought home to enrich what is here.”

Drew Beattie was in the class of Fellows who received their Rome Prizes from (then First Lady) Hillary Rodham Clinton in an April 1994 ceremony in the East Room of the White House, in honor of the centenary of the AAR. On his return from Rome, Beattie served on the SOF Council quite actively from 1998 to 2002. One of the major initiatives he helped organize was a day of studio visits to artist Fellows and Residents in New York City.

Drew Beattie holds the post of Lecturer at Harvard University in its Department of Visual and Environmental Studies, where he teaches courses such as “Drawing Mind and Matter” and “Painting Post 2000”. He continues to live and work primarily in New York.

Outgoing SOF President Corey Brennan praised Beattie as “genuinely inspiring—as an artist, a person, a leader. We have at the moment a really gifted Council, and so I would bet that Drew Beattie and this team will take the SOF’s program for the rest of 2009 to the proverbial next level.”

A native of Atlanta, Beattie received his MFA from the School of the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and Tufts University. He also attended the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture. Working independently or in a collaborative team with Daniel Davidson FAAR’95 (1989–1998), Beattie’s paintings and drawings “look for meaning through hybridized fusions of imagery and abstraction”.

In addition to his Rome Prize, Beattie has received studio grants from PS1 and the Marie Walsh Sharpe Art Foundation, and the Eureka Fellowship in painting from the Fleishhacker Foundation, San Francisco. His work has been featured in numerous solo and group exhibitions on the East and West coasts. Collections include the Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego, San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, and the Achenbach Foundation for Graphic Arts, San Francisco.

BeattieGroup2At the 2009 Rome Prize ceremony (Metropolitan Club NYC 16 April), from left: Drew Beattie FAAR’95, AAR Trustee Mary Margaret Jones FAAR’98, SOF President Emerita Pamela Keech FAAR’82, Myrna Davis, SOF Council Vice-President Paul Davis FAAR’98

The SOF Weblog offers its warmest congratulations to Drew Beattie on his appointment to this crucial post. Read further for a look at the SOF Council as of 21 May 2009… (more…)

A 2009 C.O.L.A. Visual Art Award (and Individual Artists Exhibit) for Maureen Selwood FAAR’03

May 14, 2009

The City of Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs has awarded its peer-reviewed 2009 City of Los Angeles (C.O.L.A.) Individual Artist Fellowships to fifteen exemplary mid-career artists.

Among them—one of nine in the visual arts—is Maureen Selwood FAAR’03.

Selwood_COLAMaureen Selwood. Credit: Monica Nouwens

Los Angeles is one of a handful of municipalities honoring local artists with grant contracts (in this case, worth $10,000) to create and present new works for the public.

The C.O.L.A. Visual Arts Exhibition runs from Thursday 14 May to Sunday 12 July at LA’s Municipal Art Gallery. The reception is Sunday 17 May from 2 to 5 pm.  Conversation with the artist is Saturday 27 June.


Maureen Selwood’s project? As You Desire Me (Come Yu Mi Voi), an installation in four parts inspired by her residence at the American Academy in Rome as a Visual Arts Fellow in 02/03. The music and sound design is by Anna Oxygen.

Selwood tells the SOF Weblog, “The footage was filmed inside and outside Rome.  I studied the city the same way I had constructed an earlier work, Mistaken Identity [2001, film, 28 min.] (about Los Angeles), but this time decided to work with ideas of dislocation, grief and loss as time based poems.”

I-Am-MeasureingFrom I  Am Measuring You. 60” by 45”. Digital projection on hanging scrim

A_SHOE_FALLS-From A Shoe Falls. 60” by 45”. Digital projection on hanging scrim

Selwood continues, “Empire of Dreams is based upon Charles Simic’s poem of the same title.”

Empire-of-Dreams_03From Empire of Dreams. 60” by 45”. Digital projection on hanging scrim

There’s more. (more…)

NYC photo exhibit explores architectural work at the pre-WWII American Academy in Rome

May 8, 2009

PiazzaDelPopoloPiazza del Popolo and the Pincio Gardens, Rome. Aerial Perspective. Ernest F. Lewis FAAR’11

Now on display at the New York offices (7 East 60th Street) of the AAR: “An Exhibition of Architectural Drawings by the Fellows of the American Academy in Rome, 1910-1935”.

The show is curated by Fikret K. Yegül, RAAR ’98 (Professor, History of Architecture/Classical Archaeology, University of California, Santa Barbara) and John Pinto, FAAR ’75, RAAR ’06 (The Howard Crosby Butler Professor of Architectural History, Princeton University).

Pinto and Yegül have selected 50 photographs of architectural drawings, representing the works of some twenty AAR Fellows between ca. 1910-1935; the exhibition opened on 16 April, and will run through the summer months. Viewing is by appointment; contact Barbara Alton at 212.751.7200 ext. 23 or email her at The Academy’s website ( will soon host a full virtual exhibit of the show’s extraordinary material. And the forthcoming late May issue of the SOF News features an extensive piece on the project and show.

Lindos2Acropolis at Lindos. Restoration. Cecil C. Briggs FAAR’31

“The first exhibition of the fellows in architecture,” writes Fikret Yegül in the catalogue to this photographic show, “took place at the American Fine Arts Galleries in New York in 1896, only two years after the founding of the Academy in 1894 as the ‘American School of Architecture in Rome’.”

“In the four decades after that show, between 1897 and the Second World War in 1939, some thirty-one fellows in architecture and half as many in landscape architecture produced several hundred drawings as a part of their fellowship requirement. This ‘prescribed work’ was both archaeological in nature, consisting of measured drawings, restoration studies and full-scale architectural details, and creative design. The latter, called the ‘Collaborative Project’, required the contribution of a team of architects, landscape architects, sculptors and painters.”

“As a group this collection is the largest and most cohesive body of architectural output of its kind produced by American architects. It is comparable in quality and diversity with the best works of the French Prix de Rome winners of the École des Beaux-Arts—a venerable institution the Academy always tried to emulate.”

AtriumVestaeAtrium Vestae, Rome. Restored Section. Edgar I. Williams FAAR’12

“Luckily for us, all work produced by the fellows until 1939 were photographed on 8”x10” glass plates and kept at the Academy Library (now given as archival material to the Fototeca)….Quite apart from their historical and educational significance, they are visually and artistically engaging and exciting. Unbroken over nearly four decades, they represent a continuum and process of American thinking about architecture.”

Essential reading on all this: Fikret Yegül’s masterly book Gentlemen of Instinct and Breeding: Architecture at the American Academy in Rome, 1894-1940 (Oxford University Press, 1991).


Poet Craig Arnold FAAR’06 missing on Japanese island during volcano hike

May 1, 2009


Craig Arnold FAAR’06 is currently missing on Kuchinoerabu-jima, a small island in the northern Ryukyu Islands of southern Japan, just west of Yakushima. For more than a week, teams searched on both land and from the air for this award-winning  poet and University of Wyoming professor who failed to return from a hike to a volcano on Monday 27 April. Arnold was doing research for a poetry and essay book on volcanoes. Though the search now has been scaled down, a small US-based team was reported to be finding new clues on Wednesday 6 May.

For the details, and how you can help, the Poetry Foundation blog provides the fullest account. The Facebook group “Find Craig Arnold“, the only site associated with Arnold’s family, has gathered over 3000 members since its launch, and provides up to the minute news of the rescue mission. Most recently (8 May) it reports “his trail indicates that after sustaining a leg injury, Craig fell from a very high and very dangerous cliff and there is virtually no possibility that Craig could have survived that fall.”

From the e-verse radio webpage—just one of hundreds of news and media outlets reporting on this developing  story…

“Craig Arnold is an American poet, the author of Shells, chosen by W.S. Merwin for the Yale Series of Young Poets in 1999, and of Made Flesh (Ausable, 2008). His poetry has been anthologized in several volumes of the Best American Poetry series, and his poems, articles, and translations from the Spanish have appeared in such publications as The New Republic, Paris Review, Poetry, Yale Review, Denver Quarterly, Gulf Coast, Quarterly West, and many more.”

“He is the recipient of numerous prestigious awards and honors, including a Fulbright Fellowship, the Joseph Brodsky Rome Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Alfred Hodder Fellowship in Humanities from Princeton University, an Amy Lowell Poetry Traveling Scholarship, and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.”

“Dr. Arnold did his B.A. at Yale University and received his Ph.D. from the University of Utah. He is presently an Assistant Professor at the University of Wyoming. Craig is currently in Japan with the U.S.-Japan Friendship Commission’s U.S.-Japan Creative Artists Exchange Fellowship and has been missing since April 26th (evening Monday April 27th Japanese time).”

“The Japanese authorities have been extremely professional and their efforts to find Craig have been truly admirable. They are working hard and doing all they can. Our primary concern and need right now is for the U.S. and Japanese governments to work together to step-up and extend the search for Craig; we must not stop looking until Craig is found.”

“So far, the efforts and support we have received from the Congresspeople and Senators who have been contacted, the University of Wyoming where Craig teaches, and the officials associated with the search has been encouraging. We thank them, with deepest respect and gratitude for their time and efforts so far, and are immensely grateful for their continuing help and support.”

The thoughts and prayers of the American Academy in Rome and its Society of Fellows are with Craig Arnold and his family at this enormously difficult time.

kuchinoerabu-jima_japanKuchinoerabu-jima. Credit: Google Maps