By Rita Cipalla | August 10, 2021
This article by Rita Cipalla was published in L’Italo-Americano and is reproduced here with permission.

The ceilings of Palazzo della Penna, one of the civic museums in Perugia, display colorful frescoes featuring mythological and pastoral Umbrian themes (

Migration is an expansive concept with many applications and gradations of meaning. For some, the word is closely tied with parents or grandparents immigrating to the United States from Italy or another country. Others attuned to the natural world think of migration as it reflects the seasonal movements of animals or birds. It carries an entirely different meaning for the tech community, connoting data being moved from one system to another.

Seattle Perugia LogoSeattle Perugia Sister City Association (SPSCA) is poised to explore migration through another lens — that of art and culture — as part of the newly launched Migration Project. In 2022, five artists from the Seattle area will exhibit their artwork alongside five Perugini artists at the Civic Museum in Perugia’s Palazzo della Penna. The project gives artists in both cities an opportunity to create work that reflects their personal take on the idea of migration, whether factual or metaphoric. The project was the brainchild of Seattle-based artist Iole Alessandrini and Paolo Lattaioli, an architect, urbanist and artist from Perugia.

The project is supported by the Seattle-Perugia Sister City Association and its cohort, the Perugia-Seattle Sister City Association, as well as the City of Perugia and the Palazzo della Penna Museum. If all goes smoothly, the Seattle contingent hopes to stage a preview exhibit in the Northwest next year before the artists and their artwork leave for Italy.

In a few months, a call for artists in both cities will be issued, seeking entries for consideration. Seattle artists will be selected by an international jury based on their submissions to CaFÉ, an online application and jury system for the arts administered by the Western States Arts Federation.

“This will be an opportunity for artists and visitors from both cities to rekindle and expand friendships and exchange ideas,” said Cindy Musto, SPSCA president. “We’re excited to bring this project to the public after the borders and our museums were closed for more than a year during the pandemic.”

At present, SPSCA is busy raising funds. A budget of $20,000 has been set, to be used for travel expenses for five Seattle artists to journey to Italy for the installation of their work, shipping costs, museum installation costs and meetings, meals and receptions around the opening event. To date, the organization has raised 68% of that amount; about 20% came from SPSCA members.

The Migration Project exhibit will be installed in 2022 in Perugia’s civic museum, located in the historic Palazzo della Penna (Umbriatourism)

The Migration exhibit will be housed in the civic museum located in the Palazzo della Penna. The palazzo is famous for its architecture and historic connection to the vibrant center of Perugia. The building was the 17th century home of Ascanio della Penna, a nobleman who was passionate about collecting fine art. His hobby was made infinitely easier by his years of service to the Grand Duke of Tuscany.

The palazzo was constructed on the ruins of a Roman amphitheater and ancient road, discovered during restoration work. The southern side of the building’s foundation incorporates part of the medieval city wall, sections of which can be seen in the interior hallways. Some of the museum’s galleries are adorned with stunning frescoed ceilings that display both mythological and pastoral Umbrian themes. The permanent collection includes works by the futurist painter and Umbrian artist Gerardo Dottori.

The Migration Project is just one of the many cultural and education projects that have linked these two sister cities together for the past 28 years. When the pandemic struck in the spring of 2020, the SPSCA board searched for a way to harness technology in the interest of furthering cross-cultural friendships.

The organization launched a series of virtual conversations geared for members called A Casa (At Home). Once a month, special guests from Umbria join Seattle residents in an online video chat to discuss how the pandemic affected their city, how they and their families are coping, how their lives have changed, and what their hopes are for the future. The list of guests is far ranging – from a former city mayor to a weaver, from culinary experts to small business owners.

It’s proven such a great idea that the A Casa online conversations are continuing even after both cities start to open up their doors. In June, Gioia Fruttini spoke about her music studio in Perugia at Laboratori Musicali di Gio. With special guest, soprano Maria Ielli, Fruttini delighted her virtual audience with a short musical performance.

In July, members joined Anne Claire, a local tour guide and art historian, as she gave a virtual walking tour of the Umbrian capital. Those lucky enough to join the session got to witness – in real time — a beautiful sunset over Corso Vannucci, spend time people-watching at Piazza IV Novembre, and thrill to the national excitement leading up to the 2021 European soccer championship, which Italy won.

Seattle-Perugia Sister City Association, one of Seattle’s 21 official sister cities, continues to be a leader in bringing creative cross-cultural ideas to fruition. The Migration Project is yet another undertaking that will open the doors for both cities to increase artistic expression and forge even deeper cultural ties.

To learn more about the Migration Project, go to: