Italian group enjoys Obici art

Published 11:49 pm Friday, August 21, 2009

Every person at the second-floor galleries at the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts Friday likely learned at least a few words of another language.

The middle floor of the building was packed with residents of Suffolk, Va. and Oderzo, Italy. The private reception for “Obici: The Immigrant Experience” drew a crowd of about 100 people from the two locations. The exhibit is a display of art, furniture and memorabilia related to Suffolk benefactor Amedeo Obici and Planters Peanuts.

The 30 visitors from Oderzo, one of Suffolk’s Sister Cities, presented Suffolk Mayor Linda T. Johnson with a gift, to which she responded with a gift of her own. The Italian delegation also brought an array of gifts for the Suffolk Center for Cultural Arts to feature in a silent auction at its upcoming fundraiser, “Art D’Vine.”

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“The Oderzo town council is committed to this project,” Ermes Campigotto, the vice mayor of Oderzo, said through a translator. “We are happy for this friendship.”

Campigotto credited Amedeo Obici with making the friendship between Suffolk and Oderzo come alive. Obici immigrated to America from Oderzo, living first in Pennsylvania and moving to Suffolk later on.

“Many thanks to Obici, who permitted this friendship,” Campigotto said.

The Oderzo delegation is in town through Aug. 25, said Mary Jane Naismith, the head of Sister Cities.

‘It’s always a fun exchange,” Naismith said. “We know them well enough now to have good friends.”

A busy weekend is planned for the visitors. They are the guests of honor at three dinner parties in the next three nights, and will be touring Suffolk on Monday.

The art in the exhibit ranges from Mr. Peanut salt and pepper shakers to Italian paintings. Many photographs of Obici in different places around Suffolk also are featured.

The pieces in the exhibit come from a variety of sources. The Obici Health Care Foundation loaned the photographs, said Nancy Kinzinger, who coordinated the displays. Much of the furniture came from the estate of a different family that purchased many pieces at Obici’s estate sale, Kinzinger added.

“His family changed this area, and he also was a very generous person,” Kinzinger said. “His legacy through the hospital, the foundation, continues to impact people in the city.

“This is a legacy to Mr. Obici.”

The public opening for the exhibit is Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m. The exhibit will be on display until Oct. 30. The galleries are open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Saturday.