Rome’s Forte Prenestino

The CSOA Forte Prenestino is known by the locals as a communist hangout. Taxi’s refused to pick me up from this location. When entering this place, I understand way. It is filled with unique characters liberated from societal restraints on decorum. Those living on the outside of their societal normative occupy the grounds of this forte and work together to put together the event for Crack Festival Prenestino.

Before entering the fort and exploring on my own, I received a pink bracelet indicating that I was an art vendor. This bracelet allowed me to enter and exit the fort with much ease. Once inside the forte, I combed through many work spaces and vendors. Many spaces were one and the same. This fort is a squat for artists, no one is given much privacy. This seems to work to their advantage by creating an open and social gathering space wherever you go.

To go from one side of the fort to the other, you must walk through each of these spaces, forcing you to confront environments you may not want to confront, but the ability to see the space and confront the people within it gives you the informed choice to linger in a space or cruise on by. You will hear a plethora of music, clashing together. Complimented by the sounds of chattering from people and dogs.

Fumes from alcohol, weed, cigarettes, paint and other chemicals waft the breathable air in a manic tangent of creativity and attitude. Compared to the Western Avenue Art Studios, there is a stark difference. There is stricter adherence to safety and outer appearance of the facilities. Classical music plays in the background and, although it may be a decent place for creativity to grow, it is restricted by cost and limitations described by the studios for various cosmetic reasons.

As far as I know, the CSOA only provides the artists with a space and minimal furniture to be shared. But the artists use everything and anything to get their work up. Works range drastically from one artist to another but themes tend to include sexual freedom/fluidity, dark allegories, comics, collages and prints, products coupled with animations, and stuffed items.

The Western Avenue Art Studios follow a more perceivably classical art interest with an emphasis in painting. There is not necessarily a focus at the western art studios, but there is a focus on female power and sexual freedom at the Forte Prenestino manifested as the coyote, also known as the world play on the word prostitute.

It isn’t easy to find people at the Western Avenue Art Studios because studio doors are always closed. However, at Forte Prenestino artists and visitors are to be seen everywhere. Generally, people from both places are friendly but there is a level of openness I only get from Forte Prenestino which is only faltered by my lack of Italian language.

I feel that artists in the Forte Prenestino are freer to express themselves. Politically, I believe them to be more helpful than those at the Western Avenue Art Studios in making meaningful political works. However, work felt like it done accomplished more at the Western Avenue Art Studios than at Forte Prenestino due to the everlasting party atmosphere.

I believe that the social function of Forte Prenestino lies within its Punk roots, emphasizing a freedom to create anything. Western Avenue Art Studios is more of a facility being used by artists to bring themselves up in their careers by networking and working amongst other artists in a perceived “professional setting.”

I liked Forte Prenestino better than Western Avenue Art Studios, but perhaps that opinion will change if I had to continue working in Forte Prenestino, and if it was not the Crack Festival. I enjoyed the music that played every night, and the people that passed by the vending stand. The conversations were always friendly and their interests seemed to lie closer to mine, then the other artists I’ve spoken to at western Ave Studios.

There is also a stronger sense of personality in their artwork and finding how to connect themselves to their art at Forte Prenestino, whereas there feels like there is a disconnection in the Western Avenue Art Studios, between the artist and their work. Where I hear the artist always speaking of making what they want and making what sells. And sadly, I’m not sure if the works at Forte Prenestino sold as much as it feels, but it feels right because it’s such a happy face and people felt proud of their work.

I believe a CSOA squat space like this would be beneficial to the United States’ art world, with its ability to fester creativity without the pacification of the current art culture and lack of cash.

Also, perhaps as a side note, those crank-flush toilets at CSOA Forte Prenestino suck. Totally traumatizing.

-Matthew Jarbeau

Italy-Snapshots of a Journey

Everywhere you look in Italy is art sprinkled on art. Every aspect of every material object here has an inhuman amount of thought and concentration applied to it. I went across the ocean, but never surfaced from the waves of total unfamiliarity and beauty until placing two feet inside of my home.

These candles are lit in prayer to those above. This simple symbol of faith was found adorning the front of many of the religious artworks, accompanied with a prayer bench.

Many of the paintings in churches are left in dim lighting, with a window positioned on the opposite wall. The sunlight beams through this window, lighting the wall carefully, and creating a spotlight that flirts its way around the room, highlighting different areas throughout the day. This last picture in the set is a modern art museum we found on a nightly stroll, with mirrors and strings that spun, and light that wouldn’t stay still.

Here, you can see what it looks like to be outside on a beautiful Italian day. The air is warm, and (despite the popularity of smoking), probably the freshest air I’ve ever encountered.

A solo Vespa scooter trip on Saturday morning to check out the Tuscan hills and meet some fellow tourists….


Public drinking fountains, open courtyards, and airy windows.



What’s an Italian trip without museums? Here is “La Primavera” by Botticelli, located in the Uffizi Gallery, Mary Magdalene the Museo dell’Opera del Duomo in Florence, and the David, located in the Galleria dell’Accademia.


You can’t help but love Italian architecture. This first one is the medieval and famous ponte vecchio (the oldest bridge in Florence). The building with the golden sun lighting and the domes is, none other than the Duomo itself. There was a really cute wedding held here during our stay! Also, here’s the Colosseum, and an old forum in Rome.


The Venice Biennale… it can’t be captured in photographs, but here’s a taste. These are my favorite parts of the show.


Last but not least, Pompeii. 🙂 Epic beyond expectations.


Reflection Paper

Hello, sorry if this may be a tad late, but I also have here attached a reflection essay on the Crack Festival and my overall experience at my first art sharing event. Well, here goes nothing…


During my stay in Italy, we visited the city of Rome, the country’s capital. For about six days, we walked through the city and had entered various art museums and visited magnificent monuments. For the first three days, in between museum visits, we went to an event known as the Crack Festival. It was a public art sharing forum which granted artists in the Roma area an opportunity to come to a site known as Forte Prenestino to expose and sell their art pieces. There were some very creative methods of making art shown in the festival, such as clothes graphics, comic books, videos, paintings, and drawings.

While I was there, I decided to buy a print of a fox lying in a mountain valley with a little girl playing a flute. They are sitting in a valley, late at night, with the moon lighting up the sky, as well as all the trees and mountains in the distance. I really admired this piece of artwork and decided to buy a copy for my girlfriend. The name of the artist that made this is Marina Girardi. Her works consist mainly of darkness, nature, and animals, and are very comical and cartoony. I liked her works if only for the fact that they were some of the only jovial pieces of art that I could find in the gallery.

My personal opinion about Crack Festival as a whole is that it did not feel entirely welcoming to absolutely everyone. There seemed to be a very specific target audience for Crack, which included people that have very dark outlooks of the world, and people that are comfortable with looking at very graphic images of the human body, narrowing the audience down even further. This was the first art festival that I have ever been to, so I do not know entirely what a typical one would be like, but this one feels like it should have been a touch more welcoming than it was. One example that I have is the presence of multiple smokers and drinkers in the festival, and I am completely aware of how lenient the laws of drinking and smoking are in Italy. It only negatively influences the younger audience that may want to pursue a degree in Fine Arts though, as smoking is not something that everyone likes to be encouraged to take on in life. Also, the overall setting of the building was very desolate, and did not look too clean or organized at all, though not much better could be expected from an underground festival.

Overall, it was a lot of fun being given an opportunity to explore figures in the modern Italian art world and their works, and the material that I saw has some great potential to attain some greater exposure as artists. I love to use other artists’ works as reference points to my art that I have done in the past and use them as fuel to further strengthen my personal artistic style, and I have very similar thoughts during on-campus art critiques. The main gripe that I have with this particular festival is the fact that not every piece of art that met my eyes was pleasant, and in most cases were very disturbing for me to look at, just knowing what they are supposed to represent. I had been in a dark place for about three and a half years, until recently when 2017 started. I have just been trying to get away from dark views of the world ever since, and about ninety-five percent of the artwork I saw fell under that genre for me. I like to look at happier, encouraging, more pleasant artwork that delivers a positive message to everyone and is very fun to look at. When we went with our study abroad group, I felt like we were very distinct and unique from the remainder of the festival, and I liked that, since we were American tourists, looking for a great opportunity to expose and possibly sell our own artwork, and it was fun, especially when all of the work that we presented was awesome and enjoyable to look at.

Like I said earlier, this is the first art festival that I have been to, and did not know entirely what to expect from it. I have been to other comical festivals such as PAX East and Comic Con, but this was a first in the category of my career that I am pursuing. I am very happy to put this on my resume, as I could use this for jobs to see that I went to an art and graphic design related event, and the experience that I got from this was invaluable despite the dark atmosphere. I did, at least, stumble across Marina Girardi and her plethora of art, and she is a magnificent nature artist that I will continue to look to for new ideas in my art portfolio, and possibly reference in my Senior Studio classes once I take those.

The previous presence of other Italian artists such as Botticelli, Michelangelo, Leonardo, Raphael, and Titian inspire us as artists to make new pieces today, ones that match our emotion, style, and current events that take place. It is a joyous thing to see art still be created, and going long and strong, and I may be amazed to find out what the future holds to the artistic world as a whole. While there are other great art contained countries like France, Switzerland, and Greece, Italy is what I consider to be the heart of all creative arts, even to this day. The classic Renaissance artistic style cannot be recreated entirely, and while there are countless homages to these Italian greats, no one will ever exceed the original paint strokes. I will continue to go to other art conventions in the future, as it will help shape my mind for things to come in the future. While Crack did not present much absolutely amazing to me personally, I love the concept of showing and selling one’s own work, exposure of artwork to the public, and building a strong reputation and track record. That track record could be worth a fortune down the road.

My Trip to Italy Part 2

My Trip to Italy Part 2

Here we have an amazing high in the sky view of the Florence limits from the top of the Museo de Duomo in Florence! I still wish I had climbed up Giotto’s Bell Tower, right next door; if only the line had not been that long!

Here, we have the original Statue of David inside of the Galleria d’Accademia. I am absolutely thrilled to have gotten to see this beautiful sculpture in person! In Florence.

To the side of the Statue of David, we enter a room with other, smaller sculptures. They were all beautiful, even if many of them were damaged beyond belief. This sculpture was my favorite though, and made me miss my dog more than ever. Inside of the Galleria d’Accademia in Florence.

Here I am, with Matt and Jaime walking alongside the river Arno, on our way to the other side of the river! In the distance we see Ponte Vecchio, the path which we take to get across! In Florence.

This is a nighttime view of Palazzo Vecchio from Piazzale Michelangelo, on the other side of the Arno. In Florence.


This is a view of the center of the Vatican City from St. Peter’s Basilica. Exploring the inside, as well as climbing the very top of the church was a very rewarding experience! I will definitely be visiting the Vatican again in the near future! In Rome.

The Trevi Fountain was an amazing monument to visit! It was so hot out, I just wanted to jump in the water and bathe myself! Still a very nice place for pictures! My wish was to have an exciting remainder of the trip, which I very well did! In Rome.

Any tourist in Italy is automatically a star! On the train from Venice to Rome.

Not enough emphasis was put on how boiling hot it was throughout the whole 3 weeks that we were in Italy! Beautiful skies, but very hot weather. This drawing was done in Florence.

I love ninja stars, stars, auroras, and the moon. This drawing was also done on the train from Venice to Rome.

My Trip to Italy Part 1

My trip to Italy Part 1, by Freddie Higgins

While I learned a lot about painting, architecture, and countless other forms of art while here in Italy, I also learned a lot about how beautiful the photo shoots are! Here are some photos I took.


This picture places emphasis on the fact that the roads, people, and everything level to these are, technically underground, as we see trees and railings above us. In addition, the view by itself is quite lovely. In Rome, just a ways away from the Colosseum.



The Colosseum is a well-known ancient structure of architecture, and from this distance, we get a pretty amazing view of the light hitting the inside of the walls. The negative space around the Colosseum is much brighter in contrast to the structure itself. In Rome.

This is quite a beautiful place to look at. St. Peter’s Basilica, in the Vatican City, makes one feel right at home with the constant sunlight peeking through the windows, as if God Himself is embracing His love and safety for us. This on its own make this basilica a very holy place.

Church altars are always a beauty to stare at. This is the primary altar in Santa Maria Novella Basilica, in Florence. The light in the middle of the photo shows a symmetry of value between the window and the walls, and how genuine the events of Christ are to Christianity.

Every day in Italy is a great day to grab some Gelato, given that every day it was roughly 40 degrees C! At a gelato shop in Florence.

Bright view of Giotto’s Bell Tower, just to the side of the legendary Duomo. Here, we see an asymmetrical balance of high value and low value with the bright sky. In Florence.


Weird Italy



The Santa Maria Novella in Florence. The first of many churches on our trip.

The light quality in the novella does not disappoint.


The Vatican communicated its message through a combination of hypnosis and laser based technology.

The baptistery ceiling in Florence. From the bottom to the top, hell to heaven.

The ascension to heaven on Brunelleshi’s dome. Effectively converting non-believers since 1436.

A particularly accurate lion statue.

Bonus sketch from Spain, a much less focused 3-day trip taken outside of the study abroad program.

Bring me Saint John the Baptist’s head on a silver platter! (An image on a silver alter does just as well.)

The view from our seat next to Michelangelo’s David.

David’s best asset.

A particularly rude statue at the Uffizi gallery.

Titian’s Saint Margaret, my favorite painting at the Uffizi.

Lorenzo Ghilberti’s large ornate doors.

A sketch of some street art on view in Florence and a stub from the wonderful Bill Viola show.

Wax brains from Florence

Anatomical wax figures aren’t terribly different from the real thing.


A quick reference sketch from a menacing looking statue.

Hello Venice! San Marco square.

View from the dungeons of the Doge’s palace.

Renaissance gossip hole. (Insert secrets here).

Savonarola depicted as Saint Peter (A testament to a humble art burner.)

“Mass tourism is pushing the locals out of Venice”.

Venezuela pavilion at the Venice Biennale

Experiences in Venice in collage.

Korean pavilion, an equation in time on the cost of living.

Japanese pavilion and a surprised guest.

The Swedish pavilion has a healthy sense of humor.

Marc Bradford’s beehive.

Damien Hirst’s Wreck of the Unbelievable. A highly controversial show.

Argentina’s contribution to the Venice Biennial.

Relaxation tent

A quick selfie (sort of).

A true Italian beefcake observing a couple hand in hand.

A not so subtle communist hang out.

Hello Rome! Casual ancient ruins and blinding sunshine.

A sculpture that truly captures the essence of beauty (eat your heart out Bernini).

Innards of the pantheon.

Leopard hunt in roman mosaic.

The famous Capitoline wolf in all her glory.

A sketch of the beauty.

A Bernini “sketch”.

A beautifully sculpted Bernini.

An erratic festival sketch of the lamb of god.

Food and wine holes in ancient Pompeii, the last stop on our travels.

Photos & Sketches for Italy Trip

Florence from above.

This statue expresses the majority of human emotion.

Observational sketches from various museums and churches around Florence.

Further observational sketches.

There were bars over these windows; at the base of each of the bars was a small metal turtle.

Some observational drawings of statues at the Uffizi.

The Piazza San Marco from above.

Modern art on display at the Pitti Palace.

Some pigeon friends.

Photographs from the Venice Biennale. Sketches are of Atum, from the Finland Pavilion.

Some sketches from Rome. Monsters were drawn under the guidance of a dear young friend.

Visited the Capuchin Crypts in Rome; the bone art is stunning.

45 minute – hour observational drawing of Bernini’s Apollo and Daphne.