What is your name, age, and location?
Nita Louise Sturiale, 48, Lexington MA USA.
What is your profession?
University Professor, Artist, Mother.
What did you study in school and what degrees do you have?
Interdisciplinary Fine Art, Education, Art and Science; Harvard Graduate School of Education – Master In Education; School of the Museum of Fine Arts/Tufts University – Master in Fine Art.
What was your first job in your current field?
I was a teaching assistant in a combined 5th/6th grade classroom in the Cambridge Public School system as well as a research assistant in Design Lab, an elementary engineering education project sponsored by MIT.
Who or what inspired you to break into your current line of work?
I was inspired to pursue the arts in high school by my art teacher George Sanfilippo. He challenged me, allowed me space and time to explore my ideas, and didn’t let me go. I was inspired to teach because of my student experience in the Studio for Interrelated Media at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston where I now teach. The learning I experienced in this program was enabled by faculty that allowed the students to lead themselves. Through collaboration, community building, student led critiques and curriculum – we learned to teach ourselves. The faculty was there to guide, inspire, and challenge. I was particularly inspired by Harris Barron the founder of the Studio for Interrelated Media program, John Holland, Dana Moser and Donald Burgy. Later in Graduate School at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, I studied with Eleanor Duckworth who taught me to focus my enthusiasm into a deeper understanding of pedagogy and student-centered, experience based learning approaches.
Name/describe what has been your most rewarding project so far?
I would have to say the current project I’m working on – Regali Artist Residency in Sicily project. As the granddaughter of, and wife to, Sicilian immigrants, I’ve had the privilege of traveling to Sicily every summer for 14 years. For years I’ve wanted to share the amazing tastes, sights and sounds of Sicily with the talented young artists I have come to know as a Professor at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston. After brainstorming with some wonderful cultural entrepreneurs in Favara, Sicily, we are collaborating on Regali in order to connect Sicilian artists with American artists to work on a unique cross-cultural collaboration.
This project will send five emerging American artists to Sicily to work alongside five Italian artists in the rural town of Favara, Sicily. We will form collaborative teams and interview Sicilian families about the special gifts in their lives. We will end our two-week residency with a book and an exhibition at Farm Cultural Park, a new contemporary arts center in the heart of Favara’s historic quarters. The exhibition will include a video and audio installation of the recorded voices of locals, a large format photo series, and live performances interacting with the gifts that locals have donated to the show.
The project is deeply rewarding as a symbol of gratitude to my grandfather for his Sicilian heritage, as well as his bravery to seek a better life for himself and his children in America; an apology to my father-in-law for taking his son far away; and a promise to my daughters that they will have the power to invent a future for themselves that is the best of both worlds.
Name/describe one incident when being a woman has helped your career?
I think being a woman has helped me in that I have been able to experience birth and motherhood. I have a high tolerance for pain and inconvenience. I am extremely pragmatic and efficient. I don’t allow meetings to linger too long. I get things done on my list very quickly for the most part because I just don’t have the liberty to take my time. Having a child of my own has helped me feel deeply connected with the flow of the universe and the force of evolution. This has given me an inner peace and confidence that influences everything I do.
Name/describe one incident when being a woman has hindered your career?
I think being a woman has hindered me in that I have been able to experience birth and motherhood. I have a high tolerance for pain and inconvenience – this leads to not taking care of myself in order to take care of others. I am extremely pragmatic and efficient – this keeps me from having fun, relaxing, musing, and writing poetry. The fact that I rarely put myself first and that I have a hard time relaxing and having fun translate into a difficult time networking, self-marketing, and “schmoozing”. This has had direct impact on my public success profile.
Who is your role model or mentor (alive or dead)?
Abby Rockefeller is a friend and mentor that I lived with during graduate school in Cambridge MA. She is strong, smart, generous and focused. She is an avid environmentalist, farmer, cook and mom. I loved that she embraces aging with grace and fearlessness, wears almost the same thing everyday, and can wield an ax like a mountain man. She can tell you everything you need to know about sludge, grey water, and composting toilets. She taught me how to ride a horse bareback on a beach, how to roast a chicken, and how to be inconveniently honest.
If you could give one piece of advice to a woman starting out in your field, what would it be?
Do the right thing – you know what it is. Do the extra work, fix that one last typo, take the long way around, do what you said you would do. Your integrity is the one human character you have complete power over. Protect it with all of your strength. Knocking someone down to get what you want will only poison the prize.
Nita’s personal site: nitasturiale.com
Nita’s project “Regali Artist Residency” on Indiegogo
Follow Nita on Twitter: @nitasturiale
– Interview by Elena Rossini