By Naeisha Rose
Clare Stokolosa, a former Long Island City resident who now lives in Bayside, is having her first solo show in Tuscany, Italy, at the hall of Teatro Signorelli in October.
The show, which will be hosted by The Circolo di Gino Severini di Cortona, is a prestigious cultural circle dedicated to the artwork of the Italian artist Gino Severini and the town of Cortona. The exclusive central Italian art group almost always does exhibits featuring art from Cortona locals, but this year, from Oct. 5-12, it will feature work from Stokolosa, a native New Yorker, whose grandparents are from the southern cities of Foggia and Naples, according to the artist.
“You are really supposed to be born there and be of the town, but they extended me [an invitation to showcase my work] last year and offered me a solo show,” said Stokolosa. “I am really excited about it and preparing for it. It is a great opportunity.”
After spending 30 years as an art teacher in Queens, and as an “Art Matters” and professional development mentor to middle school art educators for the city’s Department of Education, this will be the first time Stokolosa will work as a full-time artist since retiring in June.
“I just made the decision to say okay – C’est la vie, bye,” said Stokolosa. “It was really wonderful, but it was very hard, because I enjoy the interactions from working with other teachers. The teachers were artists too, so it was wonderful to be with people that do what I do, but it was very hard making that break, but I did it and I feel good.”
Stokolosa graduated from the High School of Art and Design in 1977 and received her Bachelor’s Degree in Fine Arts at Hunter College in 1982. She also participated in a study abroad program where she studied art in the Italian city of Florence in 1978.
After discovering how much fun her artist friend had as art educators, she decided to study art education at Queens College and graduated in 1995.
“I was always in the arts, but I had some friends who taught art and I was just — I hate to say envious, but it sounded so exciting, so I was inspired to go back [to school],” said Stokolosa.
While she pursued her Master’s degree at Queens College, she received her first teaching gig at her father’s middle school in 1987.
“My first teaching job was at IS 126 in Astoria on 21st Street, and my father was from the first graduating class there in 1933,” said Stokolosa.
She later taught as an art educator as well at both at IS 119 in Glendale from 1988 to 2006, and at Corona’s IS 61, where she spearheaded the latter school’s animation and photography program from 2006 to 2014.
“I started out teaching just visual arts. The principal believed in me and I built the animation program and started up the photography program,” said Stokolosa.
While at Queens College, she took an Italian class in Cortona in 1988, and she has been going back to the Tuscan town every few years since.
Every time she goes to Cortona, she has sketched the city and its people carrying on with every day life.
“I’m in love with this magical town,” said Stokolosa. “I’ve also been painting there and building friendships for many years. It’s a fascinating place with a lot of culture, a lot of art, but it still has that small town feel.”
Enlarged versions of sketches that she has painted in watercolors will be featured at the exhibit.
“I actually did a series of musicians this last summer that are going to be in the show,” said Stokolosa.
The musicians that she sketched in some of her work were from the Orchestra della Toscana.
“I was fortunate to be encouraged to create my art and go to [High School of Art and Design]. I want to tell parents to encourage their children to explore their creativity whether it is in: visual art, music, dance, drama, or writing. It was a great gift to have the chance to be encouraged to make art,” Stokolosa said.
Reach reporter Naeisha Rose by e-mail at nrose