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Experiences prepare director of Medici Museum for new job

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A lifetime of experiences prepared Katelyn Amendolara-Russo for her new role as director of the Medici Museum of Art in Howland.

“I’ve always had a lifelong desire to keep growing as an artist, to be a sponge and absorb knowledge,” she said.

Amendolara-Russo grew up in Boardman and graduated from Canfield High School. She was involved with Ballet Western Reserve and other forms of art as a child, but it was Mark Shohayda, her art teacher in Canfield, who fueled her passion for visual art.

“I will always give him credit for opening something I was maybe going to close the book on,” she said. “He brought out that deep appreciation for painting. He sparked that interest and really honed in on my skills and brought out that talent in the arts.”

It was particularly gratifying one day when she heard a familiar voice at the Medici, and it was Shohayda coming to see the gallery where she now worked.

After graduating from Canfield, Amendolara-Russo went to Ohio Northern University, where she studied art education and graphic design. Before she graduated in 2011, she was awarded a Fulbright-Hays Scholar grant for a project on “South Africa: Perspectives on Democracy.”

Earning a Fulbright gave her the opportunity to travel overseas and deepened her desire to be a lifelong learner.

Before becoming director at Medici, Amendolara-Russo taught art for 10 years in the Jackson-Milton Local School District. Not only did the job give her an opportunity to inspire her students the way Shohayda had inspired her — she was Jackson-Milton’s Educator of the Year in 2019 and won a Most Inspiring Teacher Award in 2018 — it gave her summers free to continue her own travel and educational pursuits.

Amendolara-Russo studied film photography, jewelry design and batik painting in Florence, Italy, in 2012 and 2013, and contemporary art history and digital photography in Venice, Italy, in 2015.

“By attending workshops overseas and professionally advancing my education, I wanted to put all of those experiences into something on a larger scale,” she said. “That’s when I met John (Anderson, who led the effort to establish Medici as an independent art museum). I started working side by side with John last year. He is a wealth of knowledge in art and business and has been a wonderful mentor in providing me with this opportunity.”

Amendolara-Russo plans to use her past experiences in a variety of ways in her new role as director. She will draw upon some of those contacts in the art world to bring exhibitions and programming to Medici. The artists and teachers she studied with in Italy could present virtual lectures and workshops for local audiences.

She also wants to educate visitors to the museum about the art on the wall in the same way she engaged students in her classroom.

“The wonderful thing about being an educator is seeing the ways people can solve a problem or a child can receive information,” she said. “One of the things I really loved with someone who is maybe uncomfortable with abstract art is making connections to experiences they’ve had, seeing what story the painting tells. It’s about what it makes them feel and creating an appreciation and understanding.

“The Norman Rockwell paintings (currently on display at Medici) obviously tell the story of America and the Boy Scouts, and there’s a narrative to that. We as a museum need to broaden understanding for all types and all styles of art.”

She added, “My hope and goal would be to bring someone to Medici who doesn’t have a big art background, but then they could exit our doors having an interest in the arts and an understanding. Art explains civilizations, our history. It’s so important to understand the root of why art existed in different cultures.”

agray@tribtoday.com

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