International Center for the Arts
Within the International Center for the Arts the new International Studio School is the heart of our program. The Studio School offers multi-level classes in the visual arts as well as opportunities for uninterrupted studio time, a visiting artist/critics series, exhibition opportunities and weekly trips to some of the most compelling cultural sites of Italy. Using the Studio School as our focal point, we also offer satellite programs of an interdisciplinary nature. These include acting as an Study Abroad Provider for institutions, hosting Conferences and Symposia, a long term Residency for artists/writers and scholars and organizing personal development tours and education travel experiences through our Lifelong Learning Program.
Through our diverse, but integrated programs, we celebrate the connection between the art of Italy and the rhythms of daily life, believing that the food, wine, and folk traditions of Italy are inseparable from a full experience of its music, literature and paintings. At the International Center for the Arts at Monte Castello, it is our mission to provide our program participants with a holistic experience of the synergy of these elements and how they come together to form the rich and multi-facetted culture of Italy.
The International Center for The Arts offers programs suited to various interests, levels of experience and timeframes.
Please view the individual pages, by clicking the links above, for your specific program options.
We feel that the greatest asset of our program is the village of Monte Castello itself. Located 34 miles from the exact geographic center of Italy, our facilities are housed in a complex of historic buildings within the walls of this well-preserved Umbrian hill town. Monte Castello is a safe and friendly place with a mild climate and spectacular views. Serene and unassuming, yet connected to nearby towns with shopping facilities, sports centers and local transportation connections, Monte Castello offers the best of many worlds. Its central location provides ready access to major centers such as Florence or Rome and a whole range of smaller cities whose names are no less legendary. These are places with rich histories: Assisi, where St. Francis lived and where Giotto’s work foreshadowed the Renaissance, fashionable Tuscan Arezzo with its masterworks by painter Pierro della Francesa, nearby cities of Perugia and Spoleto, each with world-famous music festivals, the jewel-like striped cathedrals and masterful sculptures of Orvieto and its Tuscan counterpart Sienna and neighboring Todi, once determined to be the “most livable town in the world”.
Thus, through our location, our program is well situated to offer an experience in which participants feel intimately connected to both the past and present cultures of Central Italy. It is thought that the ancient hill-town of Monte Castello di Vibio was built over four eras—Etruscan, Roman, Medieval and Renaissance, and one can see and feel the presence of these past civilizations in wandering its ancient stone streets. Overlooking the lush Tiber River valley, the village looks much as it did 500 years ago––a fortress wall surrounds the town and a tranquil little park sits at one edge. The surrounding landscape is quilted with vineyards, olive groves and sunflower fields, and stitched in with rows of cypresses and umbrella pines. In fact, the surrounding countryside is home to one of the richest areas of farmland in the country, hence the designation for Umbria, as: “the green heart of Italy.” The rich and bountiful harvest from these farms yields equally rich traditions in cooking, olive oil production, and wine and cheese making. Our program participants directly benefit from the bounty of this countryside, with three traditional Umbrian meals prepared each day by our cook Illia from fresh, locally grown ingredients.
Perched on its little mountaintop, Monte Castello is home to about 300 residents, most of whom are descended from generations and generations of Montecastelesi. These local people are directly involved in the day-to-day functioning of the school. The heart-shape of the village is itself a metaphor on many levels, on one hand relating to its central location within Italy. On a less quantifiable level however, one is led to a consideration of the heart as something emotional, even spiritual in nature. Within the embrace of its walls, Monte Castello provides a unique kind of solitude –creating a relaxed and contemplative atmosphere free of distractions. Clarity of thought is fostered in this environment, in which one is surrounded by hills and distant mountains and rewarded by panoramas at every overlook. The imagination is stirred by echoes of the civilizations that have passed through this little village on a mountaintop. There is something deeply genuine about this place and its inhabitants.
Monte Castello is not a tourist-town, there are no busloads passing through eager to take snapshots of monuments. It is a real place in which people continue to live out rich traditions in a picturesque village whose foundations pre-date ancient Rome. It is not unusual to meet farmers on the streets returning from their crops, or families on their way to church to celebrate a wedding or a baptism. At the same time Monte Castello exists in the contemporary world. In the local bar one hears heated political discussions, speculations on the outcome of the World Cup or opinions on the latest European fashions.
It is commonplace to enjoy a morning cappuccino in the central piazza overlooking the magnificent Tiber Valley, standing in silence alongside a shopkeeper or retired craftsman whose life has been spent within these walls. It is also a place to join residents in a festive night of dancing and a bottle of excellent local wine.
Monte Castello is truly a special place. One does not feel intimidated to wander the streets any time of the day or night, to practice a few words of Italian, or connect both with oneself and with the traditions of this magical country
The experience of being in a place that seems to exist outside of time creates an atmosphere that is conducive to growth and learning. Monte Castello lends itself to hard work and rigorous concentration as well as to leisurely conversation and lingering. In fact, this is what is so unique about the culture of Italy––it has a capacity for a seemingly contradictory mix of passionate seriousness combined with an absolute commitment to the joy of invention: a diligence and precision coupled with a simple delight in living, savoring “dolce vita”(sweet life) !
At the International Center for the Arts we hope to reflect this spirit in our programs and services. Our programs are intensive, but they are also fun. Above all, our multifaceted approach is designed to encourage exchange, to initiate dialogue, and to facilitate the sharing of ideas between individuals of different backgrounds, life experiences, and from a multitude of diverse cultures.
Our active studio program functions as epicenter, unifying our diverse activities under the umbrella of a common focus on the arts and culture of Italy. Thus, program participants with a wide range of interests come together: at traditional Italian meals, at exhibitions of artists’ work in our gallery, for presentations, poetry readings and concerts at the charming Teatro Concordia.
At the International Center for the Arts at Monte Castello, the studio practice - indeed, the creative act itself - forms the core of our program. Workshop and excursion participants mix with traditional students or faculty; visiting lecturers, and residents interact with the townspeople who themselves are a mix of farmers and shopkeepers, doctors and physicists, homemakers, retired admirals, musicians and engineers. The lively arts and intellectual community generated in this way contributes to the richness of our programs, and creates a truly Socratic environment, in which one engages in stimulating conversation with artists and scholars as well as professionals from every field in every corner of our lovely village.
A microcosm of urbane life in a peaceful garden like setting, Monte Castello is a perfect example of “civilita”––(civilized life)” ––a way of life historically so important to the Montecastelesi. This affects all of what we do, providing us with the communal vitality that has nurtured classic Italian works of art, literature, architecture and music.
The art of Italy remains continually engaging from generation to generation. It deeply affects our senses, emotions, and thoughts. Perhaps this is why we think of Italian art as classic. We at the International Center for the Arts seek to engage that spirit in all we do. In this, we are inspired by the words of the great Italian writer Italo Calvino, who once wrote of reading the classics: "there is no use in reading classics out of a sense of duty or respect…we should read them only for love." Calvino went on to say that great artworks: “imprint themselves on our imagination as unforgettable" and "each rereading offers as much a sense of discovery." In a similar spirit we invite you to come to our program to experience the arts of Italy, to let them imprint themselves on your imagination, to quench your thirst for discovery – and to do it “…for love.”
Often program participants choose to begin their day early and spend the cool mornings enjoying a walk around the village, having an early visit to their workspace, or enjoying a cappuccino at the Bar Centrale watching the sparrows dart and dive through the mist over the Tiber Valley. Breakfast is served at 8:00 AM and is available until 9:00 AM, and consists of a typical Umbrian (continental) breakfast with organic fruits and juices, with the addition of farm fresh, boiled eggs and proscuitto.
On special occasions, we’ll also have fresh delicious Umbrian pastries from the bakery at the base of our little mountain. Between 9 and 1, after breakfast, participants in the Studio School attend class or work in their private studio space, while participants in the Lifelong Learning Program attend workshops and tours. Faculty and residents begin work in their studio or workspace or meet with their students for morning classes.
Lunch is the big meal of the day in Umbria and we like that. We will enjoy a delicious Umbrian lunch prepared by our cook Illia and her team. When we are not on field trips we have lunch from 1:00 - 2:00 PM in the common room. From 2:00 - 6:00 PM afternoon classes are conducted, while workshops, excursions and/or private studio time continues. In the hours between 6:00 and 8:00 PM, program participants and local people alike gather in the piazza outside of the Bar Centrale for bitters, a coffee, or a glass of wine or prosecco, and join in conversation about the days activities. Its not unusual to see participants in the Studio program painting the view from the piazza, to hear the choir practicing inside the church, or stumble upon one of the many outdoor music performances the town hosts.
From 8:00 - 9:00 PM we have dinner on the terrace followed by an evening talk, slide presentation on a Visiting Artists’ work or a film (as announced). These occur in the common room or in the Teatro Concordia. On Thursday evenings for the Studio School, there will be a special pre-field trip lecture, presented to orient and prepare participants for the next day’s trip, while pre-trip talks for other groups occur as needed. Everyone is welcome to attend these events.
Weekends and Nights:
Fridays are field trip days for all studio participants. Illia’s kitchen is closed for the day. Participants who stay behind or are involved in other programs can eat at La Torracia and enjoy fantastic pizzas from a wood-fired oven or dine under a grape arbor at Grottino Zio di Toto, a wonderful gourmet restaurant and cooking school where Massimo the chef delights everyone with his anecdotes as much as with his elegant cuisine. For the rest of the weekend, students, faculty and residents resume dining as usual and work in their studios uninterrupted, while life long learners follow their itineraries as planned. In these quieter times, one can visit nearby Todi for swimming or shopping via the new community bus service, embark on weekend cultural excursions, join a local cooking class, walk in the countryside, take in a concert or performance at the Teatro Concordia, participate in a yoga or just soak up the serenity of the town. After the sun goes down at 9, the town comes to life as everyone gathers at La Torracia for dancing, live music, gelato and developing friendships. On summer evenings, the quiet village Monte Castello flourishes like the night blooming jasmine that graces its alleyways.