Like all good stories, the history of the ICBIE association and the D’Artagnan International School of Art, Music and Languages is a controversial and complex one, with a mixture of life, art, philosophy and dreams. By lucky happenstance, Pietro Gallina, the founder of the Institute, at a critical juncture of his careers in journalism and education that forced him to abandon his teaching position—which was forever precarious—decided to visit New York for the following reason: having inherited the paintings of Ele D’Artagnan (whose real name was Michele Lombardi, an actor/painter friend of Fellini), the founder thought of searching for an art gallery that could put on an exhibition and sell D’Artagnan’s works: what place would be better—seeing as in Italy, any exhibition was impossible, due to the angry last wishes of the defunct painter—than New York? Like in a fairy tale, the gallery was found, the exhibition was such a success that The New York Times and the New Yorker Magazine printed rave reviews, and enough paintings were sold to form a solid initial capital, so the founder decided to realize a common dream shared by him and D’Artagnan. He bought the property in Salvador de Bahia in Brazil.
And so, together with the founder Pietro Gallina and his wife Marlene Rosa de Souza and Roy Zimmerman, with a group of professors and artists (European, American and Brazilian) came together and, growing out of their shared passion for the arts and for teaching, perfected their ideas, resulting in the creation of a cultural center and a multi-disciplinary community school (visual arts, music, theater, languages, crafts and tourism), using the lovely building that had just been purchased in Brazil.
The choice of the particular site was not a casual one, because the Institute, the library, the theater and the school are situated outside of the city’s center, in the Ribeira quarter, a historic and beautiful bairro that has been unjustly forgotten and is without modern development, a place where educational opportunities are scarce and are limited exclusively to those who have sufficient money. The choice (or the challenge) was to work on the margins of the city, away from the elegant city center that displays its opulence and tries to hide its poverty, its castaways and its crime.
The Institute was planned as not only a seat of formal instruction, but as a place of intercultural exchange, to become point of reference in the community (and primarily for its young people). This exchange is to be understood as a cultural dialog between Europe, North America and South America. As a meeting place for people coming from divergent social backgrounds, working together within the ICBIE community, sharing their talents and contributing to cultural development, the Institute aims to form professional skills, providing hope and work prospects that can help its students attain a respectable place in modern society at a time when Brazil is experiencing rapid economic growth.
At the start, the school’s activities were limited to a few courses in language, music and theater, but, due to ever increasing demand from the community, from the official opening in January 2006 to the present, the offerings have been expanded to include: computer technology, languages (Italian, French and English), music (theory and choral singing), theater, hapkido and capoeira, serigraphy and drawing, complimented by cineforums and concerts. The opening of the Library (that contains 12,000 titles, of books, recordings and films), although currently limited, due to the lack of specialized personnel, to our members, will be opened to the public in the near future. Also planned is the opening of a new theater space, for various activities and with a continuous programming for the community, and a studio for audio and visual recording that will expand the opportunities for work and instruction. The school will also host encounters, conferences and many different kinds of cultural activities.
The ICBIE will also provide low cost accommodations for Brazilian and foreign students and international volunteers, in the spirit of a tourism that is socially responsible. These guests may use our facilities as a base for their travel in Brazil and South America.
Up to the present (2008), we have been supported by fees for courses, the sale of D’Artagnan paintings, the personal savings of the founders and small donations from individuals and associations, such as ARCI Solidarietà of Reggio Emilia, The American Overseas School of Rome, Lahn Artists of Limburg, Ella Arps Gallery of Amsterdam and the Moscati Middle School in Rome.