2017-03-22 / Front Page

St. Francis Prep Welcomes Renowned Italian Artist For A Residency

During the week of November 14th, 2016, St. Francis Prep’s Art department took part in a rare event when Italian artist Roberto Andrioli visited for a week-long in-house field trip on mask making.  Each day, a different class (including Mr. Biondolillo's Advanced Studio in Art I, Honors, Mr. Duplessis' Sculpture, Mrs. Mejia's Theater Design and Ms. Shmerykowsky's Art History classes) got to take part in the experience.  The field trip also served as a mixer of sorts on another day for many of the students attending the art department's trip to Italy in summer 2017. While mask-making and facial sculpture are covered in each of these classes to varying degrees, the students got to be a part of a process that was brand new to them. Andrioli, an actor and artist, explained the commedia dell‘Arte, and the functions that masks serve in those productions. Together, the class worked on creating head molds of some of the students, embellishing them with clay to add animal-like features, creating a negative mold and covering it with the soft leather that would become the mask, painting and waxing the finished product.  It was a wonderful experience for all that took part, and it was incredible to be involved in an art-making process that has been around since the Renaissance.

When students from Prep’s Art department, and veteran faculty member Donna Mejia traveled to Italy on a recent summer trip, they participated in a workshop with Andrioli, and after developing a working relationship, he was ammenable to traveling to Prep for a week-long residency, or as Prep called it, an “in-house field trip.”  He worked with a different class each day, making authentic masks in the commedia dell‘Arte style, using authentic materials and tools.  Students use abstract elements from animals in designing the masks.  Artistic connections are made to the styles of the 16th and 17th centuries, and even as far back as Dante’s time.  Students took molds of their own faces, and worked with leather and plaster.  The whole process is time consuming, taking 2-3 days.  As artists, the students were able to develop a relationship with new materials.

Andrioli, “really enjoyed the kids.”  Though he said he was worried that they would not understand the techniques and processes, but he expressed that their attitude was “perfect.”  He said that they produced a lot, were serious about the process, but had fun.  For Andrioli, he was able to get the students away from technology, and open to focusing on making things with their hands.  He is looking forward to a continued partnership down the road.  In fact, students from Prep’s Art Department will be travelling to Italy this summer.  In true Franciscan fashion, before he left, Andrioli created a Franciscan cross worth hundreds of dollars and donated it to the school. 

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