Fremantle Foundation

 

FFAST REPORT 2012

Recently -  prior to putting the book into one of the glass cabinets in the Museum – I was re-reading Albert Camus’ Carnets - his journals - and in particular the entries for his vists to Florence and Fiesole in 1937, when he was 23- 24 years old. He writes touchingly about himself, what he believes in, about writing,  and about creativity. You will remember that he won the Nobel prize for literature in 1957 at the young age of 44.  When I’d finished, I decided to rename FFAST’s Collection The Museum of Creativity.

This title would have seemed presumptuous to me when I first rented space at the Casa Colonica of Villa Peyron, and began to arrange the collection for public view. Now FFAST is a number of years old, and the collection has grown considerably. As a collection it has become indeed about people using every sort of material and every sort of non-matter -  music, words, thought, vision, love –  to form works which express truth about life: artists.  FFAST is a tribute to them everywhere and to the energy of creation. So the title Museum of Creativity now seems perfectly correct and natural.

I would point out that the Museum of Creativity presently shows the work of some 140-150 artists, and that ½ of these artists in many media are women. There probably isn’t a Museum anywhere in the world which displays the work of an equal number of women and men. Someone said to me that all museums are about creativity: I replied by asking if they’d ever heard of one called The Museum of Creativity before?

The most significant development of FFAST’s 2012 fortunes actually came in January 2013 – a letter from the IRS (attached) reinstating FFAST as a legal 501(c)(3) non-profit company. Until then – for the last 2 1/2 years we didn’t exist really, having lost our exempt status that long ago. The letter re-established us with the IRS. Our status was lost through a small but also massive mistake made by our then accountant, who put the wrong ID number for IFAS (the International Fine Arts Society - our legal 501 (c)(3) name on our tax returns). This meant that for 3 years our returns didn’t show up on the IRS computers as having been filed. And the rule for tax-exempt companies is – as stated clearly in the attached IRS letter – if a company doesn’t file a return for 3 years, the company loses its 501(c)(3) status.

It not only took the IRS some time to review our case and make the decision in our favor. It had taken me a long time before we could ask for a re-instatement, to figure out what was wrong: Mary Anne had filed the returns correctly and on time, so that didn’t seem to be a problem. The IRS in the meantime had demoted a great number of companies which hadn’t filed returns because their turnover was below a certain threshold, and my impression until the wrong ID company number was noticed, was that IFAS-FFAST was demoted in error with these companies.

Anyway, all’s well that ends well: Angus Long – who has kindly agreed to be FFAST’s Secretary – put me in touch with a new accountant, Joey Basha, in Charleston, SC. And Joey through patient persistence with the IRS, has finally elicited the forgiveness letter. And…we are legal again! I would like to take this occasion to thank both Joey and Angus warmly.

In the meantime the Collection, if not the space available for it, has continued to grow bigger and better. We started 6 year ago by displaying the work of some 50 painters and sculptors. Now there are the 140-150 artists’ work mentioned above, but 20 glass cabinets as well, with books by many foreigners who have worked in Tuscany since 1900, together with other interesting artistic objects. One gem which I took enormous pleasure in placing in a cabinet was written by D.H. Lawrence at the Villa Merenda, just outside Scandicci, now a sprawling suburb of central Florence with some 50,000 inhabitants, but then in the 1920’s a  small village at the end of tram line #27:  Lady Chatterley’s Lover was published by Pino Orioli in Florence in 1928, and became immediately so notorious that a pirated edition was published shortly after in Paris. To counter this fraud Lawrence brought out in 1930 his own Parisian edition, a copy of which is the one FFAST now has on display.

Another wonderful addition is a coffee-table sized book on the life and work of Elizabeth Chaplin, a French painter who lived much of her life at Villa Treppiedi, in via Barbacane, near San Domenico in Fiesole. She died in 1982 at the age of 92, and left a large body of her own wonderful work to the Museo di Arte Moderno in Palazzo Pitti – 11 paintings of which are currently on display there. Through the generosity of her niece Anne Chaplin Hansen we now also have hanging 5 of her works - 2 paintings and 3 drawings .  Harman Sonne, the Danish sculptor who has been so generous towards FFAST with his own work, gave me an introduction to Anne Chaplin Hansen in Kobenhavn, who in turn with great generosity and enthusiasm gave the pictures to FFAST. The larger of the two paintings The Pastor’s Wife and Their Two Children,  was done in the teens of the last century, and given to Anne’s mother Nanette – Elizabeth Chaplin’s sister – as a wedding present in 1921. It has been tightened on its stretcher, as well as lightly cleaned by Nicola MacGregor, a highly revered painting restorer in Florence.  FFAST would like to thank Harman Sonne, Anne Chaplin Hansen, and Nicola for all their help in adding these important pictures to the Collection.

Obviously and thankfully, the Museum is  now such a success in attracting more work by more artists, that FFAST is running out of space. This is the appropriate moment to thank warmly all the artists, friends, and others – many people have helped in framing, painting walls, cleaning, and in repairing spaces which were unused for 30-40 years – who, over the last 7 years,  have so generously donated work, time, and money.  It is our hope at FFAST that the Museum of Creativity will continue to exist and to improve for at least a couple of hundred years! On behalf of  FFAST, thank you all VERY MUCH!!

In particular I would like to single out 5 friends who in one way or another, have supported us enormously: Adam Fremantle, my brother, now sadly deceased; Christine Sapieha Fremantle, his widow and my sister-in-law, a friend since we were all children together;  Dan Friedenberg a friend also from my childhood in New York; Harry Jackson, a wonderful artist and intimate friend since I was a very young man here in Florence; and Barbara Hieronymus, my wonderful companion and friend for the last 10 years.

I would like to write a word about one of the artists who - from the earliest stirrings of the ideas behind FFAST -  was also one of its great supporters and benefactors: Don Campbell died last August, leaving us all missing him greatly. In art, in cooking, in humor, in life - Don Campbell was truly a wonderful craftsman. He was also a great friend to many.  Now absent physically,  he remains with us in his wonderful work, and with his gentle intelligence smiling in our hearts.

    “The true work of art is the one which says the least." Albert Camus, Carnets, 1938.                                                                               

Over the last 3 or 4 years I have tried on 4 different occasions to find a tenant for spaces in the large Casa Colonica (the Italian word for a Farmhouse) in which FFAST rents space, with whom FFAST could collaborate and eventually expand.

  • First there was the Berlin private university, ECLA (The European College of Liberal Arts): they visited 4 or 5  times and negotiated with the  CRF (Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze – FFAST’s landlord and the owner of the whole Villa Peyron property) for over a year. That came to nothing. ECLA has since become an extension of BARD College in New York State.
  • Then there was the English group, Landmark Trust, which wanted to rent the whole of the Villa Peyron building itself and Gardens, plus space in the Casa Colonica. That also came to nothing.
  • Two years ago the CEO of FALC (The Fine Arts League of the Carolinas) wanted to set up an Italian branch of that art school founded by Ben Long in Asheville, NC, using both Harry Jackson’s ex-studio in Pietrasanta (he died 3 years ago) for sculpture, and space in the Casa Colonica for painting. That also came to nothing, and FALC has since closed.
  • Finally, Sheri Kahn who had been the CEO of FALC decided she could start a European arts program in the Casa Colonica at Villa Peyron, on her own, and approached the CRF about renting a large part of the unused spaces in the building. Unfortunately in the present general economic conditions, particularly of the euro, that proposal also failed: the CRF wanted a year’s rent of Euros 60,000  as a deposit against the renovations to the building wanted by Kahn, presumably because the CRF is so hard-pressed financially just now; so Kahn had not only to raise that sum but a further Euros 30,000 to pay 6 months rent before she started seeing any income from the project.
During all these fairly endless negotiations I did my best to help both the CRF and whomever was interested in renting space. Finally after Sheri Kahn and the CRF had failed to reach an agreement I myself offered to rent considerably more space in the Casa Colonica in order to expand FFAST.

Michele Gremigni, the gentleman who was until 6 months ago both the President of the Cassa di Risparmio di Firenze and of the Fondazione Giardini Monumentali Bardini e Peyron (our actual landlords within the CRF), and who was the supporter of FFAST from its beginnings at Villa Peyron  7 years ago, has remained President only of the latter, and unfortunately without the support of the new President of the bank itself.  Gremigni agreed to rent FFAST 50% more space than it has, but at 4x the per square-meter rent that FFAST currently pays.

Since FFAST was demoted by the IRS, and so basically unable to ask for donations, I have been personally paying the 1000 euro monthly rent, as well as all the other expenses. There is no possibility whatsoever that I could now pay a further 2000 Euros a month: so I agreed to rent the new spaces at the proposed rent on condition that I could find the money needed by FFAST. If I am successful in finding the money, or eventually in convincing the CRF to lower its rent request, I would also ask Avv. Gremigni for even more space.

One of the most satisfying moments for FFAST came last Spring, when for a Saturday and Sunday, the Villa Peyron and its Gardens were open free for members of FAI (Fondo per l’Ambiente Italiano) – an Italian organization not un-like the British National Trust. In two days some 5000-plus people visited the Villa itself (usually closed), and the Gardens. These were all educated, middle-class Italians, interested in art, monuments, interior decoration, and the countryside. – more or less no foreigners at all. Some 1200 0f them came into FFAST’s spaces, and I had to hire 2 young assistants just to keep an eye on everything and everyone (if anyone hears of a second-hand working internal video system for sale,  we definitely could use it…). I had also to restrict the number of visitors at one time because of the weight on the upstairs floors. No one stole anything, and 99% of the visitors thought the whole idea of a collection of work by Foreign Artists in Tuscany, and how it’s been done, totally delightful. For me personally this was particularly gratifying, as the Museum and Collection are really aimed at foreigners. That educated Italians could appreciate it so much was wonderful. I now know that the idea really works with everyone.

Juliet Strachan is a Scots lady from Ayr who wrote to me a while back, asking if she could work at FFAST. She’s lived and worked in Florence for 12 years, so not only speaks a better Italian than I do by far, but is aware of the usual problems that foreigners face here in Italy. She has agreed to put together a catalogue of the Collection. Juliet will photograph everything, and I will provide her with a text. I hope to have all the fotos and writing finished by the autumn (this!!! autumn), so that we can then do the layout. For the moment she has a job in a commercial Gallery here in Florence and can only dedicate limited time to the project, but I hope will eventually work full-time with us at FFAST.  If anyone would contribute to a salary for her, FFAST and I personally would be extremely grateful – Juliet is a great asset.
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In early February, when the interior of the stone Casa Colonica was especially cold, Federica and Stefano, from the Villa Il Palmerino, brought  two friends to see the Collection: Linda Falcone, a writer, and Lyall Harris, a painter.

Linda works for a local English language bi-weekly newspaper, The Florentine, and also for a local American writer and art patron, Jane Fortune. Linda asked first if she could take some fotos, and then if she (and Jane Fortune who was in the States at that time) could do a piece for The Florentine on the Museum.

The article appeared under Jane Fortune’s name: www. The Florentine newspaper;  then, Issues = Feb.28th, 2013;  then, “Artists in a Farmhouse”.

Jane Fortune is a remarkable woman. Appalled even as an undergraduate art history student by the lack of women artists’ work on the walls and in the spaces of the world’s museums, she has spent a great deal of time promoting women artists, and the public’s knowledge of them, and their lives and their works. A major step in this direction was the founding of a foundation called Advancing Women Artists. Jane Fortune has also published books on women artists and their work - particularly the enormous number of works which lie neglected in the storerooms of the Florentine museums. She’s either on the Boards or has been, of many American cultural institutions.

My plan over the next few months, is not only to add the name Museum of Creativity  to our website and brochures, but to update it with the help of Tagliaferro Long (better known as Tolly) - our Vice-President who designed and maintains the website. The new Artists’ Biography list is already finished. Now I must try to update the filming for the website, so that it shows where we are 7 years after we started. I am also in the process of arranging FFAST legally so that there’s a smooth transition should I drop dead.

The future of the Villa Peyron and its Gardens and Casa Colonica seems at the moment precarious. Like most banks in Italy, the owners of the Villa Peyron – the CRF – has seriously reduced financial resources. And the CRF is now owned by Banca San Paolo-Intesa of Turin, which - particularly in its international dealings – also has serious financial and administrative problems. This means that there’s not much money – if any at all – for Villa Peyron’s upkeep. All but one gardener has gone (there were 4 only 5 years ago); the Manager of the property,  Saverio Lastrucci,  has had his salary reduced; and the whole 2013 artistic, musical, and theatrical program seems to be on hold. There is even a rumor that the CRF would like to make a deal with the Peyron family (who seem to have a lien on the property if it is not kept up to scratch) to sell the whole Villa Peyron property. On the other hand, the situation at the Villa Peyron has been anyway in an enormous state of flux for quite a long time now, so no doubt whatever seems to be happening at the moment won’t be what seems to be happening in a short time.

As the outline of annual costs below indicates,  FFAST – now our exclusion by the IRS from the ranks of non-profits has been reversed - needs money badly to keep running and expanding. Please, if you can possibly do so, send a contribution to our bank. We will send you a receipt for IRS tax purposes.

We are a 501(c)(3) company incorporated in the State of SC: Employer ID no: 20-5053117, and our determination letter was issued in June, 2007.

Thank you!

Account name: FFAST; Account number: 2000020040802; Routing: 053207766. Bank: Wachovia N.A. 930 Assembly St., Columbia, SC 29201 Tel. 800-Wachovia.
Richard Fremantle, PresidentFFAST

Rough Annual Costs to run FFAST at the Casa Colonica – Villa Peyron. Euros

Rent 12,000
Electricity 2,200
Cleaning 2,080
Car running 5,000 
Framing 1,500
Entertainment 1,200
Travel UK 800
Travel USA 1,200
TOTAL 25,980
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