While in the states, we try and visit with past and future La Romita participants whenever we can. This winter, Ben and Enza went to Colorado to meet with our Rocky Mountain friends and participants with instructor Arlene Krogstad, who will be leading the workshop “Excursions in Art”  in August. I went to a gathering here in the San Francisco area at the home of Carol and Ed Maddox (“Painting Umbrian Hill Towns” in late June) and then last week went down to Phoenix to give a presentation at the Shemer Arts Center with instructor Julie Pollard (“Brilliant Color: Plein Air to Studio” in early June).

Carol and Ed are quite a team, as anyone who has been to one of Carol’s workshops will testify. She is a scrupulous and talented teacher and accomplished artist…(she won the American Watercolor Society (AWS) Gold Medal of Honor at their 137th Annual International Exhibition in New York…along with countless other awards). Ed adds something special to her programs with his humor and leadership (He’s a retired Army Colonel). He is great at the appreciation of the finer points of Italian culture, from language and art to specialty foods and wines. About thirty people gathered to see slides and talk about old and new times together in Italy…and sample from Ed’s cellar. It was a warm and interesting afternoon …and productive. Twelve people signed up!

Phoenix was another wonderful experience for me. Julie and her assistant, artist Diane Scholar were perfect hosts, showing me around that impressive, sprawling desert community. Again about thirty people came to a talk I gave about the serendipitous events that occur when one enters the Italian culture through the La Romita experience. The slides included La Romita and the hill towns, but focused more on the art treasures that abound in Umbria. Some of the most formative artistic experiments that led to the Renaissance are manifest on the walls of the Basilica in Assisi, artists drawn to the natural beauty of the area and the remarkably humanistic ideals of Italy’s patron Saint Francis, while members of the Umbrian School of the High Renaissance, including Perugino, Pinturicchio, and especially Raphael, have left their marks in museums and churches throughout the area. The serendipity comes into play partially because Enza and Paola Quargnali set up this program almost fifty years ago to feature these amazing locations for painters, but also because the ideals shared by artists and by all people who appreciate art and culture are to some extent kinetic. These ideals get us up and send us off on quests…quests to find our own language, our own voice, our own visions.

I guess what I’m trying to say is that La Romita was itself built, stone by stone five hundred years ago by people who were following the paths of the searchers who came before them. They built beautiful spaces and then decorated them with beautiful art. For the last fifty years, thousands of artists have found a starting point at La Romita…and perhaps found paths they’d never imagined on their own artistic journeys…paths that are unique and new, but paths that can be guided by and inspired by those who have come before us.

In closing my little message, I want to quote a thank you note from Julie Pollard: “Again – thanks so much for flying to Phoenix to give us a La Romita presentation. …if it’s possible for us to be any more enthusiastic about our trip to Umbria than we already were, we are!”

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