Steve Acunto (Chairman - Scuola d'Italia Guglielmo Marconi)

Una vita dedicata ad aiutare l'Italia negli USA: Steve Acunto

Jan 02, 2014 5229 ITA ENG

The Italian American Community gives us the opportunity to meet versatile men and women: very successful persons on their job, who also serve some Italian institutions with passion and dedication, proudly giving their time and their experience for the best interest of Italy in the USA. Our guest for the first interview of 2014 is definitively one of these: Steve Acunto has many roles, because he has many qualities and a big heart, which beats for Italy and for the Italian Americans. It's an honor and a pleasure for us to begin the year talking to him.

Mr. Acunto, you are the new Chairman of the Board of the Scuola d'Italia Guglielmo Marconi of New York, the only school in North America that provides a classical, bilingual education rooted in the Italian and European traditions. Please tell us something about this pillar of the Italian community in New York

New York is a most international community. We have 114 languages spoken in Queens and Brooklyn and Manhattan, The Bronx and Staten Island. La Scuola d'Italia is one of four which are bilingual, together with a French one, a German one and a Japanese one. More important than being bilingual, the school provides an excellent education in the classical tradition of our schools. So La Scuola d'Italia, with our 260 students, also serves a diverse community: not only the children of Italian people living here, but also a broader audience who are discovering more and more the value of a multilingual education. So our school is uniquely positioned for the New York market and for the international market in New York.

We are an important part of Sistema Italia in New York, a network with many many parts. At the center of it there's the Consulate, and around it are other important institutions: our school, the Italian Cultural Institute, the Italian Chamber of Commerce, the Italian American Committee on Education, the ICE office, the ENIT office. We really have all bases covered, and the institutions cooperate in a very positive way: the system is much better organized than most enterprises, and our leadership is excellent.

You are also the Chairman of the Italian Academy Foundation, which has been active since 1947 in the field of cultural diplomacy, presenting Italian realities to American audiences. What are the activities and the history of the Foundation?

The Foundation was started after world war II by individuals who wanted to be sure that the negative image that Italy had during the war was cancelled by the efforts of the Italian here in America. I became involved in it twenty years ago. When the Foundation ran out of money they asked me to become the Chairman: I basically chaired the Foundation and refunded it through my family and through some contributions as a way of being sure to keep on having another vehicle for Italian artists, musicians, writers to be present in the United States. Since 1947 we've been also publishing the "Italian Journal" which is very well appreciated and noticed with its blue cover. Our readers are Americans, not Italians: we always go outside the boundaries of the Italian American community. Now my daughter Claudia, who lives in Rome, is the editor: but the magazine is circulated in the United States.

In the last two years we did an award winning movie, called "Just ancient loops"; a Broadway show called "The red and the black" and a new cd about the music of Francesco Paolo Tosti. We also sponsored a concert at Carnegie Hall with music from Giuseppe Verdi on the very 200th anniversary of his birthday. And again, we've done a series of receptions, exhibits and other events: right now at the Boca Museum of Art in Boca Raton, Florida, we sponsored the exhibit about the Italian Futurists that in 2014 we will sponsor at the Guggenheim Museum in New York. We will be co-sponsoring something called "Sacrum", in Washington DC: a very important exhibition. Plus we will be doing a concert on march 19, San Giuseppe's day, at the Union League Club of New York, featuring two italian pianist.

You live in Westchester, where you are the Honorary Italian Vice Consul. You also wrote a book about it, called "Westchester County: The Golden Apple of New York". Can you describe our readers this gorgeous part of New York? Are there many Americans of Italian heritage in Westchester?

I am honored to serve as Honorary Vice Consul in Westchester, which is north of New York City, and in the entire Hudson Valley: 18% of those who live in these areas have italian roots, we have four generations of Italians. My focus have always been to support culture and commerce from Italy. We have a very active group up here, called the Coalition of Italian American Organizations.

Westchester County is one of the top five locations in the United States to live. It is one of the wealthiest communities in the world, and it is also the center of many major companies and institutions. Westchester County was, just like Nassau County, a so called "bedroom community" for New York City: in the past many people who worked in New York City moved here with their families. For the Italians, the migration happened usually in the second generation: the first one lived in the City, the second moved up here when started to be a bit more successful. Now the majority of the political jobs here are held by Italian Americans.

Another endeavor of yours is CINN, a private group of companies both in the US and in Italy: you are the Founder and President.

CINN is a company which owns other companies: we own insurance, publishing and entertainment companies. We are very very strong in the insurance business: we publish the oldest insurance magazine in America, founded 124 years ago and later bought by our company. I'm on the board of US RE and Tag Financial.

You know very well Italy and the US, and the relationship between the two countries, from many different angles. What should Italy do to promote itself in the US better than it does now?

My family was very successful in banking: my great grandfather came here as a banker, and made a lot of money and went back: so we are not the typical Italian family in the US. But typical Italian families came here to work and their best tools were two things: music and cuisine. Now, today we have to pass through cuisine, art and fashion: we have to get Italian technology, communication and science. So four years ago the Foundation initiated an enterprise called "Lynx XXI", inspired by the 17th century Accademia dei Lincei, to present the medical and scientific Italy to this country: and to me, that is where we need to concentrate.

Another thing we need to do is to emphasize Italian contemporary products. We have to respect the past, yet promoting what Italy produces now: art, technology, high quality manufacture. Today's Italy is not appreciated as it should be, and that is what we should work on, because we're at the same level of – and in some things, better than – the other big European countries.

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