The purpose of this society is to foster the appreciation and preservation of the culture of Italy in America and to celebrate the contributions of her sons and daughters, the Italian Americans, to the history and development of the State of Rhode Island.
About Our Programs:
The society supports and presents programs of a social, cultural, and historical nature not only for the membership but also for the community. Our quarterly newsletter contains articles on Italian history, geography, art, music, and literature; and information about programs presented by other community Italian American organizations.
Our musical programs have showcased local artists who have performed programs ranging from the arias of Puccini and Verdi to the beautiful old Neapolitan favorites. Our exceptional instrumental program was an afternoon of violin music honoring the master craftsmen of the violin: Amati, Guarnieri and Stradivarius. Featured were Rhode Island Philharmonic violinists Lois Finkel and Alexey Shabalin who entertained the audience with a repertoire of violin music which they researched especially for the group. They explained how and when each piece was written and the significance of each. Their program spanned the period 1502-1979 and featured the music of Fiorillo, di Lasso, Tasso, Vivaldi, and Berio.
An all-day genealogy seminar featuring genealogist and author, Sharon De Bartolo Carmack and provided participants the opportunity to learn the steps for researching their Italian ancestry. For those wishing to preserve their family heritage with old photographs, the IAHS made available a relaxing fun activity of a scrapbook workshop. On a more personal level, Margaret Pella Watkinson, an IAHS Board member, shared her experiences researching her family through her travels to Italy and to the noted Mormon Genealogy Center in Salt Lake City, Utah.
The Society also supports the creativity of local Italian Americans in the literary field. Readings and discussions of their works were presented by authors Ann Hood, Peter Pezzelli, and Alicia DiOrio Hansen.
Italian American documentary film-makers and their works have also been featured in programs by the society. Camilla Calamandrei’s film, Prisoners in Paradise, the story of Italian Prisoners of war who were held in the USA during World War II gave us the opportunity to meet Frank Benassi from Bologna, Italy, one of those 51,000 prisoners. Frank was a prisoner held at Fort Myles Standish in Massachusetts, who after his repatriation to Italy, married his American sweetheart and returned to Rhode Island where he has lived for many years. As a result of our interview with him, his story was presented on Public Broadcast TV along with Calamandrei’s film. Michael DeLauro, whose film, Prisoners Among Us tells the story of Italian Americans during World War II who were forced to register as enemy aliens, had their property confiscated and were imprisoned. So important is this story, that the IAHS donated copies to teachers of Italian so that it might be shown to their classes.
On April 22, 2007, the society hosted another Italian American film-maker, Lucia Grillo, whose short film, A pena do pana, treats the subject of the hunger of a small child in post World War II Calabria and the consequences she pays as a result of the lies she tells because of her hunger.
Other programs have featured lectures on subjects such as the Sacco & Vanzetti trial, the role of Italian Americans in Rhode Island’s Jewelry Industry, and retailing among Italian Americans in Providence in the interwar years.
The society also works with other Italian American and Community groups to promote their activities. For example several of our members contributed artifacts and family stories for the Abbondanza Italian Heritage in Rhode Island Exhibit at the University of Rhode Island Feinstein Providence Campus. Children’s activities were sponsored in conjunction with the Rhode Island Historical Society and Providence’s First Night Celebration. Italian Classes for adults were conducted for the Young Pannese Society and the Loggia Vittoria Sons of Italy group. In February of 2007, the IAHS co-sponsored a film and discussion of Anti-Italianism: Discrimination and Defamation in the History of Italian Americans with the Loggia Vittoria and on May 15 is co-sponsoring another program with them featuring author, Dr. Peter Carusone who will discuss his book, Where‘s the Minestrone.
The Society has celebrated holidays like La Vigilia, San Giuseppe, La Festa della Donna, with dinners and entertainment and has had wine-tastings celebrating la Festa di San Martino.