Antonio has been teaching art to people who missed the bus to art school for over twenty years. He not only teaches a whole lot of us older folks who never found the time to explore our fine arts abilities, but also twenty-somethings whose need to pay rent keeps them from developing their skills full-time, teens who still have time to explore oil painting, drawing, watercolor painting, etching, etc…, and little kiddies who, although somewhat over-scheduled (here too!), always have the time and will to create. His cozy studio, tucked away on a sunny, quiet street named for a famous “Gino” and close to the beautiful arch ways leading to the Cathedral of San Luca, is exactly what you’d want it to be, all white, light-filled and packed with art supplies. Tabletop easels, wooden palettes, oil paints, watercolors, color pencils, etching equipment, canvases, paintbrushes of every size and texture, sponges, painting knives, charcoal, and on and on. For anyone who gets a rush when they step into a stationary or art supply shop, this place would delight you. Finally, the students’ work lines the perimeter of the large room, all in various states of completion, some just a sketch of what they will eventually become, and others, finished and drying before being mounted on a frame.
The real allure of the place though, is the joyful and friendly atmosphere that Antonio has created. The coffee and tea that’s always brewing or the cakes and snacks that are always available probably have something to do with it, but there’s something else. When I’ve been there, the room is usually populated with 6-8 adults ranging from well-heeled Italian grandmothers with beautiful taste and a good deal of painting experience, and the South American immigrant honoring his gifts before rushing off to his night job, to an array of middle-aged Italian men and women with a range of skills, and the international ladies, which include quite a few talented women who are also mothers of children at our school. But it’s not just the eclectic mix of artists that make it such a happy place. It might be the 2 or 3 languages that generally fly around the room at once, or the static-tinged Italian pop/rock flowing from the old, beat up radio, which usually dominates the room as everyone gets down to work. Or it could be Antonio’s congeniality or gentle but prodding way of teaching by doing, in mostly Italian but with Spanish, English and French slipped in occasionally.
I suspect, though, that this warm, welcoming ambiance persists, because we all have one important thing in common. We’ve all made the decision to take two or three hours from our busy weeks to explore what we are capable of creating. Knowing what a challenge it is for me to paint (or write!) instead of run yet another errand, or get that one more thing done on the computer, I can’t help but feel respect towards (if not kinship with) others that enjoy creating and figure out a way to get to it. Maybe that’s the underlying thread that ties us, and brings into being this vibe of openness and contentment. Whatever the case, it’s quickly becoming one of my favorite spots in this Bolognese life, and I’m thankful that I finally made time for it.