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John D. Calandra Italian American Institute

Section: What's New

Institute's Upcoming Events





Photographs by Franc Palaia


Artist’s reception January 20, 2011, 6 pm

On view January 20 – April 1, 2011


Color digital prints from Franc Palaia’s SX-70 Polaroid series depict landscapes, classical architecture, contemporary structures, and urban spaces from several regions of Italy. He hand-colors the 3”x3” Polaroids, enabling him to blend, eradicate, and heighten the color and add visual and tactile texture to the image surfaces, making them look like miniature oil paintings. He also hand-works the imagery by scraping, cutting, and adding collage.  The transformation process continues as he scans the SX-70s and enlarges them into digital color prints. The exhibition will include original hand-colored SX-70 Polaroids as well as a large selection of 8”x10” digital photographs derived from the original SX-70s. 



Writers Read Series


Thursday, February 3, 2011, 6 pm

Paula Butturini reads from Keeping the Feast: One Couple’s Story of Love, Food, and Healing in Italy (Riverhead, 2010)


Journalists Paula Butturini and John Tagliabue met in Italy in 1985 and four years later married in Rome. Less than a month after the wedding, John was shot and nearly killed by sniper fire while reporting for the New York Times on an uprising in Romania. He recovered from his physical wounds but sank into a deep depression. Paula was forced to reexamine her assumptions about healing and discovered that sometimes patience can be a vice, anger a virtue; that sometimes it is vital to make demands of the sick in order to help them get better. In her memoir Keeping the Feast, she rediscovers the importance of the daily sharing of food around the family table.


“Paula Butturini writes magnificently about the pleasures of eating and of how food can be a rare refuge from suffering. Joy and sorrow both have their place on the plate of our lives, and Butturini’s experiences have allowed her a unique appreciation of how time around the table with those for whom we care deeply can put us back together. A transcendent memoir.”

—Giulia Melucci



The Philip V. Cannistraro Seminar Series in Italian American Studies


Thursday, February 10, 2011, 6 pm

Ironies of Citizenship in Contemporary Italy

Robert Garot, John Jay College


In a world marked by increasing migration and globalization, the political and social rights of citizenship may not always be delivered along with the official documents. This is certainly the case in contemporary Italy, where citizenship is becoming ever more difficult to obtain, and everyday practices of racialization continue to exclude those who have struggled for years to integrate into Italian society. Sociologist Robert Garot’s presentation examines contemporary cases that reveal how an immigrant’s documentation is often not a good indication of integration, and how immigrants integrate into society without proper documentation. Some illegal immigrants who possess social and cultural capital are able to integrate with relative ease, while others are caught in seemingly insurmountable social exclusion.



Documented Italians Film & Video Series Film & Video Series


Wednesday, February 23, 2011, 6 pm

My American Family (2004), 70 min.

Jerzy Sladkowski, dir.


In the early twentieth century, members of the Merenda family emigrated to the United States from Paterno Calabro (Cosenza Province), Calabria. Over the decades, the growing family’s ties to their homeland deteriorated. In 2002, in an effort to restore the broken link, seventy-year-old Gaetano Merenda, his wife Adriana, and their son Antonio decided to fly from Italy to Kansas to attend a family reunion. During the trip, they hope to answer questions surrounding Francesco “Pirune” Merenda, the black sheep of the family, and one of the first to emigrate to America, but whose activities there remain cloaked in mystery. In My American Family, their exploration into family history leads to revelations—of both a historical and personal nature—that none of them expected.


Post-screening discussion led by Joseph Sciorra, Calandra Institute.



The Philip V. Cannistraro Seminar Series in Italian American Studies


Wednesday, March 9, 2011, 6 pm

The Neapolitan Instrument Makers of New York

Jayson Kerr Dobney, Metropolitan Museum of Art


For more than a century, Italian Americans in and around New York City have produced a great variety of stringed musical instruments ranging from European-style violins, mandolins, and guitars, to American instruments such as the banjo, archtop guitar and mandolin, and electric guitars. The arrival of highly skilled Italian craftsmen around the turn of the twentieth century was in large measure driven by the American fad for the Neapolitan mandolin, and a great number of makers established thriving businesses during this time. In the 1920s, as interest in the mandolin was fading, some of these highly skilled craftsmen were able to make the transition to producing other instruments to meet the demands of changing musical styles. Jayson Kerr Dobney, Associate Curator in the Department of Musical Instruments at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, will trace this history from the first Italian makers who arrived in New York City in the nineteenth century, to makers from this tradition still active in the tri-state region. An exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum, Guitar Heroes: Legendary Craftsmen from Italy to New York, runs from February 9 to July 4, 2011.



Documented Italians Film & Video Series


Tuesday, March 22, 2011, 6 pm

Cricket Cup (2006), 49 min.

Diego Liguori and Massimiliano Pacifico, dirs.


In the late 1970s, Sri Lankan immigrants began coming to Naples, often to find employment as domestic workers. The community is now large and well-established, with an estimated 7,000 members who have founded Buddhist temples, Sinhalese-language schools, airport shuttle lines, grocery stores, and passport services. In a country where the game of cricket is virtually unknown, these immigrants have organized local teams and national tournaments, complete with trophies and cash prizes. They practice in empty piazze at night and hold matches in parks on their Sundays off. In Cricket Cup, immigrant Sagara Wickramanayake and his teammates leave Naples at 4 a.m. to participate in a tournament in Florence, trying if only for one day to attain glory and affirmation. Sagara’s story is interspersed with those of fellow immigrants, who recount their experiences and share their aspirations.


Post-screening discussion with the directors led by Joseph Sciorra, Calandra Institute.



Writers Read Series


Wednesday, March 30, 2011, 6 pm

Joanna Clapps Herman reads from The Anarchist Bastard: Growing Up Italian in America (SUNY Press, 2011)


“I was born in 1944, but raised in the twelfth century.” With that, Joanna Clapps Herman concisely describes the two worlds she inhabited while growing up as the child of Italian-American immigrants in Waterbury, Connecticut. They were Aviglianese and Tolvese, and everything ‘Merican was inferior. It was a place embedded with values closer to Homer’s Greece than to Anglo-American New England, an intensely hierarchical home with prescribed gender roles. Though it was full of passion, the word “sex” was never uttered. In essays filled with wry humor and affectionate yet probing insights, Herman maps and makes palpable the very particular details of this culture—its shame and pride, its family betrayals and profound loyalties. 


“A beautiful and entertaining memoir that deserves a wide audience. Her writing is pungent, fluid, and appealing—a fabulous book.”

—Jay Parini



The Philip V. Cannistraro Seminar Series in Italian American Studies


Thursday, April 7, 2011, 6 pm

New York Longshoremen: Class and Power on the Docks

William Mello, Indiana University


In the post-World War II era, dockworkers in New York fought an ongoing battle against shipping companies, local police, federal and state political authorities, and their own corrupt union leadership for workplace control. Labor studies scholar William Mello, author of New York Longshoremen: Class and Power on the Docks (University Press of Florida, 2010), reveals how labor relations were driven by radical and reform rank-and-file movements led by Communists, Catholics, and local union leaders. He explores the impact of local political institutions on the labor movement as well as the influence of labor on political development. His research—informed by interviews, newspaper accounts, official reports, rank-and-file newsletters, and oral histories—illustrates how workers defied the powers of elites to sporadically impose their will on labor relations. Though the dockworkers ultimately lost the battle for democratic control of the waterfront, they achieved highly significant victories.



Writers Read Series


Thursday, April 14, 2011, 6 pm

Pauline Spatafora reads from Dear Sister: Letters Home to Sicily from Wartime America (Reed & Quill Press, 2009)


Following the death of her sister Teresa in 1938, Anna La Camera left Paradiso, a hamlet of Milazzo (Messina province), Sicily, and set sail on the ship Vulcania in order to raise her sister’s children in Brooklyn. Approximately six weeks after her arrival, Anna married her brother-in-law, Louis Cacciola. Dear Sister, an epistolary account of the decade she spent in this country, is comprised primarily of letters from Anna to her sister Maria in Italy. Pauline Spatafora, the only child born to Anna and Louis, found the letters while visiting her cousins in Paradiso in 1977. In the correspondence, her mother Anna conveys a factual account of the daily challenges she faced in the United States, from the hardships of World War II to her battle with breast cancer, and demonstrates the relationships that existed between immigrants and their loved ones in Italy.


“A unique insight into the lives of Italians and Italian Americans during the tumultuous World War II period.”

Tony Avella, New York City Council Member



Documented Italians Film & Video Series


Tuesday, April 19, 2011, 6 pm

Ferlinghetti (2009), 82 min.

Christopher Felver, dir.


The bestselling poet in modern literature, Lawrence Ferlinghetti has also been a catalyst for numerous literary careers and an influential counterculture figure. In 1953, he founded San Francisco’s City Lights Booksellers with Peter Martin and, two years later, launched the store’s publishing wing. A First Amendment activist, Ferlinghetti’s infamous censorship trial for his publication of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl in 1956 launched the social rebellion of the Beats into national consciousness. In this documentary, director Christopher Felver’s extensive interviews with Ferlinghetti, together with archival photographs, historical footage, and appearances by Billy Collins, Allen Ginsberg, Dennis Hopper, and many others, explore Ferlinghetti’s work as a writer, artist, publisher, and civil libertarian.


Post-screening discussion with the director led by Anthony Tamburri, Calandra Institute.



Annual Conference

The 3Fs in Italian Cultures: Critical Approaches to Food, Fashion, and Film

April 28-30, 2011



The Philip V. Cannistraro Seminar Series in Italian American Studies


Thursday, May 5, 2011, 6 pm

The Hellhound of Wall Street: Ferdinand Pecora and the Investigation of the Great Crash

Michael Perino, St. John’s University


In the winter of 1933, the nadir of the Great Depression, Ferdinand Pecora took control of a bumbling United States Senate investigation of the 1929 stock market crash. Pecora, a Sicilian immigrant and former assistant district attorney from New York City, was one of the country’s few Italian-American lawyers. He put Charles Mitchell, the chairman of National City Bank (today’s Citibank) on the stand, who left utterly disgraced after Pecora’s relentless questioning revealed the bank’s shocking financial abuses. Michael Perino, author of The Hellhound of Wall Street: How Ferdinand Pecora’s Investigation of the Great Crash Forever Changed American Finance (Penguin Press, 2010), shows how Pecora became an unlikely hero to a beleaguered nation by spurring Congress to rein in the free-wheeling banking industry. These unprecedented steps led directly to the New Deal’s landmark economic reforms.



Documented Italians Film & Video Series


Thursday, May 12, 2011, 6 pm

Terra Sogna Terra (2011), 50 min.

Lucia Grillo, dir.


The fruit and vegetable gardens behind suburban houses in the New York City metropolitan area offer tantalizing entries into Italian-American horticultural knowledge and skills.  The Calandra Institute’s Lucia Grillo documents the joys of tilling the earth and harvesting the seasonal bounty with her intimate portraits of immigrant and American-born domestic gardeners.  The 95-year-old Francesco Antonio, a Calabrian immigrant who speaks of his cultivated plot as a site of memory culture and transformative powers, and 21-year-old Gabrielle Pati, a graduate student who lovingly tends to her prized fig tree in ways learned from her Campanian parents, are some of the people featured in this film. The links between a traditional love of the land and contemporary environmental concerns are astutely interwoven.  Ultimately, this documentary asks whether a garden can be a form of justice.


Post-screening discussion with the director led by Joseph Inguanti, Southern Connecticut State University.



Writers Read Series


Tuesday, May 17, 2011, 6 pm

Anthony Di Renzo reads from Bitter Greens: Essays on Food, Politics, and Ethnicity from the Imperial Kitchen (SUNY Press, 2010)


In Bitter Greens, Anthony Di Renzo reflects on Italian food, American culture, and globalization. Despite the inclusion of six recipes, the book is not an ethnic cookbook but a collection of political satire, cultural criticism, and culinary memoir. Set primarily in New York, Di Renzo’s essays consider Italian food at the apex of American imperialism and the twilight of ethnicity, exploring such topics as the tripe shops of postwar Brooklyn, the fabled onion fields of Canastota, New York, the Wegmans supermarket chain’s marketing of Sicilian food, Andy Boy broccoli rabe, and the lure of Sicilian chocolate. Is the new global supermarket a democratic feast, Di Renzo asks, or a cannibal potluck where consumers are themselves consumed?


“With much dash, artistry, originality, keen politics, and classic erudition, Di Renzo takes the reader on a witty and heartfelt romp through history, gastronomy, and the ethnic experience.”

Michael Parenti








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