Maria Manetti Shrem Educational Center Palazzo Strozzi’s space for educational activities

The Maria Manetti Shrem Educational Centre lies at the very heart of the Fondazione Palazzo Strozzi’s educational activities. Its three rooms, situated on the palazzo’s Piano Nobile floor right next door to the entrance to the Fondazione’s major exhibitions, form a space specifically designed to be inclusive and accessible, in which an encounter with art can turn into an opportunity for reflection on ourselves and on the things that bind us both to others and to the world.

The Maria Manetti Shrem Educational Centre’s rooms have been developed in partnership with Archea Associati in relation to their structure and their unique fixtures and fittings to offer all our audiences a venue for socialising and meeting, with a special focus on inclusion projects. They have been purpose-designed to allow the greatest number of people to experience Palazzo Strozzi’s exhibitions through the many activities that aim to turn an encounter with art into an occasion on which each participant’s expressive potential is enhanced and in which everyone can feel involved in the first person. The Maria Manetti Shrem Educational Centre is a space for forging new relationships between individuals and their families, as well as creating an interdisciplinary field for artists, museum educators, health workers and experts in a range of different disciplines to work and to debate together.

The art of living is the art of giving. I am very happy to support the fine arts and specifically to bring access to art for people in need. Art can heal people, connecting humans with a holistic perception.

Maria Manetti Shrem

The Maria Manetti Shrem Educational Centre’s activities

Tours, workshops, special visit tools: Palazzo Strozzi organises activities for schools, families, young people and adults in its Maria Manetti Shrem Educational Centre, paying particular attention to accessibility with specific workshops dedicated to people with Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, autism, intellectual impairment, or living with a condition of fragility with such schemes as With Many Voices, Free Flowing, Connections, and Nuances. The starting point for each programme is the interaction with the artworks and the artists’ poetics, prompting stimuli for a conversation or a group activity. Each project is devised to promote the individual and collective well-being with the goal to let each visitor find his or her own way of interacting with art at Palazzo Strozzi.

Maria Manetti Shrem

Maria Manetti Shrem, photo Gianmarco Rescigno

Born in Florence, Italy, Maria Manetti Shrem moved to San Francisco in 1972. She became instrumental in the internationalization of some of the world’s most iconic fashion brands, such as Gucci, Fendi, and Mark Cross under the umbrella brand of Manetti Farrow, designing a new and successful distribution system in North America and eventually boosting their global market.

In the 1980s, Maria created one of the most elegant estates in Napa Valley—Villa Mille Rose—where she hosted international artists and celebrities including Luciano Pavarotti, Sophia Loren, Renée Fleming, Plácido Domingo, Nancy Pelosi, Kamala Harris, Gavin Newsom, Isabel Allende, Marchese Piero Antinori, Paloma Picasso, Sherry Lansing, William Friedkin, and Andrea Bocelli, to name only a few. As a result, she established herself as the quintessential ambassador of “Made in Italy” creations, beauty, art, and Italian lifestyle in the San Francisco Bay Area. She spends time between the San Francisco Bay Area and Florence and enjoys traveling all over the world while continuing to learn about contemporary art, cultural heritage preservation, and the most refined winemaking brands.

Maria and her husband, Jan Shrem, have long contributed philanthropic support within the fields of education (high schools and colleges), fine arts (museums), performing art centers (operatic and symphonic concert halls), medical research (hospitals), and nonprofit cultural organizations in the US, Italy, and the UK. The Manetti Shrems currently support more than 35 charity programs, with favorites in the US including the Metropolitan Opera in New York City (the first time that the General Manager position—Peter Gelb—has been named thanks to Maria Manetti Shrem), the San Francisco Opera, UC Davis, the San Francisco Symphony, Festival Napa Valley, SFMoMA, KQED, Cal Performances, Francisco Park (community garden), SFFilm (naming the award for acting), ArtSmart, UCSF (neurology, orthopedics), CPMC (cardiology) hospitals, and Cabo Jewish Center (Founder and lifetime member). In Europe, Maria is one of the principal benefactors of the Royal Drawing School (established by His Royal Highness, the then Prince Charles), Friends of the Louvre, Teatro del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino, Friends of Versailles, the Venetian Heritage, the Italian National Trust (FAI), Palazzo Strozzi Foundation, and the Andrea Bocelli Foundation, with whom she has supported the construction of four new schools, including one at Meyer Children’s Hospital.

The Manetti Shrems—beyond their collection of pieces including works by Picasso, Moore, Dominguez, Burri, Bacon, Matta, and Nauman—are co-founders of the Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem Museum of Art at UC Davis, which opened its doors on November 13, 2016, realizing a goal that was 60 years in the making. The museum’s collection includes works by major California artists such as Wayne Thiebaud, William T. Wiley, Robert Arneson, Roy De Forest, Ruth Horsting, Manuel Neri, and Roland Petersen. The museum holds 30% of its space for educational and hands-on projects, providing a dedicated area for workshops, like in the Florentine Renaissance tradition of the “Bottega dell’Arte” where artists can learn by doing. The extraordinary architectural design of the museum—which was praised in ARTnews as “One of The World’s 25 Best Museum Buildings of the Past 100 Years,” curated by New York-based architect Florian Idenburg (SO-IL)—has already won 18 awards (six from international organizations); it has also been listed as one of the nation’s top 10 teaching museums.

Maria has received numerous prestigious awards and recognitions as an outstanding and influential cultural ambassador strengthening the relationships between the US and Italy, California and Tuscany, and the San Francisco Bay Area and Florence.

In 2019, the President of Italy, Sergio Mattarella, bestowed upon her the title of “Grand Officer of the Order of the Star of Italy.” On March 16, 2022, the mayor of Florence, Dario Nardella, awarded her “The Keys of the City of Florence,” as an inspiring role model of patronage following the Renaissance legacy of the Medici family, defining her as “the new Elettrice Palatina”—the latest heiress of the Medici family. On June 22, 2022, Jan Shrem and Maria Manetti Shrem were the inaugural recipients of “The Angels of the Arts Award,” Festival Napa Valley’s highest honor. On the same occasion, the Mayor of San Francisco, London Breed, along with the County and the City, proclaimed June 22, Manetti Shrem Day, dedicated to fostering philanthropy. On December 3rd, 2022, on the occasion of a celebratory event organized by SF Opera and SF Symphony, “Maria–50Years in America”, San Francisco City Hall rotunda exceptionally lit up in the colors of the Italian flag to honor Maria Manetti Shrem’s unparalleled philanthropic activity. At the end of the last performance of “La Traviata”, Maria Manetti Shrem was recognized with the highest community honor, “The Spirit of the Opera Award”, presented to her on stage bowing hand in hand with the artists before 3000 patrons. On December 16, 2022, UC Davis Chancellor, Gary May, officially informed Maria Manetti Shrem to have been selected as the recipient of The 2023 UC Davis Medal. The Medal—which will be publicly presented to Maria Manetti Shrem during the graduation held on June 18, 2023, at the Golden 1 Center in Sacramento—is “the highest honor presented by the university to individuals in recognition of extraordinary contributions that embody the campus’s vision.” Past honorees include former President of the United States of America, Bill Clinton, painter Wayne Thiebaud, 2020 Nobel Prize Charles Rice, and fellow philanthropists Margrit and Robert Mondavi.

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