In Providence, there seems to be an unwritten rule: if it’s Italian, we approve. Many of us delight in passing under the Atwells Avenue archway where La Pigna (the pine cone or the pineapple, depending on who you ask) welcomes us into our own Little Italy, the historic Federal Hill. We proudly declare that the best Italian food can be found right here in our city. Don’t believe us? Try taking a stroll down South Water Street’s waterfront and tempt the senses with the intoxicating aroma emanating from the esteemed Al Forno, home of the most celebrated Italian-style grilled pizza in New England.
Maybe it’s that same love of Italy and Italian-Americans that renders some of us star struck, texting up a tizzy after a sighting of the charismatic Judge Caprio or the notorious yet eternally beloved Buddy Cianci. Okay, perhaps we don’t all agree on those last two. Still, Providence’s passion for all things Italy makes it the perfect home for an Italian contemporary art gallery, and Just Art Contemporary Art Gallery is just that.
Just Art’s owner Barbara Beaudette cultivated her love for Italy as an undergrad at UC Berkeley and went on to achieve her Bachelor of Arts in Italian at UCLA. After graduating, Barbara relocated to Florence, Italy, a place she refers to as the Mecca of art. There she worked in the import and export business for major stores including Harrod’s and Federated Department Stores. After nine years, Barbara decided to move back to the States to further her education, all the while planning to return to Italy. It was during her return trip that she met art curator Andy Sperotti. Together, the two created a vision for an Italian contemporary art gallery on the East Coast and four years later their dream became a reality.
As Providence residents, we may love us some Italian culture, but each of us are drawn to it for distinctly personal reasons. Beaudette’s reason is her deeply rooted passion for “promoting the unbridled artistic talent residing in Italy.” Almost all of the gallery’s art, comprised mostly of paintings and sculptures, is Italian art from Italy. This unique factor sets Just Art apart from all of the galleries on the East Coast and many others throughout the country. Beaudette chose Providence as Just Art’s home because of the city’s vibe, it’s location between Boston and New York, and to save her Italian artists from traveling to her home state of California.
Providence has held out La Pigna for Just Art, even though the gallery doesn’t reside on Federal Hill. Since opening its doors in 2011 at The Plant on Valley Street, Just Art’s exhibits have included grandmasters, i.e. celebrated artists who have passed, such as Giorgio de Chirico, Lucio Fontana, Afro, Renato Guttuso and many more. Just Art also presents masters, artists who are still living and have at least 40 years of experience, as well as established and emerging artists.
Just Art’s current exhibition, The Color of Silence, is a trilogy incorporating three contemporary artists all influenced by the surrealist and meta-physical art movements of the early 1900s. Together, Ciro Palumbo, Matthias Brandes and Marcello Scuffi, find inspiration in classic painting techniques from some of history’s greatest painters. Palumbo’s art makes use of colors and tones present in art hundreds of years ago while Brandes uses pigments and egg whites to create his own colors. Scuffi favors using ancient affresco techniques and preparing his canvases from coffee sacks. The Color of Silence trilogy details each artist’s fantasy and illusions of a utopian world where color abounds yet serenity and stillness reign.
As if managing a thriving gallery wasn’t enough, owner Barbara Beaudette is also focused on fostering art studies both in the United States and abroad by bringing students here to live and work for three months at a time as well as sending students to Italy. She’s also intent on expanding Just Art’s reach to locations in Asia, Miami and New York.
Just Art Contemporary Art Gallery is located in The Plant at 60 Valley Street. 272-0820.