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29-30 STOP. RUN. PLAY Photo by Susan Duca

24th March - 6th April 2024 Il Palmerino colonica

Arriving for the first time in residence at the Palmerino in 2007, Susan Duca allowed us to be a privileged witness, if not even to share with her the first impulses, of a photographic work that from the very beginning had among its cornerstones the theme of change within time. 

Now the possibility of exhibiting here this important update of the historic exhibition STOP. RUN. PLAY. becomes not only an honor, but also a necessity: to be able to talk about school, relationships, education and pedagogy at such a delicate moment in which educational codes are being taken up again by actualizing the pedagogical needs of a particular time such as the post-pandemic, highly technological and integration time for the various cultures that characterize today's classrooms.

How to be able to be aware about the body and learning through it? How to "manage" differences? How to support our children in their even informal learning processes of multiple intelligences? 

Perhaps by walking through this story in images, quite different from contemporary selfies, we can find answers to these questions. Especially by combining that world of childhood with today's glances of the protagonists who are projecting into a new phase with the insights that Susan Duca has managed to capture in these new images. 

Stop. Run. Play.' debuted as a solo exhibition at the Newport Art Museum in 2011 and was later presented the same year in the garden of Scuola Città Pestalozzi, then in 2013 was exhibited for four months at Villa Le Balze, Georgetown University Study Center.

Susan Duca's photographic body of work follows a group of children attending a public school in Florence, Scuola Città Pestalozzi, through their eight years of growing up, playing, learning and relating. Her work captures the energy, affection and free spirit of her young subjects and creates a visual diary of the social and physical bonds that may be diminishing in American educational systems, but which she found in this special experience in Florence.

The original exhibit does not follow a set chronological order, but documents the same class each year, starting in November 2000 until their graduation in June 2008. Duca alternates between photos taken from a more spontaneous plastic Holga and a precise Rolleiflex, casually moving from the classroom to playing in the garden. 

Susan Duca holds a BFA in Fine Arts and Photography from Pratt Institute. She has exhibited her photographs at various venues in the Northeast, and her professional work includes serving as director of photography for Grand Circle Travel & Oversees Adventure Travel, Boston, and as associate editor for Aperture. She has been an artist-in-residence at Palmerino at least 10 times.

I turned a corner and noticed children scurrying down a street. They were elegantly dressed and arrived unexpectedly, riding bikes and scooters or walking with their parents... A door opened and they vanished into an unremarkable Santa Croce building. Without a moment’s notice, the street was deserted. And through the fortune of timing, I discovered Scuola-Cittá Pestalozzi on via Casine in Florence. From that serendipitous encounter blossomed the project, Stop. Run. Play. It began that November 2000 day when I entered the school’s garden to the curious stares of children, and it developed over the next eight years. 

Initially, I returned their stares, frozen by a freedom I remembered from my school days. I had noticed through my own son how the relationships between children were changing in American schools. Touching was prohibited. Wrestling, roughhousing, and tumbling resulted in punishment. Boys and girls tended to separate themselves, rarely playing together during recess. Older students didn’t often interact with younger ones. The energy, affection and free-spiritedness I witnessed in the Italian students, this concept of the freedom of play–as boys and girls team up in games or conversations, through tussling and handholding–rekindled memories of my childhood. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                     S. Duca


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