How did a St. Anthony middle school student find herself walking down the streets of Florence, capitol of the Renaissance, this summer?
For 13-year-old Fina Mooney, it was no accident. She spent the month of July in Italy studying painting and drawing at the Florence Academy of Art as one of six winners of a summer workshop scholarship. She was the only American and the youngest participant. She was accompanied by her parents and her sister, Bela.
An art student who has attended classes at the Art Academy in St. Paul since the age of six, Fina named academy director Jim Robinson as a major influence on her work and direction. In an interview, Robinson called Fina “a rare girl, who works extremely hard and has a fantastic attitude.”
He continued, “She’s the best student I’ve had in 25 years in her determination to take on a life in art. She never rests on her accomplishments, always asking how she can do better. We at the school will be making an individual program for her. She and her family are the real deal.”
Fina’s father Joel, technical director for the Minnesota Orchestra, recounted his daughter’s beginning days at the workshop: “She got accepted for her figurative art and attended class from 8 till noon, but after the first week they said, ‘Hey kid, we think you got something there,’ and invited her to do cast drawings, which was a bonus.”
Her mother Jennifer, Senior Regional Revenue Manager at CSM Corp., said Fina was given an opportunity for separate and additional study beyond her scheduled 60 hours of instruction.
Fina said that when she got to the academy in Florence, she realized that what the instructors were doing was giving her the final push to become trained in the traditional arts. “When I came home, I saw that there is so much more I need to know and do.”
She described a typical day: “I would go to painting classes in the morning. After I was done drawing in the afternoon, I would meet my family, and we would go to a church, a place to look out over the city, or find something to eat. We went to the Boboli Gardens, Santa Croce Church, and I even petted the bronze boar.”
She attended lectures on Saturday and took field trips with art historians to museums in Florence.
Even with Fina’s hectic schedule, she and her family managed brief visits to Venice, Pisa, and Rome. Asked what she missed while away from home, she said, “The nice people of St. Anthony and all the green grass.” As to Florence, she thought she will miss the food and the culture.
“I loved being in the city of the Renaissance, surrounded by all of the architecture and art and history.” She added that she plans to stay in touch with the fellow artists in her class and, with Instagram, keep up with the kind of art they are doing.
What’s next for Fina, besides starting 8th grade at St. Anthony Middle School next month? She has applied for a scholarship to attend the Figurative Art Convention & Expo in Miami this November. She was initially turned down because of her age, but Eric Rhoads, chairman/CEO of Streamline Publishing, one of the conference hosts, asked for additional information from her and is looking into the possibility of finding a patron to support her application, noting a strong letter of recommendation from Robinson. She also submitted an abstract on the topic of “The Role of Youth in the Rebirth of Figurative Art,” seeking the possibility of attending as a speaker.
Below: Fina in front of the school and a photo of the figure oil class. (Photos provided)