Art Monastery Italia was the pilot site and first major initiative of the U.S.-based Art Monastery Project. AM Italia intended to transform a historic Italian monastery into an international arts production center. As an extended experiment in monastic community, a long-term team of Artmonks operated AM Italia and hosted other artists, volunteers, and interns for short periods of time. The community typically peaked in the summer at around 15-25 members, but throughout the year individuals (whether permanent members or visiting members passing through) became part of the community that was dedicated to investigating monasticism, co-creating art projects, sharing experimental spiritual practices, building artistic skills and technique, living together intentionally, and taking part in daily living chores and activities.
The skills, insights, and methods gleaned from communal living influence both the process and product of the creative life of the Artmonks. As an international arts production house, AM Italia hosted renowned artists from all over the world to develop and incubate original work, collaborated with artists from diverse genres and backgrounds, as well as performed and exhibited work for local and regional audiences. The summer season was devoted primarily to the performing arts, during which the Artmonks performed:
- Contemporary music – Rock, Jazz, Funk (original music as well as interpretations of American and Italian favorites)
- Classical music – Gregorian Chant, Baroque, Medieval
- Theater & dance – devising original work, animating historic sites, celebrating local tradition (e.g. Commedia dell’Arte) while incorporating post-modern techniques and experimental approaches
At other points in the year, AM Italia hosted visual artists and writers, encouraging site-specific installations and thematically appropriate work that was both challenging and relevant to the local community.
AM Italia connected historic tradition and contemporary life, and strove to do so in art products and art making practices, as well as interactions and collaboration with the local community.
Art Monastery Italia began in 2008 via a collaboration with the town of Calvi dell’Umbria in central Italy. In 2010, AM Italia moved to the medieval hill town of Labro, 70 minutes north east of Rome. For three years, the project was hosted by the monastery San Antonio, which dates back to the 17th century when it was a Franciscan monastery. The monastery now operates as the Colle di Costa, a contemporary 4-star hotel. In exchange for regular cultural and artistic events, the Colle di Costa provided AM Italia with rehearsal space, performance venues, and an office inside the monastery, as well as accommodation for artists and staff nearby.
In spring 2013, AM Italia developed a new collaboration with the Accademia del Rinascimento Mediterraneo in Puglia, the southern region of Italy, before deciding to return the base of operations back to the United States for the time being.
Although AM Italia has closed its year-round Italian presence, the Artmonks have been invited to create another original work in a former monastery in Abruzzo as a new Art Monastic Laboratory in Caramanico from Aug 15-September 15. It is currently accepting applications for collaborators and interns.