A continuation in our series of Letters from the Board. This month: Mike Wenger who joined the Board in 2014 and is serving his second term.
La Romita Letters – February 2020
from Mike Wenger
How shall I follow Ben’s lovely, informative reminiscence of La Romita? My experience at La Romita pales in comparison. He’s lived there on and off for over 50 years and has seen the school grow from an idea to the vibrant flow of artists it has become. I’ve only been there once for a few weeks. Yet, perhaps this gives me a perspective that more closely parallels what students feel when they come.
Like many of the artists who come to La Romita, I have traveled Italy a lot for both business and pleasure. I have been to many of the great cities and the small towns. I’ve stayed in grand hotels, country villas, and more humble agro-tourism homes. I love the sites, the food, the people, the art. I always feel rejuvenated after some time in Italy. So what made my time at La Romita something special?
Mike Wenger in the Cortile at La Romita
I am at a loss to easily express the answer. English has no word that captures all the nuance of the German word gemütlichkeit or the Scandinavian concept hygge. These words bring to mind “snug,” “warm,” “cozy,” “sheltered” . . . a sense of well-being. A mood of relaxing with good friends or family. A sense of “home.” A place that is warm, welcoming, and safe.
For me, La Romita was gemütlich.
La Romita was a place where, after an outing, I gathered with my friends and new “family” to share stories of the treasures of the day. Sometimes the outings were to nearby mountain towns, sometimes for a hike, sometimes to museums, and sometimes just sitting in the gardens of La Romita. Let me share some of the treasures I recall.
The amazing Roman Theater in Spoleto where we were the only visitors. So different from the tourist-heavy Roman ruins I’ve seen so many times.
The Rocco Maggiore in Assisi in low sun showing the impact of light and shadow
The Ponte delle Torre (also in Spoleto) is the vivid example that comes to my mind when I think the generations of history built on Roman foundations.
Walking up the trail beside the Cascata delle Marmore, experiencing the difference between the relaxed flow of “off” and the raging torrent of “on,” and again being astounded by Roman engineering.
The beautiful cloister garden around the other side of the chapel/studio at La Romita where I sat in the quiet to simply soak in the peace. All of these experiences, and more, live in my memory.
Of course Umbria is a lovely place and La Romita exudes the charm of a medieval Capuchin convent. But I would never have known how to experience it so well without the gentle guidance of the La Romita staff to suggest the right places to go, the right time to be there, and where to focus. Whether it was the best vista or the best example of architecture or the best paintings in the museum or even the best gelato — my La Romita family gave me the “insider’s edge.”
I invite you to share this experience: gathering with friends in the warmth of La Romita over an evening meal and a glass of Umbrian wine to chat good-naturedly about the art you’ve experienced and created that day and the art you will experience and create the next.