Mayfield Arts Students: Inaugural Arts Immersion “Bellissima Italia” Tour

The student artists, accompanied by Conservatory for the Arts faculty and tour guides, stayed in Rieti, about 50 miles east of Rome, from April 5-10 (with day trips to Florence and Assisi) and then explored Rome from April 11-14.

“Our travels provided students with an opportunity to express their creative voices in an atmosphere of cultural exchange,” says Head of School Rita McBride, who traveled with the group. “Our studio artists, creative writers, and digital media technicians documented the experience through their particular art medium.”

Many photo and video highlights of the tour are posted on the the tour company’s dedicated Mayfield Bellissima Italia tour blog.

Traveling during Holy Week and celebrating Good Friday and Easter Sunday with local communities in Rieti and Assisi provided a unique opportunity for spiritual, cultural and artistic immersion.

The group attended Good Friday Mass at the Cathedral in Rieti, followed by a city tour with a local expert guide. The Visual Arts Conservatory students enjoyed a special workshop with Betsy McCall, acclaimed visual artist and founding member of the ArtMonastery project in the nearby town of Labro. The evening candelight procession in Contigliano was a spiritual and cultural highlight for all.

The next day’s trip to Florence included a guided tour showcasing the city’s historical center, featuring the Accademia Gallery—home to Michelangelo’s statue of David. Visual arts students also made a special visit to the Uffizi Gallery, which includes works Botticelli’s Birth of Venus, and famous works by Michelangelo, Raphael, Caravaggio and Titian.

On Easter Sunday, the group traveled the scenic route through Umbria to hilltop Assisi, where they visited the Basilicas of St. Francis and St. Catherine. “We braved the torrential rains of the Umbrian hills in Assisi and enjoyed the sounds of the beautiful bells, and the beauty of the lovely countryside and the spectacular Giotto frescoes,” says McBride.

The next day, the entire group spent an “immersion day” at the ArtMonastery in Labro. The ArtMonkettes taught group and specialty workshops in several artistic disciplines. American dancer Julia Pond, who is based in London, was one of the special guests for the day. She traveled from London to meet the group and work with the dancers. That evening, the singers performed at a special Mass at the Rieti Cathedral.

Tuesday, April 10 marked the performance highlight of the tour. Student actors, singers, dancers and their tech team spent the day preparing for the evening’s “Arts in Motion” concert at the beautiful Teatro Flavio Vespasiano in Rieti. The Teatro di Rieti opened in 1893 and underwent a 3.3 million-Euro restoration from 2005 through 2009. It has since earned Italy’s inaugural National Award for Acoustics.

While the performers rehearsed on stage throughout the day, visual arts students experience a drawing class with local painter Franco Bellardi at La Schola di Rieti.

“Our last two days in Rieti were unbelievable,” says Denise Darnell, Director of the Conservatory for the Arts. “The artists took an incredible class with a master teacher, the performers were in the Teatro preparing of their evening performance and the writers blogged.

“A group of students from Rieti spent the day with us, but nothing could prepare me for the evening. All the preparation, dedication and focus came into play on the stage; it warmed my heart with pride and joy.”

On Wednesday, the group said a fond farewell to their temporary home base of Rieti and traveled to Rome. The entire group attended the General Papal Audience in St. Peter’s Square, followed by a guided tour of the Vatican Museums and Sistine Chapel. Our singers performed first for his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI during the Papal Audience and again in the afternoon as the featured guest choir for Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.

The following day was devoted to taking in iconic Roman sightseeing destinations, including the Colosseum, Roman Forum and Piazza Navona. The group’s final day in Rome was steeped in Holy Child history. On Saturday, April 13, they visited with students and faculty at the Istituto Sacro Cuore at the top of the Spanish Steps before performing at the Church of Trinità dei Monti, which is where Cornelia Connelly lived as a postulant with the Sisters of the Sacred Heart in 1845 before founding the Society of the Holy Child Jesus the following year.

Congratulations and thanks to Denise Darnell, Director of the Conservatory for the Arts, for working to make this arts immersion tour concept a reality for our talented students.

See more highlights of the trip on the the tour company’s dedicated Mayfield Bellissima Italia tour blog.


Pasadena Now has been published daily since April, 2004 and is among the very oldest continously operated community news websites in the U.S.

Pasadena Now strives to publish a full spectrum of news and information articles in service to the entire community. The publication will remain free to readers and will not erect paywalls.

Pasadena Now strives to provide factual, unbiased reporting. Our opinion section is open to all.