St George’s develops new links with Venice International University

Venice International University is located on the island of San Servolo. Earlier this year the President of VIU, Umberto Vattani, hosted several meetings with Mr Ryan, St George’s Senior Deputy Head and Ms Williams, Head of St George’s Junior School at La Storta to discuss the possibility of developing a number of collaborative projects between St George’s and his own organisation.

Amongst his many previous roles, Sig. Vattani has served as Italian Ambassador to Germany, Secretary General of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and President of the Italian Trade Commission. He is currently engaged in a wide range of international cultural, artistic and economic endeavours beyond his work with VIU. Consequently, we are particularly pleased that he has asked to involve our own school in some of his future projects.

To initiate our long term partnership with VIU, we were invited to bring a group of students to visit San Servolo, so as to experience their unique campus. We were also asked to participate in a significant performance work by Chinese artist Qin Feng, that took place in the former Monastery of San Giorgio Maggiore.

Eight members of Y12 were selected for their creativity, curiosity and eloquence. Accompanied by Ms Williams and myself, the students used the journey up to Venice to carry out additional research in preparation for their meetings with Sig. Vattani, his university staff and Qin Feng.

La Serenissima greeted us with a torrential downpour. Fortunately, resplendent in wellingtons and waterproofs, we were well prepared for anything that the elements could throw at us, including acqua alta. We filmed and photographed our way across the canali, ponti, campi and calli, until we reached the number 20 vaporetto from San Zaccaria to San Servolo.  Having settled in to our accommodation at the university, we then set off for our appointment with Sig. Vattani, Qin Feng and the illustrious art critic, Achille Bonito Oliva.

Qin Feng’s ink painting performance took place under a replica of Veronese’s ‘Wedding at Cana’, in Andrea Palladio’s refectory of the Basilica di San Giorgio. Accompanied by a solo cellist, the artist scythed his colossal brush across the canvas covered floor. Audience members frequently risked a splattering of inky droplets. Once the show was over we met the artist himself and were extensively photographed by the attending press.

The following morning our group met with VIU’s programme coordinator, Cristina di Gioia, who gave us a tour of their facilities. This was followed by a fascinating presentation of the university’s history, aims and their ongoing work with visiting students and professors from around the world. Our students were a credit to St George’s, as they enthusiastically articulated their ideas and questions. We discussed opportunities for many innovative creative and educational collaborations between our two organisations.

We set off back into Venice with our heads buzzing with fascinating possibilities. After a session of drawing, photography, critical writing and poetry in Santa Maria della Salute, we had lunch around the Accademia. We then hopped on to the number 2 vaporetto back up the Grand Canal to the railway station. The students spent the return journey to Rome editing a video documenting their trip and generating further ideas for our new partnership.

Greg Morgan, Head of Art and Design & Technology at St George's British International School

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