Once a requisite stop for aspiring American architects, the American Academy in Rome now houses artists, designers and scholars of all stripes from top universities and beyond. Originally envisioned by Charles Follen McKim, the dean of 19th century beaux art American architecture, as a training ground for young aesthetes, the Academy was a rite of passage before embarking on a career shaping the civic architecture of the burgeoning continent.
Over the ensuing century the Academy evolved from the rough, but rarified, outpost of the privileged class to something broader and more utopian: a dynamic community of artists and scholars living and working together in an environment of both uncommon beauty and shared purpose.
On any given day the Academy hosts a shifting roster of some of the world’s most eminent scholars, artists, critics and thinkers; all recipients of one of the most generous fellowships in America, the Rome Prize. A single day may include a reading, a lecture, a studio visit, a walk to an historic site, a recital or an offthecuff debate. But, all days would include a communal meal in the dining room.
This shared table is the essence of the mission: to exchange ideas and conversation between disciplines, generations and cultures.
In that way the Academy fulfills an unusual role: to create an environment, select the people in it, and then to step out of the way. The most important commodities the Academy offers are time and space for creative people to think and work without any expectation or requirement.
The American Academy Rome, Italy
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