Italy 2020:The Character of Place: A Hands-On Professional Development Program in the Visual and Performing Arts

The Character of Place

Spending some time in a new or foreign setting rejuvenates the senses and promotes an enhanced or heightened understanding of our work in the arts. Join us May 20- June 19, 2020 in Florence, Italy for an intensive 4 week professional development program for working artists with experience in any or all of the three areas of theatre, two-dimensional (drawing and/or painting) and three-dimensional art (jewelry and/or found object sculpture).

The Learning Experience

For practitioners working in the arts interdisciplinary studies allows them to make connections between ideas and concepts across different disciplinary boundaries. Interdisciplinary studies in the arts enabling practitioners to apply the knowledge gained in one discipline to another as a way of deepening their learning and means of personal expression.

The Character of Place: is a 4 1/2 week inter and intra disciplinary program that  addresses the questions:  “How is it that the aesthetic narrative can only happen here? What is the particular character of this place that gives it the ability to carry a specific narrative content?”

 This program will use the arts to explore how the character of place can advance an aesthetic narrative.  Participation in at least one of three focused areas will be balanced with interdisciplinary group discussions and directed activities. The discussions and activities will take place in the morning (9:00-10:00), with the focused areas  taking place in the morning (10:30-12:00), afternoon (1:00-3:00) and/or evening (times to be determined).

Questions: Specific questions regarding this program’s individual focused areas of study for either Dr. Edwards, Professor Wells or Dr. Seastrum should be addressed to:

Online Registration Form:

Mail Registration Form: To Register for on of The Character of Place Three Focus Ares please click on the following link.  There you will find the application form:

Registration Closing Date: January 31st, 2020.

For More Information If you have questions for Dr. Edwards, Dr. Seastrum or Professor Wells please contact Vita ate able to find the application form at that location.  if you have questions for Dr. Edwards, Dr. Seastrum or Professor Wells please contact Vita at:

The Focused Programs:

The Character of Place: Theatre: Acting/Scriptwriting: Dr. Paul Edwards: Theatre Through a Different Lens.

The program is intended for working actors and individuals grounded in theatre who are familiar with different major approaches to acting, scriptwriting and/or performance (playwrights, designers and people from all walks of theatre life are also welcome).

Scene work, monologues, scriptwriting and improvisation will be used to explore theatre practice in the context of the other arts, in the light of recent developments in the science of what makes us human, and studies of perception and action.

Conducting this program in a foreign country will provide participants with a wake-up call to the senses and result in a heightened awareness of the acting resources provided by our own day-to-day existence. All of this will be tied to the sense of place and how a narrative unfolds within a given environment. Come prepared to learn, to teach, to develop, to be challenged and to have fun.


The Character of Place: Two-Dimensional Art:  Dr. Don Seastrum: Space, Color, and Light.

The Program is intended for artists with an established artistic practice.  The program addresses how compositional elements and principles are manipulated beyond technique, using images developed from the environments in and around Florence, Italy.

The program will encourage participating artist to investigate her or his own vision of the world while developing skills with purposeful inquiry and creative expression. The participants will produce compositional studies that employ Place as an integral aspect of the composition, rather than a secondary consideration, an environmental backdrop. Place, both figuratively and conceptually, being as much a “character” as any other image-shapes in the composition.

By investigating the interrelationship of space, color and light as applied to place, the program will go beyond pure technique into the realm of expressive concepts, ideas, philosophies or any number of content-texts derived from the individual artists own experiences.

Upon completion of the program participants will have a collection of pieces that they will be able to take back to their personal studios and use as the source for more in-depth studies and completed compositions.

Each individual participant will determine his or her media of expression. The only requirement will be that the media is capable of producing works in color. Because of international travel requirements, time and portability, recommended media would be watercolors, colored pencils, pastels and/or acrylic paints. Again, because of travel requirements, the ability to complete studies within an 11 day schedule, surfaces upon which to work should be no larger than 18X24 inches.

A majority of the hands on application studies will be done on site in a variety of locations in and around Florence. Participants should be prepared to walk a minimum of one to two miles a day.

The Character of Place: Three-Dimensional Art: Jennifer Wells:Jewelry and/or Sculpture:

The program offers participants the opportunity to create works from items collected and gathered while interacting with our surroundings. A scrap of tin is only that, until you pick it up and offer it a moment when it can have a new life as a character from a memory in a moment from your experiences.

This program is meant to explore how we view the items that we often pass by. Working with very minimal tools and additional materials we will create pieces of wearable and non- wearable sculpture that focus on found objects. Each piece will have the potential to carry with it the story of the object; where it was found, what the creator had done that day, why they were in that location, what they were feeling, smelling, ect.. Simultaneously we will be allowing the found objects to become characters and enter into roles of intimate personal importance, as keepers of memory. Demonstrations will provide technical support and material explorations. Participants should expect to leave with a large collection of material experiments as well as several finished works.


All participants will receive a professional development certificate upon completion of the program.

The Program Facilitators

All three of the program presenters have extensive experience in teaching within their respective fields and in a variety of learning environments.  During this program, they will serve as facilitators more than classroom teachers.

Dr. Paul Edwards is Emeritus Professor of Communication Arts, Western Colorado University, holds a PhD in Theatre from The University of Colorado, an MA in Theatre from the University at Albany, and a BA in Fine Arts from St. Michael’s College in Vermont. He has studied performance and acting with Augusto Boal, Constance Valis Hill, Lee Potts and Joanne Rathgeb, among others. Currently he serves as Vice President of the Board of Vita Institute.

Paul has been involved in theatre for the greater portion of his life, and is in the process of completing a fulfilling career at Western Colorado University. A theatre generalist, he has taught dozens of courses in all aspects of theatre, communication arts, performance studies and several interdisciplinary courses as well. He has directed, acted in, and written in excess of 100 plays, conducted numerous workshops in a variety of settings, and has also served as a stage manager, designer, dramaturg and theatre manager. Paul also has served as a faculty member in several team-taught, interdisciplinary study abroad programs in both England and Italy.

Dr. Don Eugene Seastrum is Emeritus Professor of Art, holds a Ph.D. in Fine Art from the Union Institute, a Masters degree from the University of Denver and a Bachelors degree from Western Colorado University.  Currently he serves as President of the Board of Vita Institute.

Don is a painter and lithographer with five decades of professional and teaching experience in the visual arts in both the United States and Italy.   Don’s work is represented in a number of museums and collections including the Museo D’Arte Moderna E Contemporanea (Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art) Comune Di Cerreto Laziale, Rome, Italy, Siena Art Institute Via Tommaso Pendola 37, Siena, Italy and the New Britain Museum of American Art, 56 Lexington Street, New Britain, Connecticut.

Jennifer Wells is a studio artist and educator, originally from the U.S but currently living and working in Italy. She received her M.F.A in Metalsmithing & Jewelry Design and has completed several artist-in-residencies at: Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg, TN, Pocosin Arts in Columbia, NC and the Jentel Foundation near Banner, WY. Jennifer has taught for Universities throughout the U.S and for study abroad programs based in Italy. Currently she serves on the Board of Vita Institute and teaches for Santa Reparata International School of Arts in Florence, Italy. She also teaches short workshops on various enameling and metalsmithing techniques throughout Europe and the U.S. Her work is in the collection of the Enamel Arts Foundation and the Racine Museum.

Host Institution: Santa Reparata International School of Art (SRISA): Piazza Indipendenza 4, Florence, Italy 50129

Program Fee 

The cost of the four-week course is $5000 and covers:

  • Course instruction: ( including focused programs,  group discussions and activities)
  • Associated activity fees including the Amici Degli Uffizi Card that allows for free privileged access to the Uffizi Gallery as well as free entrance to the Pitti Palace Museums as well as the Boboli and the Bardinin Gardens
  • SRISA self catering apartments
  • Not included in the self catering SRISA apartments:                                                                                                            Bed sheets and bath towels                                                                                                                                                     Cleaning service (optional upon onsite request)                                                                                                                        Meals, telephones                                                                                                                                                                                  No student apartments come with A/C

(You have the option of arranging for your own accommodations.  If you choose this option your program cost will be $4005. You must identify that you are opting to arrange for your own accommodations at the time you sign up for the program. Once this choice has been made there will not be an opportunity to change your option.)

SRISA benefits include:

  • Use of studio space at Santa Reparata International School of Art
  • Evening and weekend access to the shared classrooms, studios, and lounge areas at SRISA.
  • SRISA orientation activities including: orientation to Florence, housing, safety presentation by local police officer, SRISA handbook map.
  • SRISA welcome Banquet: Welcome Gala held at a historic Florentine palace with dining and dancing.
  • Siena or San Gimignano Field Trip: Transportation and walking tour of Siena or San Gimignano with guide and SRISA group leader.
  • Access to SRISA optional field trips organized by SRISA staff. Summer 2020 trips include: Rome (2 days,1 night), Chianti (1 day), and Portovenere (1 day). Includes: transportation, accommodations, some museum entrances, and SRISA group leader.
  • Cultural Program: The Cultural Program is available to all students and faculty participating in courses at SRISA over the summer. Hosted by Full Time SRISA Faculty, daily activities include: walking tours of Florence, lectures covering numerous aspects of Italian culture such as art, history, food, and fashion. A full list of topics will be available prior to the program.
  • On-campus Internet, WiFi
  • SRISA Library, books from the extensive SRISA Library may be checked out for off-campus use.
  • SRISA Emergency Assistance, 24/7

The course fee does not include airfare; transit to and from Florence, meals (with the exception of the Welcome banquet), and personal expenditures.


Please check with your insurance provider to see if you have medical coverage while abroad.

Additional Notes 

There will be opportunities to create your own adventures in the areas around Florence. There will be days off, if participants wish to make a  trip to Pisa, Lucca, Rome or Cinque Terre.

The Character of Place is not a credit-bearing course. Arrangements for the earning of CEUs or academic credit are the responsibility of the participant and must be made with an accredited institution.

The Vita Institute is committed to providing an inclusive and welcoming environment for all program/workshop presenters and students.   Our anti-discrimination policy is available on our website.  Abusive language or actions directed at individuals and/or groups violates  Vita’s nondiscriminatory policy and will not be accepted.

When programs/workshops are presented overseas any behavior that is deemed inappropriate or illegal (Host country laws as well as American laws) will result in the immediate suspension of the participant from the program/workshop. This is a no tolerance policy.

To sing up for one of the three Focused Areas please go to the application form on this web site: Application Form The Character of Place: A Hands-On Professional Development Program: May 20-June 19, 2020, Florence, Italy

The Vita Institute for the Arts is an artist run non-profit art education organization; dedicated to meeting the needs of practitioners in the arts seeking continued professional and educational explorations into their own vision of the world while developing skills with purposeful inquiry and creative expression.

The Vita Institute offers professional development programs and workshops based on three guiding principles:

  1. Collaborative Education: Vita Institute for the Arts promotes an educational concept dedicated to the advancement of artistic vision, personal interpretation and skill development in a supportive collaborative environment without restricting the experience by either a rigid University format or an artificial grading structure.
  2. Foster dialogue within and between artistic disciplines: The Institute emphasizes collaboration between visual artists, writers, musicians, filmmakers, poets, photographers, artists from all media and disciplines, collaborations that will expand and advance the dialogue within and between disciplines.
  3. Cultivate an Art of Personal Inquiry and Creative Expression. Vita provides participants with the time and opportunity to investigate, through personal inquiry and creative expression, her or his own artistic vision.