Sustainable winter garden update

Although the temps are getting below zero at night our sustainable garden is still thriving, with hearty plants and the help of our greenhouse and covering plant beds!

With a hard-working team led by our faculty member Bernardo Giorgi, the construction of our greenhouse has been a major development, and we also have coverings for the outside beds to protect the more fragile plants like fennel. 

SARTWENTY-TWENTY- Chapter I: About Irene Lupi

Our intern Aurora is interviewing faculty members at the Siena Art Institute, reflecting on the challenges of 2020 and looking forward to the year ahead. This is the first interview of her series, speaking with our Digital Multimedia instructor, Irene Lupi. Irene Lupi’s work was also recently featured in the Stazione dell’Art Experience:

More information and images of Irene Lupi’s work can be found on her website:


Irene Lupi is an artist born in Livorno, Tuscany, in 1983. She has attended a wide range of different art schools, including in her curriculum also the Spanish Facultad de Bellas Artes and the Italian Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence. 

Through her professional journey, she has won many prizes (including two first places in two different TU35 -new kinds of art in Tuscany- contests) and has also done various projects and workshops; all those steps led her to the role of the Digital Multimedia instructor at SART, where she is currently working.


Irene’s first contact with SART was several years ago, when she received a scholarship to participate in the Above/Below Project led by Project Fellowship artists Mark Dion and Amy Yoes in 2013.  This experience gave her the chance to talk to and engage with other artists and teachers and also with insiders: getting in touch with such a wide range of people is always a good opportunity for a young artist, to enter definitively in the cosmos of real art; and she also said that SART is truly a nest in whose warmth young artists and teachers could grow and learn from each other.

Now that Irene has become completely immersed in the Siena Art Institute, she is developing some of her own ideas and recently she has been working on some projects involving marginalised communities and also working on projects fed by her own ideas. These projects are based on residencies: an artist-in-residence has to develop a project and thus goes to a residency program located at the site where the project will take place; having some difficulties with funding and time during this pretty unbearable year, Irene decided to call the artists and then, having their input, to independently develop the topic step by step.

Let’s talk about some of them!

TWO LATE – artistic incursions into the margins of Siena

One of the projects that Irene has led through 2020 but that had to be put on hold because of coronavirus was one involving people in the Casa Circondariale di Siena, which is Siena’s prison. 

Giacomo Casprini was the artist invited for this project, which consisted in prompting prisoners to create memories by the use of clay, and through those memories reach their own catharsis.

This experience would have ended with an art installation inside the prison and also with a series of itinerant installations, located and managed by those prisoners who are allowed to exit for a short period of time… if covid, as previously said, had not hit planet Earth.

Per fare un albero… – a videoart project for young people

Another important project Irene has led is one involving some teenagers from Abbadia San Salvatore, who are considered “geographically problematic”, because Abbadia is a quite marginalised town, being not so far from Siena but, at the same time, deeply detached from it and from what we could call “city life” (in fact, Abbadia San Salvatore is located on Mount Amiata).

Irene described this project as a “talk”: she has gone there with some other people making a sort of after-school program helping these teens and trying to create a sculpture together with them; but even this badengo project was abruptly stopped by the dreadful covid.

These initiatives have been motivated by the strong commitment of SART to work within  challenging and marginalised situations, like those of prisoners, young but socially forgotten people or old people, trying to fill expressive spaces and creating educational modules (or, as Irene says, “modules made by listening and dialogue.”)

Furthermore, another leading topic, developed and followed by Irene like some of Ariadne’s thread, is that of memory and remembrance: to decode and materialize a memory has supreme importance for her, and it is one of the main reasons why she decided to entirely devote herself to another personal project.

Artwork by Irene Lupi. Image credit Leonardo Moretti


The personal project in which Irene is still immersed focuses on memory -and it is the source of its name, “Memorabilia,” from a Latin word meaning “things that have to be remembered.” The main topic of this gargantuan work is the tragedy that happened in Sant’Anna di Stazzema, a hamlet of Stazzema, a town near Lucca, located in Tuscany, during World War II. There, some Nazi soldiers, along with many fascists, killed 570 people, who were evacuees hiding in Sant’Anna of Stazzema. The reason why this tremendous slaughter was perpetrated is not yet known (investigations into this event began only in 1994, and the real reasons are not yet clear; scholars believe there may be a link between partisans and the mountainous area, and also believe that Nazis wanted to kill those people who helped partisans, but it is still uncertain.)

Irene is collaborating with a center in Stuttgart, the city from where the killing order came from, and she works directly with the survivors, who are just a few.  She says that it is very difficult to deal with such a situation, because this is a “B series disaster” and also because people are not usually eager to talk extensively about the tornado that turned their lives upside-down when they were just kids. For instance, the son of Enrico Pieri, one of the victims, has never told anything to his son, who learned about this tragedy only a few years ago. 

Irene is currently working to draw and write a graphic novel, and also to embroider linen cloth with the faces of the survivors with hair (especially Irene’s own hair and also some hair of other people that accepted to contribute to this project). Irene chose to sew with hair because, “hair is a memory container, also because it contains our DNA, and, so, it maintains not only what we are now, but what we have been. It is a perfect tool to objectify memory,” and this peculiar technique also “recalls the ancient art of embroidery, linking us to what we were years ago and to people living centuries ago.” It can seem difficult to understand, but just think about the Rick and Morty episode in which Rick transfers the muscle memory of an arm coming from a dead warrior to one of Morty’s arms and it begins to act as it remembers the previous battles in which it was involved and its previous owner: it’s the same thing, and it’s cleverly marvellous.

But… how does Irene do this work?

With patience and precision, she makes the hair pass through the eye of a silk needle, recommended to her by the Lupa Contrada’s bandieraie (flag-women).

Artwork by Irene Lupi. Image credit Leonardo Moretti

Connecting old and new generations through a sort of fil rouge that connects the past to the present, making the younger generations aware and also making them understand that what they have learned must also be brought into the future: those are the main topics developed with love and soul by this majestic artist. 

This is Irene Lupi.

Fall 2020 Show

Click the thumbnail below to view the recording of our Dec 5th live broadcast of our students’ exhibition launch for our Fall 2020 Show!

⬇Click the sections below to explore the projects created within our various courses ⬇

On occasion of the AMACI Day of Contemporary Culture #GiornataDelContemporaneo we are proud to showcase the artworks created by our intrepid young artists at the Siena Art Institute during the very unusual circumstances of the Fall 2020 semester:

Tana LaKale (Spain) – Fivos Chalkiopoulos (Greece) – Vasilina Papadimitropoulou (Greece)

Amidst the Covid-19 pandemic, our students have turned limitation into opportunity. They have tenaciously and creatively pursued their artistic projects, including work from our courses in Creative Writing, Digital Multimedia, Photography, and the interdisciplinary course Art & Society.

The slideshows below offer a glimpse into our activities with teachers & students throughout the Fall 2020 semester. Our Fall 2020 students arrived in early September and were able to explore Siena and the surrounding territory in group activities until the increased restrictions required students to work separately in their individual studios in the second half of the semester.

At the start of the semester we had an excursion to San Gimignano, exploring the historic city center and the exhibitions of contemporary art at Galleria Continua.

Guided walks in Siena’s historic center included the contemporary interventions of the Tempo Zulu project, led by instructor Bernardo Giorgi.

We visited the Fonte delle Monache, the Sator Print studio, the museum of the Tartuca Contrada, the Fisiocritici Museum, the Briganti Library, and the museum of Santa Maria della Scala.

Students participated in the EternoPresente project at the Pinacoteca Museum, together with poet-in-residence Donna Stoneciper and the young musicians of the Franci Academy.

In October a mid-term group critique offered students input on their work underway.

As restrictions increased in the second half of the semester, students were able to focus on their individual studio projects at the Siena Art Institute.

The Siena Art Institute’s Fall 2020 Greek students are supported through the SNF-SART scholarships thanks to the collaboration of the Stavros-Niarchos Foundation.


⬇Click the sections below to explore the students’ projects created within our Fall 2020 courses ⬇

Preparations for End-of-Semester Exhibit, Launching Online Dec 5

Preparations are ongoing for our end-of-semester projects at the Siena Art Institute, looking forward to our End-of-Semester Exhibit, launching online Dec 5th 2020 here at, together with our students’ live broadcast on the Siena Art Institute‘s FB page at 6pm Siena/noon NYC sharing highlights of the show!

Our Fall 2020 Show will feature our students’ interdisciplinary projects, creative writing, photography, digital multimedia and more!

Our students have been absolute champions, working with energy and creativity despite challenging pandemic restrictions. We can’t wait to share their impressive work with you.

On occasion of the AMACI – Associazione dei Musei d’Arte Contemporanea Italiani Day of Contemporary Culture #GiornataDelContemporaneo

The participation of our Greek students during the Fall 2020 semester is thanks to the collaboration of the Stavros-Niarchos Foundation in supporting our SNF-SART scholarships.


Fall 2020 end-of-semester projects underway

Our students are making progress on end-of-semester projects at the Siena Art Institute, lots of exciting work is underway!

For more info about our current participants’ work within the Art & Society course, visit their individual pages:

The participation of our Greek students during the Fall 2020 semester is thanks to the collaboration of the Stavros-Niarchos Foundation in supporting our SNF-SART scholarships.


Exciting developments in our garden!

There are lots of exciting developments in our garden, including new crops of winter vegetables, setting up a “greenhouse”, clearing and planting new spaces, and much more!

Here is a selection of some recent snapshots to give you a glimpse of some of the work underway. 

Under the guidance of faculty member Bernardo Giorgi, and thanks to the help of our community collaborators, we are following permaculture approaches to sustainable agriculture. 

You can find more information about the sustainability initiatives of our partner program, the Siena School for Liberal Arts at this link:

Studio work and advising

Studio advising with our Digital Multimedia teacher Irene Lupi, speaking with our students about their current work-in-progress.

For more info about our current participants’ work within the Art & Society course, visit their individual pages:

The participation of our Greek students during the Fall 2020 semester is thanks to the collaboration of the Stavros-Niarchos Foundation in supporting our SNF-SART scholarships.


Laboratorio a Villa Brandi #EternoPresente

(Testo in Italiano sotto) On Oct 17th the Siena Art Institute organized a story-telling workshop for children in collaboration with the Pinacoteca Nazionale Museum of Siena. The kids were captivated in an experience of narrating images searching for details at Villa Brandi and the surrounding garden, telling the history of the villa and the experience of the visit.

Our intern Aurora shares her experience in the post below (the photographs were made by the children during the workshop).


Il 17 ottobre 2020 il Siena Art Institute ha organizzato un laboratorio di “Storytelling” per bambini in collaborazione con la Pinacoteca Nazionale di Siena all’interno del progetto “Eterno Presente”.
I ragazzi si sono cimentati in un’esperienza di narrazione per immagini alla ricerca di particolari di Villa Brandi e del giardino che raccontassero la storia della villa e l’esperienza della visita.

La nostra tirocinante Aurora racconta l’esperienza nel suo post (Le immagini sono state scattate dai bambini durante il laboratorio):

October 17th, a Saturday morning, the fog was so thick it could be cut with a butter knife, and it embraced Busseto Street winding its way up to the height of Villa Brandi, covering everything with a cold and impalpable blanket.

Since my childhood, I’ve never loved fog: I perceived it as something unusual, something odd that sparked my curiosity; but the feeling of being totally blind, that feeling which grew having dived into that grey blanket, shot inside my veins an odd and annoying sensation of anxiety. I’ve always thought that there is something quite frustrating only being able to see what’s immediately in front of you; and I guess it was the same sensation felt by all the children who came to Villa Brandi with their parents that morning. At the beginning, they were as disorientated as me but, at the same time, they were also full of that childish sparkling and vital curiosity. Becoming a kid again, I entered with them into a microcosm made of art and nature, isolated from the city but also just steps away from it, like an absurd character jumping from one of Mirò’s canvases into Monet’s water-lilies.

After a brief guided tour through the mansion, where children felt part of the environment they would explore a few moments later, the Siena Art Institute’s instructors Jeff Shapiro and Jackie Tune skillfully created their own new dimension inside an ex-wine vault, a room where they cozily welcomed the little audience. From the adults’ world, gathered in a distancing circle outside the room, talking about DPCMs, coronavirus and adults’ topics, the cittini dove into a universe of storytelling and fun, animated by short and interesting videos explained by Jeff and Jackie, showing them various points of view: 

  • an eagle whose wings are cleaving clouds.
  • two snails embracing and cuddling each other.
  • Tom and Jerry, seeming to be the main characters of our reality until they run behind a skyscraper that’s actually a shy chair.

One of the best tactics to draw children into an oniric world and make them feel interested is creating atmosphere while introducing an activity: their tiny, constantly-evolving minds feed on dreams. The signs of fulfilling this purpose are the light sparkling in their eyes, the interest with which they answer various kinds of questions -also easy ones- and their effort finding the correct words exploring their almost empty lexicon.

“They’re nim… min… minuscule!” said with a very tiny voice a little girl pointing at two little ladybugs in a video.

After Jeff and Jackie’s basic explanations about storytelling, the next step was to explore every single corner of Villa Brandi, looking for shootable foreshortening, as they were telling lots of stories.

Becoming a kid again, all my body was scoured by an incredible itching as I thought to throw off my bag and my dad’s adult-like denim jacket to enjoy the adventure of the others and discover what I would find out; and so helping Samuel, a very curious and cute adventurer, was sooo amazing. We became cats and then beetles, haunting the fastest lizards of the mansion; then we changed by morphing into feathery magpies attracted by sparkling fragments of glass and by the dew on the grass; we looked into the darkness inside wells and crevices, the blinding sunlight beyond the leaves of a tree and also the shadow spots beneath a pergola; we also found out that a furrow on the ground could be as interesting as a snail’s shell rooted on a wall kissed by rays of sunlight.

Play, nature, art: three key ingredients composing the recipe for narrating a charming story, perfect for the amusement of children and adults and also able to create a non-stop exchange between those two worlds, everlastingly linked to each other like a rainbow-scaled ouroboros; but two worlds which are often forced to be divided.

How many times have you heard these words: “You can’t do it, you’re too young!”

So, thinking back to my childhood, I’ve finally realized that, when they told me that, it would have been better if I answered back in this way, “Ah-ah! You can’t do what I’m doing right now anymore, ‘cause you’re too old!”

Aurora Angiolini


Hi! My name is Aurora. My Contrada is the Istrice and, obviously, I’m from Siena. I was born here, in this breathtaking medieval city, and I’ve also decided to attend university in Siena: I’m studying at the University for Foreigners of Siena, where my studies include English, Chinese and other courses about the history and structure of languages, but also History, Art History, Geography, etc.

I really love every kind of art, especially painting, writing and also cinema (I draw and paint on canvas and silk in my spare time; I also love writing -I have some work-in-progress), and this is the reason why I chose to do my internship here at SART!

#EternoPresente #Mibact #direzionemuseitoscana #museitaliani #ItalianMuseum #visittuscany #regionetoscana #pinacotecanazionalesiena