Member Spotlight: Studio Incamminati



By Will Becker

In 2002 Nelson Shanks, a world-renowned artist famous for his portraits of luminaries ranging from Pope John Paul II to Princess Diana founded Studio Incamminati in the Callowhill neighborhood of Philadelphia. Studio Incamminati is an advanced art academy, distinguished from others in the field by its rigorous curriculum and teaching methods which fuse the classical traditions of the Renaissance masters, the radiant colors of the Impressionists, and a fresh, contemporary sensibility.  While rooted in classical and realist painting, the name Incamminati means ‘moving forward’ in Italian, which holds dear to the studio’s ideals of “using the past to move forward”.

The studio has a wealth of northern light that provides a crisp and powerful vantage point for artists to hone their skills and fully engage themselves within the lessons in precision the studio provides.  The core curriculum stems from the late Nelson Shanks’ unwavering commitment to the belief that mastery of technique is the essential prelude to creative expression. Offering a four-year program and fellowship opportunities as well, students of a variety of ages and skillsets begin learning the principles of realist painting with charcoal and move onto color work after their second year.

The studio also contributes greatly to the community of Philadelphia. The school has partnered with Urban Promise in an award-winning project that invited 13 UP seniors in high school to sit and receive portraits of themselves, capturing “their intelligence and their hopes that lie ahead”. While it gives Urban Promise seniors a chance to interact with working artists and learn everything from painting techniques to lighting, it also has become a valued part of what the studio offers its artists, and gives students an opportunity to learn from artists who are resilient and pursued their dreams.

Another project that should not go unnoticed is Face to Face: The Craniofacial Program Portrait Project, carried out in partnership with the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and the Edwin and Fannie Gray Hall Center for Human Appearance at the University of Pennsylvania. The project helps pediatric patients with craniofacial conditions see themselves in a different light by pairing them with accomplished Studio Incamminati artists, producing portraits that have been shown to help patients grapple with the complex medical and psychological challenges they face every day.  Exit interviews revealed the positive impact of the project: patients reported enhanced social resilience and improved self esteem, coupled with the powerful personal relationships developed with the patients and their artists over time. In our beauty focused culture, the patients embody the stories of courage and perseverance which must be told, and the portraits are exhibited publicly to highlight these challenges and strengths of living with a visible difference.

Studio Incamminati is continually making strides in Philadelphia and beyond as well. A globally minded school, it has teachers and instructors that are from and have worked in Russia, India, China, and more. The school has enrolled students from five continents and welcomes other international students – as it is part of the School and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) and has the opportunity to sponsor international visas for students. The school partners with Chestnut Hill College in providing the Integrated Art Studio Major, which combines top-flight intellectual and artistic training for students to develop a rewarding career in the arts, and holds a number of workshops there as well. Incamminati was also featured recently on WHYY, and has a very active and engaging presence on Facebook and Instagram, with a recent Facebook Live “Virtual Open House” event being viewed by over 10,000 patrons from 6 continents. The school provides a platform and pathway for creating accomplished and successful artists, and its graduates continually receive high-tier awards for their outstanding work.

Stay Connected:
The studio has an Al-Prima painting event included in Ciao Philadelphia this October, is hosting an Artists and Alumni Exhibition and Sale from June 2nd-28th, and a Gala at Willowstreams celebrating 15 years on June 11th.

Click here and discover their latest feature on WHYY’s Newsworks.

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