Online artist’s talk with Vassiliki Spachou March 16th

Our series of StARTers online talks continues: Tuesday March 16th we will be speaking with Greek dance artist and educator Vassiliki Spachou, one of our current artists-in-residence at the Siena Art Institute.

Visit her residency profile page and her website for more information about her

On every Tuesday for the month of March 2021, we are exploring the themes of accessibility and inclusion through art and design, speaking with international practitioners through a live broadcast, streaming on the Siena Art Institute’s Facebook page and YouTube channel at 6pm Siena / 7pm Athens/ noon NYC or use this time zone converter to know what time it will be where in you are:

The work of the Siena Art Institute’s Greek resident artists’ is co-sponsored by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

StARTers Live with Fotis Flevotomos, March 9th

Greek resident artist Fotis Flevotomos led an online talk on Tuesday March 9th, part of the Siena Art Institute’s March 2021 series of StARTers LIVE broadcasts exploring the themes of accessibility and inclusion in art and design.

On every Tuesday for the month of March 2021, we are exploring the themes of accessibility and inclusion through art and design, speaking with international practitioners through a live broadcast, streaming on the Siena Art Institute’s Facebook page and YouTube channel at 6pm Siena / 7pm Athens/ noon NYC or use this time zone converter to know what time it will be where in you are:

In his own words:

The Truth and Resourcefulness of a Limitation

Until quite recently a vast number of people in the art world would assume that a visual disorder is generally a barrier for making or experiencing art. To argue against that and imply some sort of originality and resourcefulness in a visual limitation would probably sound eccentric. Bertrand Russell, the great British polymath and philosopher, has stated however that “every opinion now accepted was once eccentric.”

A quick look at the way museums are now dealing with the so-called access programs would suffice to prove that Russell is right. A number of multisensory approaches to art is being taken more seriously and hybrid programs that combine music, dance, technology and community engagement have revealed a whole new set of possibilities.

During this short talk I will try to give some examples of my work with artists and curators in the field of museum access practices and will attempt to explain how low vision has helped me to more confidently explore the connections between art and ability.

For more information: visit the residency profile page of Fotis Flevotomos

The work of the Siena Art Institute’s Greek resident artists’ is co-sponsored by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.

Pamela Lawton StARTers LIVE March 2nd

On every Tuesday for the month of March 2021, we are exploring the themes of accessibility and inclusion through art and design, speaking with international practitioners through a live broadcast, streaming on the Siena Art Institute’s Facebook page and YouTube channel at 6pm Siena / noon NYC or use this time zone converter to know what time it will be where in you are:  

Pamela Lawton’s 2019-20 Fulbright U.S. Scholar Grant was hosted by the Siena Art Institute. During her tenure here she made art while forging new connections between her own creative process, her engagement with museums, and the city of Siena. During the Fall 2019 semester, in addition to art-making in response to the medieval built environment, she engaged through research and teaching with the community of people with low or no vision and/or hearing loss and the art and educational institutions that serve them in our region of Tuscany as well as in Athens, Greece.

Pamela Lawton’s multi-paneled paintings reflect the height of the World Trade Center, the cacophony of Times Square, and the rhythm of the Indian Ocean, all places where she has made art with zeal. Inspired by her students, she shares public art-making practices with them, including in the galleries of the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Met), on the streets of New York while teaching for Eugene Lang College, and in places such as Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Corciano, Italy, the latter while teaching undergraduate and graduate students for American University.

Pamela Lawton has exhibited in galleries and museums locally and internationally, including solo exhibitions at the Galeria Nacional in San Jose, Costa Rica, The Conde Nast Building, NY, 180 Maiden Lane, NY, The Atrium Gallery, NY, and the Galeria Isabel Ignacio in Seville, Spain. Group exhibitions in NYC include Pierogi Gallery, Sideshow Gallery, and Tibor De Nagy Gallery; also, The Artists’ Museum, Lodz, Poland, and the Emmanuel Heller Gallery, Tel Aviv. Lawton is an Artist-in-Residence (AIR) at Chashama, NYC, and was an AIR at the World Trade Center through the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council. Collaborations with poets and authors include “Genet at Metray”, Dennis Moritz (United Artist Books, 2018), Sweet-voiced [mutilated] Papyrus, Anne Waldman (Spyuyten Duyvil Press, 2015), “Walking After Midnight”, Bill Kushner (Spuyten Duyvil Press,2011), and “A Place In the Sun” (Spuyten Duyvil Press, 2010), Lewis Warsh. Her work is in collections in the US and abroad. Interviews featuring her exhibitions have been featured on NY1 News, and the BBC.

Pamela Lawton received a BA from Bennington College in visual arts and an MFA from the City College of NY and Scuola Lorenzo De Medici in Florence, Italy. While a faculty member at Eugene Lang College, New School University, she created a study- abroad art program in Sri Lanka. She has been teaching at the Met for more than ten years.

For more info:

Some images of Pamela Lawton’s recent artwork:

News posts about Pamela Lawton’s previous activities at the Siena Art Institute: 

StARTers Online Artists Talks, Every Tuesday in March

StARTers: Assaggi d’Arte (Tastes of Art): *testo in italiano sotto*

On every Tuesday for the month of March 2021, we are exploring the themes of accessibility and inclusion through art and design, speaking with international practitioners through a live broadcast, streaming on the Siena Art Institute’s Facebook page and YouTube channel at 6pm Siena / noon NYC or use this time zone converter to know what time it will be where in you are:  

Tuesday March 2nd: Pamela Lawton (USA) – in English

Tuesday March 9th: Fotis Flevotomos (Greece) – in English

Tuesday March 16th: Vassiliki Spachou (Greece) – in English

Tuesday March 23rd: Elena Aparicio (Spain) – in Italian

Tuesday March 30th: Tom Bieling (Germany) – in English

These online events are part of our ongoing series “StARTers LIVE,” conversations with artists, writers, and creative professionals of international repute explores art as an inventive process, meeting of experiences, a tool for change. 

For more information on our activities please contact us:


StARTers: Assaggi d’Arte: 

Ogni martedì nel il mese di marzo 2021, stiamo esplorando i temi dell’accessibilità e dell’inclusione attraverso l’arte e il design, parlando con professionisti internazionali attraverso una trasmissione in diretta, in streaming sulla pagina Facebook del Siena Art Institute  e sul canale YouTube alle 18:00 Siena / mezzogiorno NYC .

martedì 2 marzoPamela Lawton (USA) – in inglese

martedì 9 marzoFotis Flevotomos (GR) – in inglese

martedì 16 marzoVassiliki Spachou (GR) – in inglese

martedì 23 marzoElena Aparicio (SP) – in italiano

martedì 30 marzoTom Bieling (GE) – in inglese

Questi eventi online fanno parte di “StARTers LIVE” una serie di chiacchierate con artisti, scrittori e personalità del mondo della cultura di respiro internazionale racconta l’arte come processo creativo, incontro di esperienze, strumento di cambiamento. 

Per ulteriori informazioni sulle nostre attività:


SARTWENTY-TWENTY- Chapter III: About Franca Marini

Our intern Aurora is interviewing faculty members at the Siena Art Institute, reflecting on the challenges of 2020 and looking forward as we move ahead with 2021. This is the third interview of her series, speaking with our Painting instructor, Franca Marini

Building artistic knowledge

Franca Marini was born in Siena, where she attended the Istituto d’Arte Duccio di Buoninsegna; then she continued her vocational training at the Accademia di Belle Arti in Florence. She is a polyhedric artist (she has made a significant number of art installations, videos and sculptures) but she is well-versed in painting, which is the subject she teaches at the Siena Art Institute. Siena and Tuscany represent the nest where Franca was born and grew up; completing her artistic studies, though, she felt far too enveloped in that nest, so that she suddenly decided to seek new horizons going to San Francisco. This decision was instinctive, guided by a strong will rooted in Franca’s soul: to work as a professional artist. These American years, spent in San Francisco and then in New York City, helped Franca gain perspective and experience which has given her renewed appreciation of her home city.

Franca Marini: Interior Landscape 11, 1994, oil on canvas, 51×69 inch / 178×132 cm

Franca’s experience with SART

Having returned to Italy after more than a decade, Franca started collaborating with the Siena Art Institute, which has given her the chance to remain in contact with many international artists through various initiatives organized and managed by SART, including the Brandeis-in-Siena summer program, StARTers and SART’s residency programs:

– Franca is one of the lead professors for the Brandeis-in-Siena summer program, co-organized with SART and Brandeis University, bringing international students to Siena for intensive coursework in Painting and Art History

– Franca leads oil painting coursework not only for SART’s international study-abroad students but also City Arts workshops open to the local community

– Franca follows StARTers, an ongoing series of artists talks at SART, which has continued in an online format during the covid19 pandemic, conversations with guest speakers from around the world about creative approaches, seeking inspiration, and overcoming challenges in work as professional artists, writers, designers, architects, etc.

SART’s residency programs which began in 2011 have given Franca the chance to be in contact with many international artists and writers who come as guests of SART for month-long residencies throughout the year to pursue their artistic research.

 Franca likes to highlight, “the great contribution of SART over the years in bringing contemporary art to Siena and its local community through both the residencies and StARTers, the latter open to the public and free of charge.”

These are only some of the various projects held by this institution, and they are majestically carried on by the Director Miriam Grottanelli De Santi, whose merits Franca praises.

The Siena Art Institute, where Franca has been working since 2009, “is a very complex and multifaceted artistic institution which does not behave as an elitist and self-sustaining international reality which remains clammed up, but, on the contrary, which is permeable to the outside and the territory. As a matter of fact, the collaboration with local institutions and organizations has always been part of SART’s mission, which leads to the realization of projects related to social themes such as marginalization,” as Franca herself says. 

This particular kind of opening could be called interterritorial, because, maintaining a tight connection to the surrounding environment, SART can reach the marginalized. Interterritoriality could be added to internationality, the other important feature we have already quoted above: this dynamic duo makes up the ultimate SART leading feature, that is inclusion.

Franca Marini: Transnational Migration and Immigration,  2018, 2x26x11(h) ft / 8×3,30(h)x22 m

An endless stream: Franca’s journey mixed with the work of SART

Franca’s artistic career has been highly interdisciplinary and international. From her foundations in painting her experimentations led her to the realm of video-making and installation art.

For example, after leaving New York City she realized a video entitled Urban Lines about metropolises closely tied to her experience there. In more recent years she has realized video projects like those shot in the Gaza Strip and in Havana. Franca has also created numerous installations, which make people interact with and experience places, architectures, environments.

One of those art installations is Transnational Migration and Immigration, an immersive and multimedia installation realized in 2018 for the Human Rights Institute at Kean University (New Jersey, USA). Using this work, Franca meant to represent the journey undertaken by those migrants who attempt to cross the Mediterranean sea risking their lives but also their interior journey, which involves various feelings of change and hope. Franca feels to have, as an artist, a responsibility towards the topic of migration, an unprecedented mass event which had its peak between 2015 and 2017 but that is still ongoing. This recent wave of migration is a critically important contemporary phenomenon, which involves issues of human rights which are connected to Franca’s  artistic research.

On the theme of migration Franca has realized not only installations but also videos in collaboration with the migrants she met. Settling in their “arrival country”, migrants become an international part of interterritoriality, and this is the bridge connecting Franca’s artistic activism which aims to bring about social change with SART’s projects and pursuits.

Franca Marini: “On a journey”  was conceived as an integral element of the installation Transnational Migration and Immigration. The video was projected in a loop on a shape made of fabrics specifically created by the artist.

S.O.S. razzismo

Currently, Franca is working on an artistic documentary about racism, commissioned by SOS Razzismo Italia and financed by UNAR (Ufficio Nazionale Antidiscriminazioni Razziali). It won’t be organized as an actual documentary, but it will include some footage taken from the two-days-event Abitare la diversità held at the Officina Creativa dell’Abitare in Montalcino (OCRA). The work will also include testimonies by migrants welcomed in the territory.

These are the connections created to unite people and fight marginalization. And this is Franca Marini.

For more information about Franca’s work, visit her website:

-Aurora Angiolini, intern

SARTWENTY-TWENTY- Chapter II: About Jeff Shapiro

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 second interview of her series, speaking with our Creative Writing instructor, Jeff Shapiro

(Portrait photo of Jeff Shapiro by former student Adam De Serio)


Jeff Shapiro, born in Boston, USA, and living close to Siena since 1991, is a music-lover and a prolific writer. Before coming to Italy, he spent time in England and worked with people trying to overcome issues of domestic violence. He co-authored Prone to Violence, a non-fiction book on the subject. As a journalist, he wrote for the UK version of Cosmopolitan and had pieces published in New Society and the U.S.-based magazine International. More recently, his short stories have appeared in Verso and The Sigh Press.

He has published two novels so far, Renato’s Luck and Secrets of Sant’Angelo. He teaches Creative Writing at Siena School for Liberal Arts and at the Siena Art Institute, along with English Conversation at Siena Art Institute and Università Popolare Senese.


Creative Writing

Jeff came to the Siena Art Institute in a rather odd way: he was singing with the Polifonici Senesi chorus, where he met a student from the Siena Art Institute. Once she learned of Jeff’s work as a writer, she convinced him to come and talk with the director Miriam Grottanelli De Santi who at the time was searching for a Creative Writing teacher…

The mission of putting together the first seminars was a challenge, because Jeff had to face questions of whether writing could be taught and also how. Another delicate point had to do with audience: especially through the first few years, Jeff taught Creative Writing to English-speaking people, and only later did his classes include Italians as well. Interaction with students whose mother tongue is not the same as his has helped him grow, ultimately enhancing creative experimentation.

Over time, Jeff has developed an approach to teaching that focuses on the senses and on the subjectivity of viewpoints. As Jeff himself says, he always tries to “make the music of words resonate with the emotional content of any particular scene”. An example of this approach may be seen in the Creative Writing workshop for children which Siena Art Institute organized in October and held in Villa Brandi, near Siena. Jeff took part, exploring facets of writing with a group of curious and playful kids.

A bridge to the marginalised

Thinking about Siena Art Institute’s outreach to marginalised communities, Jeff recalls the Italian word coscienza and its two meanings: the first is “conscience”, involving the ethical core and so, as Jeff himself says, the use of art as “a way of interacting with everyone, including the privileged and the marginalised alike”; the second meaning is “consciousness,” for art “makes us open our eyes and see.”

This theme has been developing in Jeff’s own mind since his experiences in London, which put him in direct contact with victims of domestic violence, especially children.

Now, as a part of the Siena Art Institute team, Jeff can continue doing this kind of empathetic work, also helped by the settings of this particular school, which is a natural nest of welcome and respect that emphasizes integration, in order to fight the leviathan of marginalisation.


Having published two novels with Harper-Collins and Berkley-Penguins books, two stories set in the warm atmosphere of Tuscany and whose use of language was acclaimed as sensational and astute by some scholars, Jeff is now ready to launch his third novel.

The idea behind it is absolutely majestic: inspired by one of his favourite musical pieces, Mozart’s Don Giovanni, Jeff decided to explore the interpersonal dynamics more deeply. In writing a novel based on Don Giovanni’s musical score, he has tried to render the sounds of specific passages with the almost infinite potential and power of words (as we have already said, Jeff has always loved challenges in writing), while also wondering how sexuality, attitudes and behaviours in society have changed since the time of Mozart’s masterpiece. Ultimately, Jeff chose to transform Don Giovanni into a woman. Indeed, he went so far as to invert the gender of all the characters. Whether publishing houses will decide to publish it or not, no one knows yet, but we will soon see!

Living in Italy has given Jeff a second life. Even if he has continued to live as a “perpetual foreigner,” he now feels that,  “after years and years, maybe the facets come together in a unified whole, and you realize you’ve been enriched by the process.” 

Language and its secrets have been the main friends that have driven Jeff’s lifelong adventure. Having the opportunity to compare various languages, playing with them widely, and also teaching something you perhaps can feel and experience only in your mother tongue – even our thoughts are formulated in our native language –  has proved a never-ending chance for growth during Jeff’s special journey. 

This is the power of words, one of the brightly shining stars filling the Galaxy of Arts.

And this is Jeff Shapiro.

-Aurora Angiolini, intern

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 ⬇