Friday, 28 June 2013

Interview with Professor Philip J. DiNovo

Buongiorno a tutti! This week I had the honour of speaking to Professor Philip J. DiNovo who is the Founder and President of the esteemed American Italian Heritage Association and the American Italian Heritage Museum in Albany, New York. He has also been knighted by the Italian Government and is a respected figure in America’s Italian community.

Mr. DiNovo agreed to provide our readers with further information about his organisation and about his own connections to the island of Sicily and here is our exclusive interview :-) I hope you enjoy it!


Good Evening. Please can you tell us about The American Italian Heritage Association and how it was originally founded?

I founded the American Italian Heritage Association in 1979. Our mission is to record and preserve our Italian heritage.

The Association has been involved in many projects throughout the Italian American Community. Can you tell us about some of these activities?

We offer many programs, events and classes to carry out our mission. We are a resource for all things Italian in the community. We publish a 20 page bi-monthly newsletter in English that goes to our members in 37 states and several countries.

 How did the opening of the American Italian Heritage Museum come about?

In 1985 I founded the American Italian Heritage Museum in Utica, NY and closed it in 1997. We then moved to Albany, NY and our campus has three buildings. Our museum is in a former church and there are ten rooms of exhibits, the Hall of History, the Donor Tree in the Reception Room, the Gift Shop and two offices. Our museum is the largest Italian American room in the Eastern part of the USA. On the second floor (1,900 sq ft.) will be our Italian Cultural Center.

Can you please give us some insight into what visitors to your wonderful museum can expect to see?

Our Museum has the following rooms: Immigrant (2), Italian Folk Art, Religious, Italian American Music, Old Photo, Hall of History, Contribution of Italian Americans, Art, Special Exhibit and Military.

The museum honors the Italian Immigrants; we tell their story and we tell of the contributions of Italian Americans.
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One of the museum's current exhibits is 'My Sicily, Lights and Color' by the Sicilian artist, Joseph Anastasio. Can you tell us some more about this exhibit?
'My Sicily, Lights and Color' Exhibit is by a member born in Sicily, Joseph Anastasio. The paintings are of Sicily and its people and his body of work shows a tremendous love for, and understanding of, his land. Almost all of his works are painted on ceramic tiles, illustrating scenes of Sicily with its beautiful landscapes, its people, its villages, but most of all the sea and the unforgettable sunsets. In his landscapes, you will find monuments from the ancient Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Byzantines and Normans. All of these people left a legacy of their cultures to Sicily and the Aeolian Islands. Through his art, Joe Anastasio shows us the Sicily that he will never forget and never stop loving.

Do you have Sicilian connections yourself?

Yes, both sets of my grandparents were born in Sicily.

Please can you tell us about where your Grandparents are from and how your family came to live in America?

Both sets of my grandparents came from Sicily and were born in Termini Imerese, a very beautiful place. My grandfather DiNovo was a truck farmer and successful in real estate (in Albany, NY). My grandfather Sgarlata was in the produce business but lost a great deal in the depression.

Have you ever visited the island of Sicily? If so, which are your favorite places to visit there?

I have been to Sicily twice. I loved all of Sicily, not only for its beauty and people, but for its traditions etc.
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Do you think that there are still many aspects of Italian culture evident in the current American society?

I am sorry to say we have lost so much and our mission is more difficult as we lose the older generation. Our mission is more important than ever!

Which places in New York would you recommend to visitors looking to experience true Italian American culture?

New York State has the most people of Italian heritage in the USA. We have many Little Italys, Italian institutions, organizations, churches, stores, restaurants etc.

What have been the highlights of your career so far?

I have been knighted by the Italian government (Cav.). I am the founder of the Association and Museum and this is my 34th year as a volunteer. I taught on the college level for 32 years and received many awards. I thank God for the gifts he has given me and the opportunity to serve.

Thank you so much for your time. Would you like to provide any extra information for our readers who would like to join the association or read more about the museum?
Association Membership is $25 a year (plus postage for those outside the United States). Mail a check to us and send it to 1227 Central Ave, Albany, NY 12205 (USA)
We also have a great website and a Facebook page and a free Email Newsletter. I hope all who read your article will pay us a visit or at least stay in touch by signing up for our free Email Newsletter.

Debra Santangelo

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