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Abby Sangiamo

Abby Sangiamo

For the Sangiamo family, giving to MICA is a family affair that spans three generations.

Long-time faculty member Albert "Abby" Sangiamo and his wife, Irma, created the Santa Farinella Sangiamo Scholarship in 1996 in memory of Abby's mother, and later created a scholarship named for his father. Today, the family scholarships are also supported by their son, Dino, and his wife, Ellen.

Santa Farinella Sangiamo "was eight years old when she emigrated from a poor Sicilian farm to America in 1908," her son recounted. "Having to work to survive from the day she arrived, she did not go to school. The center of her life was family; she did not have time for art. Then, when she was in her forties she suddenly decided to decorate eggs, using inexpensive dime store beads and bangles. The results were delicate, imaginative, and distinctive." She donated dozens every year to the Brooklyn Mental Health Society's annual fundraising campaigns. A leading New York newspaper featured her with a two-page spread in its Sunday magazine section.

Sometime in her sixties she was given tickets to the City Center Ballet. Not knowing what to expect, she was stunned by its beauty. arthritic and chair-bound in her final years, she passed the days watching ballet on videotapes, and with a large photo on the wall beside her of the great dancer Baryshnikov in one of his signature midair leaps.

In 2004, Dino and Ellen Sangiamo took over responsibility for funding the scholarship, continuing the family tradition. Each year, the scholarship is awarded to a general fine arts junior who displays outstanding achievement in two or more fine arts disciplines. "Before my wife and I established the scholarship, there had never been one reserved for GFA students-even though it was the College's largest major and attracted many of MICA's best and brightest students," according to Abby Sangiamo.

In 2006, Abby and Irma created the Thomas Sangiamo Scholarship, in memory of Abby's father. The scholarship is awarded to a GFA junior who demonstrates excellence in drawing. "It was only in recent years that I realized how much my father's attitude toward work and professional responsibility shaped my own," said Abby, who has encouraged generations of MICA students to recognize that strong performance requires a strong work ethic. "My father loved his work and labored hard at it, both on the job and at home in preparation for each day." Despite having stopped school at the second grade, "he taught himself to read and loved reading; he filled our apartment's bookcases with cheaply but fancily bound classics by the likes of Balzac, Tolstoy, and Melville."

The memories of Abby's parents will live on through these two named scholarships, and the generosity of three generations of the Sangiamo family makes a MICA education more accessible for generations of MICA students to come.