Ava DePalo

From Classics to Contemporary

September 26, 2023
Ava De Palo’s appreciation for the Italian culture took her to Italy for an internship in a contemporary art gallery.
De Palo and art curator Rossella Savarese.

Ava De Palo has always had a love of the classics. Her mother was a classical pianist growing up, and her father worked in Hollywood-scoring movies. They would often spend time at museums and theater houses. “We always had classical music playing, even when we weren’t home,” she said. “It really calms the dogs.”

With her Italian heritage, De Palo became interested in the language in high school and continued her studies at Richmond, declaring majors in Italian and business. Wanting to experience more of the culture, she spent the summer before sophomore year studying abroad in Italy through the Perugia program at Palazzo Gallenga-Stuart, home of the Università per Stranieri, the oldest and most prestigious Italian institution devoted to the teaching, research, and promotion of Italian language and culture across the world. 

“I loved being immersed in the work and life of Italian citizens,” De Palo said. “I couldn’t wait to go back.”

Working with her Italian professors, De Palo learned of and applied to an internship through the Sant’Anna Institute, ultimately landing a role at SyArt Gallery, a contemporary art gallery in Sorrento.

Her responsibilities ranged from managing the gallery’s social media presence, composing newsletters in dual languages, unpacking art shipments, and digitizing files. But her favorite aspect was working with gallery patrons and artists. “My biggest takeaway was that I want to pursue positions that allow me to work with people as a primary part of my job,” she said. “I met so many people, and each interaction taught me something.”

Her first two weeks were spent readying an exhibition space. “It was just the gallery manager/curator and me, meticulously unwrapping the art and envisioning it in the room,” De Palo said. “We saw a completely empty space through to the finished product. I’ve never been a part of something like that before. Meeting the artists on opening night and showing them their pieces in the space was really special.”

De Palo would regularly work with clients, guiding them around the gallery and exhibition space and sharing stories of the artists and their work. “Italian people are so friendly,” she said. “I became really established in the city, getting to know the people I’d pass on my way to work and soaking up the familial energy.”

She already has plans to return to Italy through another study abroad program her senior year, this time in Bocconi or Verona, and eventually live and work there. “I really hope to use my love of Italian culture and language to pursue creative international opportunities,” she said.

De Palo took a piece of the gallery and Sorrento home with her—a portrait of a beautiful Italian landscape gifted by her grandmother—through which she fondly remembers her time there.