Back this week with my next victim (interviewee) and I’m super pumped to introduce you all to a very creative thinker and all-around great gal, Anna Rose. She’s tall ( I think the first thing I asked her was where she buys pants), has long blond hair, and that kind of sharp witty sense of humor that I especially adore. Her art is incredibly varied and fascinating — I have gained a new respect for contemporary art in general since meeting people like her and exploring more of the scene in Florence. We first met through the lovely network of folks at Creative People in Florence, a group who strives to bring together creatives of every type, shape and form, a bit like art itself. Without further ado, let’s get to know this Americana in Florence.
Introducing: provide your name: Anna Rose
profession: Artist, co-founder of Creative People in Florence
Favorite drink: Even though Florence’s cocktail scene is picking up, nothing beats a glass of wine at the end of the day.
Photo Credit (above): Monica Galletto
Where in Tuscany are you living and where are you from originally. Tell us how Florence became your home.
I’ve been living in Florence for about 11 years. I’m originally from Massachusetts, but spent a large part of my childhood living in Hawaii. I came to Florence for a year after finishing college in 2004. I had fallen in love with the city the previous summer when I went backpacking around Italy on my own. I saw some many beautiful places that summer, but I just loved Florence. The original plan was to spend a year here doing a drawing and painting course and then go back to the US to pursue a degree in Art Therapy. While I was in Florence however I discovered that I liked the art part a lot better than the therapy part. I ended up staying another year to do another painting course, and then another year…and well, here we are.
It Happens, doesn’t it? What are you up to in Tuscany? Work, daily life, passions?
My art practice takes up a good part of my time. I work mostly with video, installation, and photography so if you stop by my studio (which is always a total disaster area, you’ve been warned) you’ll find me editing video or building costumes or objects to use for upcoming projects. If I’m not at the studio I’m most likely at home with my husband Andrea and our three cats, or working with Sara Amrhein on projects for Creative People in Florence.
Where can we see your work?
Tell me more about Creative People in Florence (and thanks for featuring me last year!). What is the main goal of the group and how can people get involved.
Creative People in Florence is a network of –you guessed it–creative people in Florence. The group started on Facebook a few years ago as a way to bring people together to exchange skills, and it has grown into an active on- and offline community for sharing ideas, networking, promoting each other’s work, and making things happen. The key principle of the group is collaboration—our hope is that Creative People in Florence gives people the chance to meet, support each other and collaborate.
As someone who tends to be pretty shy about her own work, there is something very powerful about being part of the group—not only does it give you access to a lot of really interesting people, but it also gives you a kind of permission to reach out to them…it’s a lot easier to say “Hey, we’re both members of CPiF, I love your work, want to get a coffee and talk about it?” than to just cold call someone out of the blue, or wait around hoping that you’ll magically meet artists.
Beyond that, the group is a way to make professional connections—we see people posting all the time looking for photographers to shoot an event, people offering courses or looking for artists to work with. What’s important us is that the group runs itself in many ways—Sara and I don’t call ourselves directors or anything like that because in the end we are members like everyone else. We try to keep the group’s momentum going by planning occasional aperitivi and events, but mostly we use the group as we want others to use it. We throw ideas out there and gather people to help us realize them, in turn creating opportunities for more people to make their own work. The more active the members are in proposing projects and getting involved, the fun it is for everyone.
I adore you guys and being part of such a great network of individuals! What are your goals with the new creative collective space?
First of all, Sara has done an amazing job renovating her studio—I can’t take any credit for that…it all happened in about three weeks this summer while I was away! The goal for the space is to offer another option for artists and designers to show their work in a setting that already functions as an active studio and showroom. The Creative Collective turns that space into an occasion for collaboration, a way to put your work in conversation with the space, to experiment. We also want our members to feel like they have a reference point in the city, to feel like they can stop by and say hi. It’s really exciting to see CPiF adding this new dimension to its role in the creative community in Florence.
What do you think of the current creative scene in Florence?
That’s a complicated question. I often hear people (including myself) complain about the art scene here, grumbling that there’s nothing going on, but I think that’s the easy way out. First of all, it’s not true. There is a lot going on here. One of our jobs a members of the creative community to is seek out and attend the events that are going on. We recently decided to use our Twitter feed (@CPiFItaly) as a running list of contemporary art events going on around town, and to be honest it’s hard to keep up—there’s always something going on!
By choosing to be an artists here, I think it’s part of our responsibility to feed the creative scene as much as we can. Don’t get me wrong, I’m always looking for ways to make art in other countries, to show my work abroad, to make connections in more active cities, but my studio is here, and I think it’s important to participate in what’s going on here and contribute to it. What we try to do with CPiF in our small way is to change the dialogue around contemporary art in Florence. Rather than complain about what we don’t have, we need to work with what we do have. If we stay stuck in the same old conversation about how the arts aren’t supported here, how the public isn’t interested (both of which are true to a certain extent), than we perpetuate the message that a contemporary Florence can’t exist. Don’t just wait around for something to happen. Be a part of making it happen.
“Rather than complain about what we don’t have, we need to work with what we do have.” EXACTLY, well said Anna! What annoys you about Italy? Feel free to be as open as you want.
This might ruffle some feathers, but I find that there tends to be a general suspicion of ambition and of wanting to do things well. I really lose patience when I hear “Allora, si fa una cosa così, una cosa giusta, senza esagerare”. I don’t really know how to translate that but it would be something a long the lines of “Let’s just do the same old thing, nothing out of the ordinary, nothing over the top”. It’s easy to slip into that mentality and to just do the minimum, or do what everyone else is doing, or to not try to innovate lest you draw attention to yourself. Putting in the extra effort, trying out new things, trying to do things better than you’ve done them in the past can be cast as exaggeration, as taking il passo più lungo della gamba. I don’t have a lot of patience for that, nor for myself when I slip into that mentality. Ambition is good. Taking risks is good.
I agree with you on that, it’s not something many talk about, but should. Do you think life in Italy is for everyone? Why does it work for you this time around?
No, Italy is not for everyone. It can be monumentally frustrating (see Question 7 and 9). Do not underestimate the stress of getting a permesso di soggiorno or working in a job that pays you peanuts. I’ve found a way to co-exist with the challenges, but my relationship with Italy is definitely turbulent.
What advice would you give a newbie looking to move to Italy?
Don’t get stuck.
I don’t mean that you shouldn’t stay. I mean that If you do stay don’t lose sight of what your goals are and get stuck in cruise control here. I find that when I go home to the US, people often see the fact that I live in Florence as my defining accomplishment, as if living in Italy is all that I do. Initially that can be an appealing role to fall in to. It’s happened more than once that in family reunions or meeting up with old friends, the conversation will come up “So, what is everyone up to these days?
Well, so-and-so is a lawyer, so-and-so is a teacher, oh, and Anna lives in Florence, and so-and-so is a professor”… and yeah, sometimes living here can be so challenging that is does feel like a major triumph just to get your permesso sorted, to make an appointment with the doctor, or to figure out how to use the passato remoto (still working on that one!). Of course figuring out how to navigate a new culture is hugely important and exciting, but that can’t be all you do.
It’s really hard work to keep sight of who you are and what you want when people at home are congratulating you for living in Florence and imagining your life as scenes from Under the Tuscan sun. Yes, you are making huge strides in learning the language, you’ve managed to find a job (that you’d probably never have accepted at home), and you’ve made friends…all those things are important, but you have to push beyond that and work on building something of your own. It took me a really long time to figure that out and now I feel like I’m scrambling to make up for lost time in a lot of ways. Don’t stay in a job that you don’t like (or in a job that doesn’t pay!), don’t push your goals to the side. Figure out the steps you need to take and get moving—there will still be time for espresso breaks and wine in the piazza with friends.
I applaud you for that answer, I don’t think moving to Italy should be someone’s biggest accomplishment either. It is just part of your story, just one part. Three boutiques / creative spaces everyone should know about in Florence?
Thanks to Creative People in Florence I’ve had the opportunity to get to know some hugely talented people and discover their work spaces. I love popping by Officine Nora, a beautiful jewelry studio in the Oltrarno to see what they’re working on (and try on a lot of things I dream of having). I also have to mention the gorgeous La Serra MK Textile Atelier. Aside from producing a great range of textiles for the home, Margherita Pandolfini and Karl Jorns also frequently host art-related events that are always a lot of fun. Cartavetra is a brand new space on Via Maggio that hosts art exhibitions and courses. Go check it out.
I know you only asked for three, but since it’s become my second home I also have to mention Sara Amrhein’s studio which is also home to The Creative Collective.
All fantastic mentions, I adore them all! What’s the weirdest thing you have seen/experienced in Italy?
I got my Italian driver’s license a few years ago which opened my eyes to the bizarre and nonsensical rules (both written and unwritten) that govern Italian roadways. During my driving exam the instructor (who sits in the front seat during the test, while the examiner sits in the back sending text messages or making an appointment with her hairdresser—true story) hissed at me not to stop at the crosswalks to let people cross the street because the drivers behind me were getting agitated. Oops, my bad.
I am still too frightened to go through with the test, and I suppose scaring pedestrians is all par for course ;-). What can you do here and nowhere else?
Swing by the Uffizi 20 minutes before closing time (when there’s no line, fyi) and go say hi to Caravaggio’s Medusa.
If you had to do it again (start a new life abroad) would you and why?
Yes, absolutely. I would hopefully follow my own advice a little better (see question 9), but I wouldn’t give up that chance to move abroad.
What would you tell yourself looking back to the first year living in Italy?
I would tell myself to stop worrying about trying to look Italian—give up and embrace the fact that no matter how well I learn the language, how convincingly I wear a scarf (even in the summer), or how expertly I order my coffee, for the Italians I will always be americana. And that’s actually ok.
If you had to make up a tagline for Florence according to Anna, what would it be?
Florence, where the world meets to take selfies with David.
Follow Anna and her artwork via her website: www.annamrose.com, email address: [email protected] and instagram @annamerylrose. Otherwise the Creative People in Florence network can be seen at creativepeopleinflorence.wordpress.com, IG: @creativepeopleniflorence or Twitter: @CPiFItaly
Anna Rose (b. 1982, Massachusetts, USA) lives and works in Florence, Italy. She holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the San Francisco Art Institute. Her work spans across fiber arts, costume, photography and video, with a sensibility towards the relationship between body and environment, entering into conversation with historical, psychological, and cultural mythologies of place.