The Pirandello Institute, an Italian Frontier in Upstate New York

Sep 11, 2017 1056

BY: Vanni Cappelli

To the people of physically and spiritually impoverished Gagliano in the Basilicata, it seemed that Christ Stopped at Eboli, Carlo Levi wrote in his classic eponymous memoir, and it can feel the same for those seeking Italian culture outside of New York City. Italian-American social and cultural associations abound in the Tri-State area, to be sure, but to find actual institutions that teach the language and hold significant events featuring art, literature, and history, one must go to the commuter train station and head into the Big Apple.

All that changed last fall with the opening of the Pirandello Institute of Language and Culture in Poughkeepsie, New York, a multi-faceted school, cultural institute and social center founded by Sicilian native Vita Maria Giangrasso Mesnick, and located in a quaint mid-19th century house at 247 Hooker Avenue that was once the residence for the local Quaker preacher. In one short year, its diverse language classes, historical lectures, book presentations, film showings, and celebratory banquets have initiated a mini-Italian Renaissance on the banks of the Hudson River.

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