gianna nicole


Ciao bella italia!

I thought it was time for an update. Although it feels like a lot longer, I have been in Italy for two full weeks now (and Orvieto for a week and a half). Before I begin, I thought I would start by answering some basic questions. In case you are just here for the images (which is totally fine), I'll be sure to post some photos from my first few days in Rome, la cittá eterna, (and a few snaps from Orvieto) throughout. 


Note: watching how people interact with light is fascinating. 

So, what is Gianna doing in Italy anyway? 

This summer I have the honor of serving as an intern for the Studio for Art, Faith & History in Orvieto, Italy! The Studio is a public extension of Gordon College's  Orvieto semester program. They host conferences, seminars, exhibitions, performances, and support new work in the visual and performing arts. Here is a description of the Studio taken from

The Studio for Art, Faith & History is a public extension of Gordon College’s arts-oriented semester program in the historic Italian cliff-top town of Orvieto. Located between Florence and Rome in the region of Umbria, Orvieto lies within easy reach of Assisi, Siena, Perugia, and Arezzo, and is home to one of Europe's major cathedrals. From its headquarters in the Palazzo Simoncelli in the oldest medieval neighborhood of the town, the Studio hosts a variety of activities—conferences and seminars, exhibitions and performances—and supports new work in the visual and performing arts.

The Studio for Art, Faith & History promotes activities that re-connect the three terms of its name:

  • Re-connecting Faith with History, by creatively adapting the practices and disciplines of the historic church to 21st century faith and community life;

  • Re-connecting Art with Faith, by exploring the role of the arts in catechesis, theological reflection and spiritual formation as well as in liturgy and private devotion;

  • Re-connecting Art with History, by engaging contemporary artists not only with the themes and narratives of historic Christian tradition but with the media and modes of production used to create the rich heritage of sacred art and drama particularly in Italy.


What does Gianna actually do besides drink cappuccino and maintain an average of three gelato per day?

Principally,  I am serving as the Residence Assistant for summer programs. Secondly, as the Director’s Assistant, I will tend to the instructional needs of teachers, and assist with the logistical duties of excursions. Thirdly – drawing on my expertise in photography, design software, and social media – I will assist the Studio director (a) in photography and design and branding for Studio projects, and (b) in photography and presentation media related to a book project (contracted by Hendrickson Publishers for publication in 2016) on the places where artworks were put to work in medieval and Renaissance Italy.


Basically, I have my dream job. Many of you know about my newfound love for aesthetics. Well, my environment here is perfect for me to read, learn, and question about the nature of beauty, being that the first program the the Studio is hosting is called "Art in Orvieto", a four week residency seminar/workshop that explores the relationship between art, religion, and theology. It is a program of the Institute for Christian Studies in the Toronto School of Theology. So, it goes without saying that the conversations that I enter into (or even overhear) are exactly the kind that I need during my quest. The students arrived last Sunday and are beginning to settle in. As the more logistical aspects of my job decrease, I hope to begin the more creative projects that I have planned. Here are the questions that have been on my mind, and that I will continue to explore. 

  1. How can learning about the role of the arts in the Christian tradition influence how we create in our contemporary culture? 
  2. What role does art or the creative process play in the community? How do the patterns of liturgical life influence art making and the perception of and sensitivity to beauty? 
  3. What does it look like to make the shift from a common individualistic attitude towards art towards a more collaborative attitude that involves partnership/relationship with God?
  4. In what ways does imagery influence or commission us to devotion? How can the visual world effect the ways in which we experience God? 
  5. Through photographing for John’s book, will I consider pursuing photography at a more professional level? By experimenting with more wholesome methods of marketing, I also want to consider if a position on marketing or communications would be a good fit for me. 

Photography & creative process

I plan to explore what it means to make art versus merely taking snapshots, and to make such art as "service, sacrifice, and sacrament" (a notion proposed in Bruce D. Lockerbie's, The Timeless Moment), as opposed to art that is simply interested in the ego of the artist. In what ways can we better understand (or even distort) the image of God in such an image driven age?

Beauty & memory

I want to study more deeply the nature of beauty and memory by engaging with the questions:

   What is it about an experience of beauty that causes us to share them with others? Does our current Instagram obsess generation experience the present as an anticipated memory? Or does capturing a moment (whether with an Iphone or professional camera) cause one to engage even deeper into that moment? Have we forgotten how to fully experience the present?

Media, marketing, brand & identity 

It is simple to take a few pictures of a subject (event, organization, etc...) and post them to a Facebook fan page. I want to explore the ways in which I can serve the subject (in this case, the Studio) through a marketing strategy that does not contradict the statements in which it is trying to communicate. I want to match the identity and purpose of the subject to it's media platform. Also, I plan to pay close attention to the media trends in American culture and learn not to merely satisfy them. 


History & contemporary culture 

Since I will be steeped in surrounded by such rich artworks and knowledgeable instructors, I want to expand my knowledge of the artistic trends of Renaissance Italy and see the ways in which the process of art making, commission, and the artist has changed in comparison with the trends of contemporary culture. What can today's generation learn from the role of arts in the Christian tradition? 

Concentration & the art of seeing 

In a generation that is used to instant gratification and technology, it is very difficult to sit, be still, and to truly behold our surroundings or the task at hand. I want to, through practicing the daily patterns of those who internalize Orvieto’s study abroad program, learn how to expand my concentration and begin to detox myself of social media dependency. Through this, I hope to change my lease on life, specifically how perceive the visual world around me. I hope take the first step in recovering the lost art of seeing.


I hope that as I settle in and begin work that I can share images and words with you all about how much beauty exists in this small cliff-top town. Not only in the breathtaking views and charming streets, but in the lifestyle of the Italian people, something that I hope to adopt by the time that I leave! Ciao for now.