Student Post: “Rebirth in Italy” by Aanchal Sethi

13, October 2016 § 1 Comment

An advertising professional based in Dubai, Aanchal Sethi is currently taking a sabbatical to attend the Aegean Center’s fall semester. Here is a post from Aanchal’s own blog, reposted here in full with Aanchal’s permission.

Rebirth in Italy


The Villa

The Villa

I stand in the corner of the dining room with a champagne glass in hand listening intently to the toast Jane is making. My eyes, trying to hide the tears that are developing look deeply into the bubbles that surround the rim of the class. My heart, open and full, speaks to the smile that forms on my lips.

For the first time in years, I am present in a moment created by someone else that reflects everything I feel.


In the past few weeks, I have been asked several times to explain how my sabbatical is coming along. People expect long and detailed answers and all I can give them is a simple – ‘it’s going great’ reply. I haven’t found a descriptive word to describe this experience.


All I can say is this.


From drawing straight lines to understanding the depth and reason behind Bellini’s Madonna and Child to letting myself free in theater and seeing shapes between objects – in the past one month, I have learned how to learn. It is bewildering what being a child again can do to you, when the fear of not knowing is taken over by the wonder of discovery.


I have sat in the same squares of Tuscan towns where I sat a few years ago with a gelato in hand and realized that places don’t change, people and circumstances do. And perhaps that is why we move on.


I have broken out of my comfort zone and surrounded myself with youth to relish the truth that age is in the mind. I have felt blessed when young women have told me that my life is a #goal for them for that is the one thing I usually take for granted.


Feeling like a tiny speck in the grandness of the universe and adorned by the power of art, I have shed tears of gratitude in a man-made wonder.


I took this sabbatical to discard the entrenched feeling of stagnation that has been reigning over me for a few years. Trapped in the corporate world, I have been a slave to my monthly salary that never leaves me content. My growth, often restricted by my own inhibitions to try new things, has stunted year after year of my so called adult life.


My thoughts are interrupted as Jane toasts to our individual renaissance in Italy and that is when it hits me. The one word I have been looking for to describe this journey.




Here’s looking forward to what Greece has to bring and looking at the world from a new set of eyes and wonder!

Tour Through Italy and Return to Greece

10, October 2016 § 2 Comments

By: Jun-Pierre Shiozawa

The Aegean Center in front of the Basilica of San Marco, Venice

The Aegean Center in front of the Basilica of San Marco, Venice

The past month the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts marked the 28th year of its Italy program.  The new group of students arrived in early September at the Villa Rospigliosi, the Aegean Center’s home in Italy.  Up in the hills overlooking the Tuscan city of Pistoia, the students became accustomed to life at the Villa; classes throughout the day including drawing, photography, writing and theatre, and sharing prepared meals by the Villa chefs, who have been with the Center since the very first years.

The bulk of the Italy program involves touring the great centers of the Italian Renaissance, including Florence, Siena, Venice, Pisa, Pistoia, Rome and for the first time ever for the Aegean Center, Bologna.

In Florence, the Center was able to visit the newly reopened Museum of the Works of the Duomo featuring a new layout which recreates the facade of the Cathedral with original sculptures set in niches.  We toured through the great churches and museums of Florence including the Bargello and the Uffizi.  As always, the Brancacci Chapel in the church of Santa Maria del Carmine was a highlight of the tours in Florence.  Inside the chapel the group was able to enjoy thirty minutes to themselves to study and admire the great fresco masterpieces of Massacio and Masolino.

On one rainy day, our bus brought us through the Tuscan hills to Siena, where we were fortunately greeted with clearer skies and sunshine.  The Cathedral of Siena was less crowded than usual and we were able to admire its incredible array of sculpture and decor, its fascinating floors and the colorful Piccolimini library.

During our second week in Italy, the Aegean Center visited Venice for three days.  Upon arriving, art history professor Jeffrey Carson led the tour through the Piazza San Marco  and up in to the Basilica of San Marco to see the original bronze horses, taken from the hippodrome of Constantinople.  The next day the Aegean Center toured the great painting museum of Venice, the Accademia and found some of our old favorites, works by Giovanni Bellini, Giorgione, and Titian.

After returning to Venice we continued our tours through Tuscany with a visit to Pisa where we enjoyed a bright sunny day in the “Piazza dei Mirocoli,” (the Plaza of Miracles) with its beautiful marble faced buildings: the Cathedral of Pisa, its baptistery, the Campo Santo and of course, the Leaning Tower.  In the baptistery, Studio Arts professor Jane Pack described the innovative work of Nicola Pisano’s pulpit and we were able to hear the incredible acoustics of the baptistery interior as one of the guards made a call in to its dome which echoed with his own response.

The Aegean Center visited Bologna for the first time as well.  The home of the oldest university in the world, Bologna welcomed us in its rich array of historical and religious centers, including the Basilicas of San Petronio and San Domenico.  Although we were unable to see Giambologna’s Fountain of Neptune (under restoration) and Raphael’s Ectasy of St. Cecilia (currently on loan for the Pushkin Museum’s “Raphael. The Poetry of the Image” exhibition) we were taken by the austere beauty of the medieval and premedieval church complex of Santo Stefano and the energy of the city itself.

The Aegean Center students enjoyed our last meal at the Villa Rospigiliosi and thanked the Villa chefs with a thank you card and applause.  Saying farewell to the Villa is always bittersweet, a mixture of sadness and excited anticipation with what lays ahead: Rome and finally Greece!

In Rome, director John Pack led the students through a winding tour of Rome’s downtown.  John took the students through its famous piazzas, complete with stops for Granita di Cafe in front of the Pantheon and a trip up the Capitoline hill to view over the ancient Roman forum.  The next day Jane led the group through the magical Palazzo Massimo to see its treasures including the bronze Pugilist, the dying Niobid and the lovely garden frescoes from the Villa Livia.  Finally on our last day in Rome the Aegean Center woke up at the crack of dawn to visit the Vatican museum and where we had the Sistine Chapel all to ourselves, entering before any other group.  We all gasped at Michelangelo’s achievements, awestruck and moved.

Rome marked the final leg of the Aegean Center’s Italian tour and the students then departed for Athens.  There, under the characteristically bright Greek sunlight, art history Jeffrey Carson led the students up to the Acropolis to see the monument to the magnificence of the Ancient Athenians: The Parthenon.  That night, one of the students, Aria Higgins, invited the entire Aegean Center to dine at her family restaurant, Mama Roux.  The last day of touring before the students’ arrival in Paros was at the greatest museum of ancient Greek antiquities in the world, the National Archaeological Museum of Athens.

Now the students have all arrived in Paros, to settle in and prepare for the classes ahead.  We are all excited to see what else will be accomplished with this close knit, energetic and talented group of students.

Sunrise over the Aegean Sea from the ferry en route to Paros

Sunrise over the Aegean Sea from the ferry en route to Paros

Thank you very much to Bruno-Ken Shiozawa for the use of his photographs for this post

Dimitra Skandali

25, August 2016 § Leave a comment

By: Jane Pack

Dimitra Skandali is showing recent work at The Aegean Center this summer in her first show since she was a student here many years ago.  She is from Paros but now lives and works in San Francisco.  She has participated in many international exhibitions.  Her website can be viewed here:

dimitra skandali poster

I imagine this story. Dimitra is walking the shore near San Francisco when a bit of drifted seaweed caught in the sea foam pulls her mind toward Paros. In this expansive space she feels herself to be part of a larger whole. She has come to America to attend graduate school but certainly whatever California offers it isn’t the peaceful calm of Paros in winter. She may have felt alone and displaced for some time after arriving, before the schedule of classes and studios acquired a rhythm to dull the ache for home.  I imagine this story because my experience was similar when I left America for a life in Paros over 25 years ago.  I too looked for small reminders of the familiar while delighting in the extravagance of the new. Our journeys echo one another’s although we switched places, our paths overlapping for just enough time to recognise each other as fellow travellers.

When one is in a new environment, in a different country from one’s birth, the everyday small occurrences are the ones which pull you up sharply and make you feel an alien, the choice of breakfast foods or the way people queue or don’t.  It often comes to perceived differences in manners, knowing when to shake hands or when to exchange kisses.  But feeling outside a community can be an advantage as well. We feel immune to social forces, stand outside of society’s demands.  In Paros I feel freedom from the small defeats that my parents and teachers may have inadvertently put on me. Whether they implied that a goal was beyond my social standing or that a neighbour might look askance. But in Paros I am excluded from this social weight.  I am not Greek so the rules don’t apply.  I believe that Dimitra’s success may hinge on a similar impulse. Standing outside the game one sees the rules more clearly.  She has taken the best that American education has to offer and she has run with it.  Her successes and her show record attest to the conviction that hard work and dedication give results.  She has often spoken to me about how much more difficult that same progress would be for her here in her own country.DSkandali-Snap

Dimitra’s work speaks of transitions and patterns, juxtapositions which trigger new thoughts. Her use of natural materials echo the smells and sounds of the sea, of the Aegean, of the Pacific. The rooms full of seaweed invite us to feel the ocean swells but also admire the handiwork of traditional crafts in the in the crocheted strands. Delicacy and energy, it is this combination which strikes us.

Dimitra was my student over 20 years ago. She has since long surpassed my mentoring and has made a name for herself in the international art world.  Her return to the Aegean Center for this exhibition coincides with the 50th anniversary of the school.  I can’t think of a more fitting tribute to our mission than to have this exhibition by a Parian, a former student and who has gone on to succeed in America and beyond. What I experienced coming to Greece and the similar feelings that Dimitra has translated into her art epitomize the education we provide at the Aegean Center. The strength of the experience at the Center comes from a combination of dedicated teachers and the disorienting effects of living in an unfamiliar environment.  The mind opens up, the habitual patterns are broken and the teacher has only to ask the questions which lead the student on to new ground.  The subsequent shift in consciousness helps us to see within ourselves and tap into the creative spirit.

Figure Drawing Workshop

19, July 2016 § Leave a comment

Jane Morris Pack

FullSizeRender 7

Model in “Plane Suit”

Learning to draw the human figure is a challenge and demands a clear understanding of how to capture form.  It is also a difficult task to do in two weeks but the eight students attending the Intensive Summer Workshop did an amazing job of pulling it all together in a short time. We worked from the model for two hours every morning and then after lunch the projects included working in clay and drawing the bones and muscles. Learning to draw the basic geometric forms was given particular attention as they are the building blocks for all form.  We investigated perspective, built a clay head, foot, hand, nose and mouth.  The students traced their own proportions life size on paper and then added the skeleton and muscles to those drawings. On the final day, as a creative exercise, we hung paper cutouts onto a line and played lights over their forms to suggest movement.

Since drawing is such an intense activity we needed a few distractions to smooth the steep learning curve. One night was spent watching the stars appear from a vantage point high on the mountain after sunset, on another we had a wine tasting of six prominent Greek varietals, and lastly a full day was enjoyed on a wonderful boat trip around the neighbouring island of Antiparos. Thank you to all of my wonderful and enthusiastic students from whom I learn so much.

Annelise Grindheim’s Drama

10, July 2016 § 1 Comment

by: Jeffrey CarsonAegean Drama.jpg

The origins of drama are mysterious. But my intuition suggests that all drama starts in awe of the world, its powers and unseen powers, its passions and irresolutions. Drama has its roots in religion, cult, magic, poetic rapture, birth/sex/death, and natural wonder. I think this is true of anonymous Passion plays from the Middle Ages, Shakespeare’s investigations of everything human and beyond, ghostly Japanese Noh, rollicking Restoration comedy, throbbing opera, and even the great realist works of the last century-and-a-half, whose master is Henrik Ibsen.

I did not mention ancient Greek plays because these astonishing works – we have thirty-two of them – seem to know this about themselves, and consciously embed themselves in primitive ritual and, with music and poetry, political realism.

The Aegean Center’s drama teacher, Anneliese Grindheim, knows these things, and her love and understanding of the Greek plays informs her work here on Paros. Last autumn she produced a condensed version of Lorca’s frightening tragedy, “The House of Bernarda Alba”, which, in image-loaded verse, shows what happens when society’s rules try to squelch the natural joy and passion of life. Working with small forces – students and a few local friends – Annelise trimmed the work to its essentials – she has an amazing ability to do this with respect and accuracy.


Annalise Grindheim

This spring’s work was even more ambitious. It was Ibsen’s “Lady from the Sea”, a realist drama. Redacting again, Annelise found the poetry and intensity curled deep in the Norwegian master’s realism (she is Norwegian herself). The play is a liminal work, and we are never sure what will happen as the symbols keep being transformed. The actors performed it on the beach, sometimes on sand, sometimes in water. The growth of the heroine’s soul and self into maturity, and its salutary effect on her husband, were aided by movements derived from dance, by declamation derived from poetry, by masks, and by the sea itself – wavelets, gulls, breezes, briny clarity. Liminal indeed.

I’m fortunate to work at the Aegean Center with such skilled practitioners of their arts as John Pack, Jane Pack, Jun-Pierre Shiozawa, and most recently, Annelise Grindheim. What will she come up with next? I may write a poem about it.


Summer Oil Painting Workshop 2016

30, June 2016 § 1 Comment

Jane Morris Pack explains the Impressionists assignment

The Aegean Center summer workshop, Oil Painting Innovations, concluded this last Saturday with a successful exhibition at the Center. The five painters showed four paintings each, sharing the space with the watercolour and the photography students from the other workshops. The walls were crowded with excellent work all of which showed a high level of skill and aesthetic involvement.The painting class followed several historical methods chosen for their instructive value; Venetian heightening with white on a dark ground from the 15th century, Flemish floral painting from the 17th century and Impressionist still life from the 19th century. These methods were explained and then explored in order for the students to maximize their understanding of the principals of structured oil paintings. A fourth exercise, which dealt with the painting of an all white still life, was chosen to challenge color mixing choices and the necessary lowering of tone which oil paint dictates.

The process of hand refined linseed oil which we began using a year ago at the Center was demonstrated and  became our medium. It’s unique properties allow us to forgo solvents. The oil is stronger and shinier than the store bought tube oils. The handling is fluid, each touch is recorded. It creates a tough film, maintains textural elements of brushwork and keeps its color integrity when painting wet into wet. We were in the studios every day for six hours six days a week. The new oil paint made it possible for us to continue working without the need for long drying times and so the layers went on quickly. Working on four canvases with different criteria kept us energized. Thank you to my students for their enthusiasm and their dedication.

Chandler Davis [Detail]

Marketa Kemp

Alisha Mehta [Detail]

Erin Jones

Erin Jones

Drawing and Theatre

8, June 2016 § Leave a comment

By Jane Pack

Annelise teaches theatre at the Aegean Center and I teach figure drawing. This last semester she was taking my class and I was taking hers. We often heard our words to students echoing each other, she commented that I sounded like a theatre teacher and I frequently wanted to break in on her classes and exclaim, “The same applies to drawing!” Of course the arts are grouped for a reason, as creative endeavours each challenges the practitioner to move out of their comfort zone, to search for meaning, to communicate feeling. But drawing and acting seem to have a particular resonance with each other, similar vocabulary can be useful in each: gesture, rhythm, movement, weight, form, vision. And each requires intense concentration, a challenge to refresh and renew our approach each time, a thoughtful and deep presence. It has been said that drawing, of all the visual arts, is closest to pure thought. And acting has that same intensity, the need to be in continual focus or risk losing it all.

I urge students to challenge themselves to use new approaches for each drawing, to keep themselves from being bored with their own accomplishments. I teach craft and expression side by side, but push technique so that the students can think emotionally and still be outside those feelings enough to communicate them. In theatre one loses oneself in a role only when the self steps aside and allows the dramatic impulse of the playwright to come through. I found I was thinking almost like a draughtsman when I was crafting my role: what shape, what form, what movement, what rhythm. And the actress, Annelise, considering how a drawn gesture communicates tension, where the human form expresses emotion, what the speed of the line or its weight can do to change the depiction.

Each discipline has its magical storytelling moments, each includes the element of audience although that is profoundly more weighted in a performance on stage. Still, the draughtsman is performing too, the moment the pencil encounters the page. Most importantly, with practice and discipline, each art brings us closer to our unique self and wakes us up to the present.