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Eco-friendly artist Simona Rodano

In her bilingual musical for young adults, Simona Rodano breaks artistic boundaries while tackling a topic of importance and poignancy. One well-worn cliché where adventurous artists are concerned centers on how they “follow their own muse.” But Simona Rodano is far more driven than that. Working within the four disciplines of music, theater, environmental science and education — spread out over two languages no less — this native of northern Italy has created what she calls an “edumusical” titled “Sempreverde: Evergreen.” Where anything environmental is concerned, Rodano knows whereof she speaks: A scientist by training, she deftly avoids the trap ...

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San Marino Honorary Consul Robert Allegrini

A respected travel and hospitality expert and author, Robert Allegrini now takes on a one-of-a-kind role as honorary consul for the republic of San Marino. When Michigan Stadium is sold out for a Wolverines football game, it fits three times as many people as live in all of San Marino — a nation within Italy that’s so small, it’s referred to in geographic terms as a “microstate.” Its 33,000 residents, spread out over 24 square miles, occupy the fifth smallest country in the world. It also stands alone as a priceless curiosity, with a style of government and copious architectural ...

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Jewish-Italian memoirist Eleanor Foa

In her memoir, Eleanor Foa addresses her family’s power, passion and paradox, and discovers deep literary significance in her Italian-Jewish ancestry. Being so strongly identified with Catholicism, Italy may strike the casual observer as inextricably connected to Christianity. But a closer look reveals that Italian Jews had much to do with the region’s history, culture and proud traditions. How much so? As Rabbi Barbara Aiello explained in a past Lou&A column, the very name “Italia” is of Hebrew origin. The first of the Jewish diaspora, on seeing the peninsula’s beautiful, misty coast, exclaimed “Aiee-tal-ya!”, a Hebrew phrase that means “the ...

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Elder lifestyle designer Lisa Cini

Lisa Cini’s design revolutions bring an Italian-American accent to improving Alzheimer’s and dementia care. “Nursing home” is a contradiction in terms for many Italian Americans, for whom the word “home” conjures images of Sunday dinners surrounded by friends, family and, of course, food. Lisa Cini grew up amid such celebratory weekends and today fights to bring some of that warmth and spirit to adult care. As an interior designer of long-term care facilities, Cini has become an expert in how design can positively impact those with Alzheimer’s and dementia. She’s also cared for a grandparent with those very conditions — ...

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WW II historian Dr. Cindy Gueli

In her book “Lipstick Brigade,” Dr. Cindy Gueli brings to light the almost-lost history of World War II’s ‘Government Girls.’ It’s one thing to document history by encountering it through antiquities, long-lost archives and dead-end trails left for an informed imagination to reconstruct. Then comes the history that remains so real, it lives, breathes and speaks through the women who made it. In those instances, the historian blossoms into a dynamic preservationist: working to record, for all time, remarkable stories and deeds that hide in plain sight. That mission becomes all the more critical when the history-makers in question — ...

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Traditional dance advocate Anna Pishner Harsh

Through her Allegro Dance company, Anna Pishner Harsh turns Italian traditions into a cultural treasure to preserve and pass on. The traditions of Italian dance — like those of any traditional art form — only have two places to go: either the dusty confines of museum exhibits and history books, or back into the spotlight to live in real time. Picking the latter requires much more than just pluck. You have to take on the multiple roles of ambassador, preservationist and electric artist, all propelled by indomitable passion. Anna Pishner Harsh — director, founder and choreographer for the Allegro Dance ...

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Blind diver Gabe Spataro

Half a century after enshrining a famous Italian statue of Christ beneath the waves of the Gulf of Mexico, blind diver Gabe Spataro proves himself to be a source of inspiration. Christians hold dear the unwavering belief that Jesus reigns over all the realms of Earth: land, sky and sea. As tributes, believers have reverently placed monuments around the globe, from sea level skyward, including the 125-foot-tall statue of Christ the Redeemer that tours half a mile above Rio de Janiero on Mt. Corcovado. As for the briny deep, statues of the Lord are much harder to find. Encountering Christ ...

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Music school maestro Dr. Ronald Caltabiano

As dean of the DePaul University School of Music, Dr. Ronald Caltabiano brings the passion and expertise of a master musician and composer. With a grand sweep of his right hand befitting a triumphant conductor, Dr. Ronald Caltabiano gestures to the glorious curves that grace the Holtschneider Performance Center at the DePaul University School of Music. Architectural glissandos ring out everywhere, including the upper-level overhangs that hug 500-seat Gannon Concert Hall and the church-like windows that look out onto the Chicago campus. The building hums with a palpable energy that seems to quicken his step. But while DePaul’s music school ...

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Master podcaster John Viola

Through “The Italian American Experience,” John Viola shines a light on all that makes our heritage great. While our immigrant forebears sat by giant radio consoles to absorb the news, music and culture of Italy, today’s Italian Americans have podcasts and, among them, one has remarkable traction. How much? Try roughly 20,000 listens per episode. Not bad for a program that’s less than four years old and the product of programmers learning the ropes as they go. The driving force behind “The Italian American Experience” (italianamericanexperience.com) and its every-other-week companion, “The Italian American Power Hour,” is John Viola. If that ...

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Filmmaker and critic Jeannine Guilyard

An esteemed film critic and now documentary filmmaker, Jeannine Guilyard taps into her professional roots to celebrate her Italian culture. As Italian Americans, we often play movies in our minds about what life was like back in the homeland for our ancestors. Some of us simply imagine it and others make pilgrimages to villages in search of precious clues. But for Jeannine Guilyard, that movie has taken shape and form as an award-winning documentary, “Return to Lucania.” Readers of this publication will recognize Guilyard as a longtime contributor and arguably America’s premiere Italian film critic. An Emmy and Peabody Award-winning ...

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