Florence, Italy: The birthplace of Renaissance culture, home to Michelangelo’s David, the Uffizi Gallery, and vibrant piazzas and palazzi. The city is likewise home to Nazareth College alumnus and modern day Renaissance man Alan Pascuzzi ’91, who is living his dream of practicing art and teaching art history.
“I enjoy being completely immersed in creating religious art and sculpture in the Renaissance tradition, which for me can only really be done in Florence,” says Pascuzzi.
His studio is in the artisan part of the city. There he paints and sculpts for himself, for public and private commissions, and in preparation for class. The greatest compliment, he explains, is when a native Florentine stops and comments on his work. “We need beautiful things in life, and when I hear someone say ‘Bello!’ about a painting or sculpture of mine—it’s validating.”
Pascuzzi has established a reputation in Florence for his artwork and has been commissioned by the city to paint and sculpt original works for churches and public spaces. Recently his wife and son even modeled for his sculpture of the Madonna and Child for a tabernacle on Via del Leone in San Frediano. Pascuzzi is a professor of art for New York University in Florence as well as the British Institute in Florence, teaching art history, drawing, painting and sculpture. He also teaches for the summer in Pescara program through Nazareth’s study abroad offerings.
But it’s not just his family he involves in his art—his students are likewise plunged into the life of a Renaissance artist. One course he teaches is a hybrid art/art history class based on historical methods and techniques. His students create their own vegetable- and mineral-based paints and study just as the Renaissance apprentices did centuries ago. “We create frescoes, go to museums, draw with the same materials as Michelangelo did, and I draw right alongside them,” Pascuzzi says. “It keeps me honest with my students and I learn from them.”
Pascuzzi does not subscribe to the romanticized notion of Bohemian artists. “True artists worked and often taught,” he explains. “Giotto, Beethoven, Mozart—they all had students because they all had to eat in order to survive, in order to create their art. It’s taken a long time and hasn’t been easy, but I’m lucky to be able to teach classes, work in my studio, and take commissions.”
And Pascuzzi’s lifelong love affair with—and journey to—Florence began at Nazareth College.
“Everything I’m doing today is based on what I learned at Nazareth,” says Pascuzzi. “My advisor, Sr. Magdalen LaRowe, urged me to change my major from studio art to art history, and that opened up everything for me. I became indoctrinated in history while also creating art. I also studied Italian with Maria Rosaria Vitti-Alexander, and the Casa Italiana was an integral part of my experience at Nazareth.”
Financial aid from the College and scholarships from the Casa Italiana helped Pascuzzi pay for tuition and make the most of his undergraduate years. Indeed, explains Pascuzzi, “The summer before my senior year, I participated in a study-abroad program in Florence, which was thanks to a scholarship from the Casa Italiana. After that, I knew I had to get back to Florence.”
Even though he lives an ocean away, Pascuzzi has taken what he learned at Nazareth and applied it to his life and career in Florence. “I often think back to professors such as Sr. Magdalen, Sr. Annunziata, Dr. Vitti-Alexander, Roger Adams, Ron Netsky, and Tim Thibodeau. They had this great balance between passionate scholarship and engaging teaching. And that’s how I now try to teach—by keeping in touch with both the art and the people.”