With Nothing To Do But Make Art, Be Inspired, Eat And Have Fun by Kate Stead
As the incredibly lucky result of being awarded a $5,000 fellowship from my university, I travelled to Italy and spent the month of June, 2014, at the artist residency, Ginestrelle Artstudio at Mount Subasio, near Assisi in Umbria.
I had chosen to use the funds for this purpose in order to realize a painting project based on a life-long interest in Saint Francis of Assisi as well as a yearning to experience Italy.
Ginestrelle is named after the native local flower ginestra which was blooming in abundance during the month of June creating great splashes of bright yellow across the otherwise green landscape.
The residency is a renovated sandstone farmhouse and accommodates five-10 artists at a time in exceptionally comfortable and lovely rooms.
I was one of five, the others originating from the United Kingdom, France/Japan, Taiwan and the U.S.A., each with their own projects to pursue, each with their own funny ways in the artists’ kitchen and each with their own delightful personalities.
Dr. Marina Merli owns and manages the residency with a little help from her parents. Dr Merli was educated at the University of Perugia and studied art history, business and tourism and is actively involved with the arts and cultural organisations of both Assisi and Perugia.
Artestudio Ginestrelle is designed to support its residents in every conceivable way from the provision of generous studio space and equipment to the daily offering of nutritious, locally-grown and produced food in a beautifully expansive and peaceful forest setting.
As well, Dr Merli offered a full itinerary of activities that allowed us to experience the natural beauty of the region as well as the many cultural aspects.
The Local Surrounds With Professor Alvaro
We explored the forest and local flora of Mount Subasio with Professor Alvaro – from the Faculty of Environmental Studies, University of Perugia; attended a magnificent choral concert in Assisi; observed the seventieth anniversary of the Liberation of the City of Assisi which celebrated the funeral of the dead soldiers of the Commonwealth buried at the war cemetery of Rivotorto Assisi; and travelled to Perugia for a major art exhibition opening and artist talk – to name just a few of our activities.
For me, the more special experiences were those that evoked the spirit of San Francesco.
A Sunday morning mass in a local mountain church of Santa Maria di Lignano and the 10thC Santuario Madonna della Speranza; a visit to the Eremo delle Carceri (the grotto where St. Francis lived and prayed for some years); and especially the opportunity to sit in meditation at San Damiano church outside Assisi were significant opportunities for me.
San Damiano was the first of a number of churches restored by St. Francis and was where he first heard the voice of God. It was also the site of the first convent of St. Clare and her first few nuns.
There are many, many artists’ residencies all over the world but I can’t compare as this was my one and only (so far) experience.
If you are looking for a residency amidst the hurly burly of city life though, this is not for you, but if you want the perfect balance of independence and collaboration, solitude and companionship, work and play, in a serene forest just a drive from one of the most culturally and spiritually rich places on Earth, then apply here.
A huge bonus for me – the inspiration of Marina who has created something wonderful and offers it with such heart to others; two black cats; and oh yes, the most comfortable bed I have ever slept in.
June is a pretty good month, not too hot, many holy days and flower festivals. At the end of the month, the fireflies come out and create magic.
Leave budget room for a day or two in Florence, which is not far on the train.
Arrive well stocked with art materials – the art supply shops in Assisi aren’t that great.
© Kate Stead 2019
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