American Academy in Rome

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American Academy in Rome
LocationRome, Italy
New York City, United States
TypeResearch center
Arts institution
DirectorAliza Wong
PresidentMark Robbins
WebsiteOfficial website

The American Academy in Rome is a research and arts institution located on the Gianicolo (Janiculum Hill) in Rome. The academy is a member of the Council of American Overseas Research Centers.[1]


In 1893, a group of American architects, painters and sculptors met regularly while planning the fine arts section of the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The group discussed the idea of forming an American school for artists in Europe as a place for American artists to study and further their skills. Led by Charles F. McKim of architectural practice McKim, Mead & White, they decided that Rome, which they considered a veritable museum of masterpieces of painting, sculpture and architecture throughout the ages, would be the best location for the school. The program began with institutions such as Columbia University and University of Pennsylvania, who would provide scholarships to artists to fund their travel to Rome. In October 1894 the American School of Architecture opened temporarily at the Palazzo Torlonia; directed by Austin W. Lord, it had three fellows, one visiting student, and a library with one volume. In July 1895, the program moved into the larger Villa Aurora. Renting space out to the American School of Classical Studies and the British & American Archeological Society Library, and financial contributions from McKim, allowed for the school to remain open.[2]

In 1895, the American School of Architecture in Rome was incorporated in New York state and 10 shares of capital stock were issued. Despite fund-raising efforts and the American School of Classical Studies pulling out of Villa Aurora, the organization struggled financially. McKim made up for the financial loss with his personal funds. These struggles would cause the American School of Architecture to restructure and base their program on the French Academy. In June 1897, the institution dissolved itself and formed the American Academy in Rome.[2] Among its incorporators was Charles Moore.[3]

The Academy introduced bills to the U.S. Congress to make it a "national institution," which was successful.[4] In 1904, the Academy moved into Villa Mirafiore, which was soon purchased and renovated. They formed an endowment, which raised over a million dollars, designating those having donated over $100,000 as founders. These founders included McKim, Harvard College, The Carnegie Foundation, J.P. Morgan, J.P. Morgan, Jr., John D. Rockefeller, Jr., The Rockefeller Foundation, William K. Vanderbilt, Henry Walters, and others.[2] Ever since, the American Academy has always been primarily privately financed.[5] Today, financing comes from private donations as well as grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities.[6]

In 1912, the American School of Classical Studies in Rome merged with the Academy, giving the Academy two wings: one that focuses on fine art and one, classical studies. Women were a part of the School of Classical Studies, but were not permitted participation in the School of Fine Arts until after World War II.[2] Since 1914, Joseph Brodsky, Aaron Copland, Nadine Gordimer, Thornton Wilder, Mary McCarthy, Philip Guston, Frank Stella, William Styron, Michael Graves, Robert Venturi, Robert Penn Warren, Oscar Hijuelos and Elizabeth Murray, among others, have come to the Academy for inspiration.[7] The Centennial Directory of the American Academy in Rome documented the lives and careers of nearly 1,400 Fellows and Residents of the Academy from the Academy's founding in 1894 to its centenary in 1994.[8]

From 1970 to 1973, art historian Bartlett H. Hayes Jr. was director of the Academy.[9] Classicist John H. D'Arms was both the resident director of the American Academy and a professor in its School of Classical Studies from 1977 to 1980.[10] Between 1980 and 1984, director Sophie Consagra strengthened the Academy's ties with the Roman community and the Italian Government.[11] In her tenure as president from 1988 and 2013, Adele Chatfield-Taylor, helped restore the Academy's McKim, Mead & White building at a cost of $8.2 million[5] and oversaw a capital campaign in which the institution's endowment grew to $100 million. She also brought on Alice Waters to create the Rome Sustainable Food Project, which brings chefs from the United States to explore Italian sustainable food traditions and to cook for the Academy guests.

From 2010 to 2014, Christopher Celenza was director of the Academy.[12] He was succeeded by Kimberly Bowes.[13] Mark Robbins (1997 Fellow) became president and CEO of the Academy in January 2014.[14] Kimberly Bowes served as the director from 2014 to 2017, when she was succeeded by John Ochsendorf.[15] In 2020, Avinoam Shalem became the 24th director of the academy before stepping down in 2021.[16] Aliza Wong was named director in 2022, becoming the first woman of color to lead the institution in its 128-year history.[17]


The Academy serves as a "home" to visiting U.S. scholars and artists having been awarded the Rome Prize. Given each year to around 30 (15 artist and 15 scholars) of more than 1,000 applicants,[18] the Rome Prize is awarded for work in the following fields: classical studies, ancient studies, medieval studies, modern Italian studies, architecture, design, historic preservation, art conservation, landscape architecture, musical composition, visual art, and literature. The Rome Prize includes terms that range from six months to two years fellowships at the academy; a stipend ($16,000 for half-year and $30,000 for full-year fellowships); and work and living space at the 11-acre campus.

In addition to Rome Prize Fellows, visiting scholars and artists live and work at the Academy for varying periods.[2]


The Academy is housed in several buildings. The main building was designed by the firm of McKim, Mead, and White (their only building in Europe) and opened in 1914. Located under the floor of the basement of the main building lies a segment of the Aqua Traiana that was discovered in 1912–1913.[1] The courtyard has a fountain designed by sculptor Paul Manship. The 2011 Driehaus Prize winner and New Classical architect Michael Graves designed the rare books library in 1996.

The Academy also owns the Villa Aurelia,[2] a country estate built for Cardinal Girolamo Farnese in 1650. The building served as Giuseppe Garibaldi's headquarters during the French siege of Rome in 1849. The villa was heavily damaged during the assault, but it was restored. It was then purchased by Philadelphia heiress Clara Jessup Heyland. Heyland died in 1909, bequeathing the villa to the Academy in her will.[2]


A portion of the aqueduct Aqua Traiana and the ruins of the watermills fed by the aqueduct are on the grounds of the Academy. From the third to the sixth century CE, the Aqua Traiana carried water to operate a number of water mills used for grinding grain, mostly wheat, into flour to make bread, the most important item in the Roman diet. The ancient city of Rome had to import large amounts of grain from Egypt, North Africa, and Sicily to feed its population, estimated at about one million people at its peak. The mills on Janiculum Hill and on the site of the Academy were the second largest complex of water mills known in the ancient world. The provision of grain to the residents of Rome was called the Cura Annonae. The aqueduct and the watermills were excavated in the 1990s.[19]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "American Overseas Research Centers". Council of American Overseas Research Centers. Archived from the original on March 14, 2012. Retrieved March 28, 2012.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Finding Aid". American Academy in Rome records, 1855–[ca.1981], (bulk dates 1894–1946). Archives of American Art. 2011. Retrieved June 17, 2011.
  3. ^ Caemmerer, H. Paul. "Charles Moore and the Plan of Washington." Records of the Columbia Historical Society. Vol. 46/47 (1944/1945): 237–258, 254.
  4. ^ Glenn Brown 1860–1930: Memories (Washington DC, 1931), pp. 425–28)
  5. ^ a b Jean Nathan (June 9, 1994), In Rome, Renovation Worthy of the Medici The New York Times.
  6. ^ American Academy Gives 1991 Rome Prizes The New York Times, April 11, 1991.
  7. ^ Margulies, Donald (1998). Our Town – A Play in Three Acts. HarperPerennial. Foreword and "About The Author" by Margulies. ISBN 978-0-06-051263-7.
  8. ^ American Academy in Rome., Kohl, B. G., Linker, W. A., Kavelman, B. S., & American Academy in Rome. (1995). The centennial directory of the American Academy in Rome. New York: American Academy in Rome.
  9. ^ Grace Glueck (February 16, 1988), Bartlett H. Hayes Jr., an Educator And Art Historian, Is Dead at 83 The New York Times.
  10. ^ Eric Pace (January 26, 2002), John H. D'Arms, 67, Classicist Who Headed Academic Council The New York Times.
  11. ^ Michael Brenson (March 11, 1983), Roman haven for U.S. arts The New York Times.
  12. ^ "American Academy in Rome Appoints Christopher Celenza Its 21st Director". Funzionalità. December 13, 2009. Archived from the original on June 24, 2018. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
  13. ^ "New director of American Academy in Rome". Wanted in Rome. March 4, 2014. Archived from the original on June 24, 2018. Retrieved June 23, 2018.
  14. ^ Rachel Donadio (October 30, 2013), American Academy in Rome Names New President The New York Times.
  15. ^ "The American Academy in Rome Names John Ochsendorf as Director". Retrieved May 11, 2022.
  16. ^ Rome, American Academy in. "Avinoam Shalem Appointed 24th Director of the American Academy in Rome". American Academy in Rome. Retrieved May 11, 2022.
  17. ^ "The American Academy in Rome picks new director, the first woman of colour to lead the institution in its 128-year history". The Art Newspaper - International art news and events. April 1, 2022. Retrieved May 11, 2022.
  18. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on June 19, 2015. Retrieved June 18, 2015.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  19. ^ Wilson, Andrew (2000), "The Water-Mills on the Janiculum", Memoirs of the American Academy in Rome, Vol. 45, pp. 219–246. Downloaded from JSTOR.

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