What makes an AHA tutor? In every case, tutors are chosen for being unstuffy, energetic people who any one of us would gladly follow to find a wonderful, unlikely, remote work of art just because it is fascinating.
As a body of tutors, we look for people from differing academic backgrounds, diverse universities, disparate areas of expertise and contrasting methodologies. The variety of approach is similar to teaching at University. It makes the course dynamic and vital.
We also look for tutors with different personality types to suit the needs of pastoral care and an energetic course; some are noisy and outgoing, others more quiet by nature.
AHA tutors are something of a family. Generations of tutors, numbering about eighty, gather for our Christmas FEASTS. No tutor has ever left AHA and though they might not teach for a few years, they are always likely to come back. So, we divide the tutors into current and reserve (r) tutors.
Andrew Stewart Mackay
Olivia first encountered AHA on an A-Level revision trip to Florence and was immediately hooked. After a gap year trip to Italy with AHA which ended with watching sunrise over the forum in Rome, she went on to study History of Art at Cambridge University and began working with us in 2009, one week after graduation! She has been with us ever since and has led trips for gap year students, school groups and adults in Italy and France, as well as lecturing and giving private tuition. During this time she has also learnt Italian, worked at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection in Venice, gained an MA from the Courtauld Institute of Art, specialising in French drawings of the 18th century, and organised art and antique fairs in England. Most recently she is teaching History of Art A-Level at Francis Holland School Regent’s Park. At home in both Italy and France, loving the old and the new, Olivia’s favourite work of art tends to be the one she happens to find herself in front of.
Francesca graduated from Cambridge University in 2016 where she specialised in the Quattrocento and the birth of Western modernism. She continued at Cambridge for her MPhil, where she worked on depictions of fictive marble in Renaissance Tuscany. She is now based in Berlin, and, when not touring with AHA is busy pursuing new research ideas and working as a research assistant. Her happiest moments are discussing Marian miracles in a piazza in Venice, spritz and cicchetti in hand.
A former student of AHA, Alex has since pursued a real passion for all things Italian. She went on to study History at Oxford University before gaining her MA at the Courtauld Institute of Art in the architectural history of Rome. After graduating in 2007 she worked at a commercial gallery in London, specialising in Modern British art, where she curated a number of important exhibitions in this field and wrote a book on one of the gallery’s leading artists. For the last seven years, Alex has travelled with students in Italy whilst also teaching in England and has written a book on The Shirleys, one of England’s oldest families, which has recently been published by Brewin Books. She is also the founder and director of The Bigger Picture, a consultancy working in collaboration with AHA and other AHA tutors who bring art history to more schools and students around the country.
Manuel graduated from the Courtauld Institute of Art in 2016 with a first class honours in History of Art, where he specialised in 14th- and 15th-century Persian manuscripts and Western Medieval art. He is now studying for a Master’s in Islamic Art and Archaeology at the University of Oxford. Born in Italy, Manuel has a great passion for the culture of his home country, especially the Baroque music of Venice, which he studied at the Conservatorio in Parma, Ancient Roman architecture, and pizza. His AHA favourites include the Arena Chapel, St Anthony’s relics in Padua, and picnics with breath-taking scenarios. Talking about the Middle Ages gets him very excited.
Rosa, an ex AHA student herself, read History of Art & Italian at University College London (UCL). She finished her Masters in Art History at Oxford in 2013, and she wrote her dissertation on Miraculous Madonnas in Renaissance Tuscany. Rosa has lived in Pisa, Venice and Florence and spends as much time in Italy as possible where she loves stumbling upon artworks embedded in the city’s streets – it’s all about getting up close and personal with the objects (NO TOUCHING)! She has worked at various museums, such as the Peggy Guggenheim Collection, The Ashmolean and the Wallace Collection. Since leaving university Rosa has interned at Palazzo Strozzi in Florence, and worked in the Italian Renaissance Sculpture department at the Victoria & Albert Museum. When Rosa isn’t focusing all her energy on how to steal a Desiderio da Settignano relief, she enjoys biking, baking and making the most of Aperitivo.
Ed has joined AHA as a trainee tutor having recently graduated in Contemporary Media Practice from the University of Westminster – a practice-based arts course specialising in lens-based media. A former student of AHA, Ed is looking forward to learning the ropes with AHA before hopefully going onto postgraduate studies to develop his creative practice.
Lavinia studied History of Art at Christ Church, Oxford, where she specialised in the Italian Renaissance and the art of the Ballets Russes. She graduated with first class honours and was awarded the full Arts Humanities and Research Council (AHRC) scholarship to pursue her interest in 16th-century Venice at the Courtauld Institute of Art (MA). Lavinia has worked closely with old master and modern drawings in London and at international art fairs with Stephen Ongpin Fine Art and has contributed research for the V&A’s online display of 20th-century Fashion Illustrations as well as for art and history documentaries – including a BBC2 series on Ancient Rome. Lavinia grew up in Italy and is currently teaching there and across Europe for Art History Abroad. Additionally, she teaches creative and interactive workshops in schools across the UK for The Bigger Picture.
Liam is a former AHA student who studied History of Art at UCL, receiving a first and the top prize for his dissertation. During his studies, he worked at the Peggy Guggenheim Collection and the Venice Biennale, so an ideal day would be spent trawling Venice’s best cicchetti bars and finishing at Tintoretto’s Scuola Grande di San Rocco. Liam is also a keen writer, covering arts and culture for Wallpaper, i-D and AnOther and reviewing books for the TLS and Literary Review. Any free time he has on courses will be spent in contemporary art galleries (students always welcome), and he’ll happily wax lyrical about Artemisia Gentileschi to anyone willing to listen.
Maia graduated from University College London (UCL) in 2013 with a first in History. Fascinated by Italy’s rich and spectacular past, she studied Rome’s turbulent relationship with Constantinople and the power wielded by Venice during the Crusades. The daughter of a sculptor, Maia grew up surrounded by art and developed a strong interest in the Italian Renaissance during her own gap year, when she inter-railed across Italy, guidebook in hand. When she is not teaching, Maia pursues her interest in filmmaking. She has made several films for overseas charities and organisations and is currently doing an MA in Ethnographic & Documentary Film.
Alice studied Art History and Italian at Manchester University, for which she gained a 2:1 and a distinction in spoken Italian. She specialised in the Italian Renaissance, finding herself particularly drawn to the eccentric work of Piero di Cosimo. As part of her degree, Alice lived in Rome for a year working at the Hotel de Russie, where she spent most of her time trying to befriend the concierges so as to to be able to skip the queues at big exhibitions and try out all the best restaurants in the city. Alice’s loves are Michelangelo and Bernini, as well as the Enoteca Corsi carbonara which she could quite easily survive on. Having the chance to impart her own passion for all things Italian is what drew Alice to AHA, as well as being able to pursue her favourite activity: watching the world go by from the Piazza del Popolo with a glass of prosecco in hand.
Andrew Stewart MacKay
An alumnus of the universities of St Andrews, London and Leiden, Andy is a writer, art historian & quondam archivist at The British Library. He writes for AnOther magazine and is the author of The Angel of Charleston (BLP 2013) and The Story of Pop Art (Octopus 2020). Since 2005 he has taught widely throughout Europe and USA, although he rarely strays far from the nearest Aperol Spritz.
Holly joined AHA as a student on a 6 week Gap Year Course in 2010 and has since taken any excuse to return to Italy. She went on to study Art History at St Andrews University and the University of Richmond, Virginia specialising in the Florentine Renaissance. She has spent many hours in the Florence Archives studying writings by the fiery monk, Savonarola and the accompanying woodcut prints for her dissertation. Her real love, however, is for the frescoes of Fra Angelico, the sculpture of Bernini and melanzane parmigiana! When she is not in Italy, Holly spends her time photographing, cooking and travelling.
Marie was a student on a 6 week Gap Year Course in 2012 when she decided that Italy felt like a second home to her. She stayed in Florence after the course, working as an intern in the curatorial department of Palazzo Strozzi. With a love for the 17th-century Baroque greats such as Bernini and Caravaggio, she went on to study Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art before joining us. A lover of all things creative, Marie is also a musician who was awarded MTV’s Unsigned Artist of the Year in 2014. She is a firm believer in the idea of teaching Art History in an accessible, fun and interactive manner.
Steve studied at Cardiff and Birmingham where he received an MA in Fine Art. In 1999 he was appointed the Arts Council of England Helen Chadwick Fellow which enabled him to work on his sculpture in Rome and Oxford. He exhibits both in Britain and abroad and has taught at the Ruskin School of Drawing and Fine Art, Oxford, Tate Britain, Hayward Gallery and Whitechapel Art Gallery. Stephen has been living and working in Basilicata, Italy for over two years now. His most recent exhibitions have been “Skin falls apart ” at Francesco Pantaleone arte contemporanea in Palermo and curating and commissioning the inaugural show at Museo de Arte Contemporanea Cogliandrino. Stephen is artist and co-curator in the Poor Art /Arte Povera exhibition at the Estorick Collection of Modern Italian Art, London alongside British and Italian artists such as Mario Merz, Michelangelo Pistoletto, Richard Long and Tony Cragg. Visit Steve’s website at www.stephenelson.com
A former AHA student, Joe, also known as Bepe in Italy, followed on to courses at Central St. Martins in Fine Art and at SOAS, University of London studying Japanese Language and History of Art and Archaeology (probably one of the longest degree titles in the UK). A devotee of Botticelli, Joe enjoys nothing more than wandering around Florence, gelato in hand, scouring the street for Medici balls and new buildings to fawn over. Never far away from a sketchbook, Joe is happy to get students drawing the sights as well as studying them.
Helen studied history of art at Manchester University and at the Courtauld Institute of Art where she was awarded her Masters in the architectural history of Rome. She first fell in love with Italy in 2002 during her gap year when she joined AHA’s 6 week course. Since then, everything Helen has done has been to ensure that her life is spent teaching History of Art – and especially promoting the glories of Botticelli. Since 2008 she has been teaching History of Art at St Mary’s School Ascot and has slowly accepted that there are some non-Italian artists worthy of study. She teaches on trips to Italy and France for students and adults. Bernini and Caravaggio give her goose bumps and she loves anything built from travertine.
Tom studied English and Art History at York in the 1980s where he also completed an MA on Matisse. He’s lectured for AHA on and off for many years now, whilst also working freelance for the Education Departments at the National Gallery and Tate. He has published books on Post-Impressionism, Rodin, Renoir and a guide to the Royal Collection at Buckingham Palace. Since 2000 he has taught art history at St Mary’s School Ascot but one day will return to live in Rome, reading Byron and sipping the odd grappa.
Director of Art History Abroad, Nick has taught in Italy for decades, published books on Canaletto, Miró and an artistic guide to Florence. In addition he has written numerous book reviews and presented an arts programme for the Discovery Channel. Nick is an active director whose love of Italy is infectious and he is driven to continually add to the cultural experience of the courses. Once he was voted the No.1 Guide in the Daily Telegraph Review. In the past 10 years he has taught in cities from Lisbon to St. Petersburg.
Currently the Dean of the City of London and Vicar of St Olave’s, Chaplain to the Cloth Worker’s Guild and Trinity House, Oliver’s first degree was in African History and Anthropology, before studying Divinity at Cambridge. He is an authority on the Early Church, particularly in Rome, Ravenna and Istanbul. Adored by students, he brings conviction to theology and history. We ask him to teach the Early Church in cities where there is a strong religious content, such as Ravenna, Rome, Istanbul and Jerusalem.
Jessica first went on an AHA trip at seventeen and fell in love with both Italy and the company instantly. Having completed her BA (Hons) degree in History of Art at Birmingham University, the only thing she wanted to do was become an AHA tutor and inspire others as she had been inspired. Jessica’s other passion is songwriting and she frequently combines her two loves, occasionally using song to explain art; indeed, some students wonder whether their tutor is in fact a grown Von Trapp child from ‘The Sound of Music’… to check out her music visit www.jessicasharman.com.
Richard studied Natural Sciences and the History of Art at Clare College, Cambridge, and stayed there to research a PhD on Sculpture in Ferrara in the 15th century. After year at the Academy of Live and Recorded Arts he now shares his time between art and acting, working as a freelance lecturer at the National Gallery, Tate, Wallace Collection and Buckingham Palace among others. He has written and presented two series for Channel 4 Television, Art in the National Gallery and Tate Modern, and his books include The Secret Language of the Renaissance and Churches and Cathedrals. Researching for his PhD he spent two years or so living in various parts of Italy – mainly Florence, Bologna, Ferrara and Venice. After a decade and a half with AHA he has now visited almost every corner of the country, not to mention leading trips to cities in Russia, Spain, Germany, France, Austria, the Netherlands, Hungary and Czech Republic.
After a foundation course at the Royal Drawing School, Henry studied History of Art at St John’s College, Oxford, and graduated with a first in 2018. He spent his third year on an academic exchange at the Scuola Normale Superiore, Pisa, where he spent a lot of time looking at Trecento Tuscan sculpture. He is curious about modernist painting, and enthusiastic about Thelonious Monk.
Benj read History of Art at Cambridge, specialising in Venetian architecture and the paintings of Titian. Having worked full-time as a curator and general factotum at a commercial London gallery, he teaches at Westminster School where he was formerly Head of Art History. Benj thoroughly enjoys painting, singing and cooking, which is probably why he tries to spend all his time in Italy.
Fania studied History of Art at Oxford, writing her third-year thesis on 20th century collage. During her time at university Fania also interned at the Ashmolean Print Room and the Hermitage Museum in St Petersburg, where she enjoyed the kind of close engagement with art objects that you get on an AHA trip. She also makes art herself and enjoys being part of creative activities with students.
Charlie studied Art History at Warwick University specialising in the Early Florentine Renaissance and Venetian Art and Architecture. She lived in Venice before working in Bologna where she taught for three years. As well as all her teaching for AHA, Charlie runs AHA’s Dilettante and Tailor-Made programmes. She has also discovered the delights of Italian garden history and designs and leads tours to Italian gardens alongside Alys Fowler.
Rose Balston (r)
Rose completed her MA in History of Art at Edinburgh University in 2006. After studying languages at Salamanca University she joined the AHA team. She is unceasingly excited about all things Italian, be it the glorious Pantheon, mysterious Pontormo or bubbly prosecco. She is a keen pianist and singer: one of the many delights of being taught by Rose is to hear her demonstrate the acoustics in churches once noted for their choirs. Alongside her work in Italy, Rose is the founder of Art History UK, where she leads cultural days and courses throughout London.
Lucie Baird (r)
As well as being an experienced tutor, Lucie works in the Travel department for Guardian News and Media. Lucie completed her MA focusing on Seventeenth Century Italian Realism and the Baroque at the Courtauld Institute of Art in 2002 and her BA Hons in Economics and Business from Durham University in 2001.
Dan Evans (r)
Dan went on the AHA Spring Gap year course in 1998, he taught on his first AHA course in 2001, and has worked with AHA ever since. Formerly Head of History of Art at Wycombe Abbey, Dan is now Deputy Head of Sixth Form at Cheltenham College where he teaches History and History of Art and coaches rowing. He has run trips for school groups, gap year students, parents and adults and is an accredited The Arts Society (formerly NADFAS) lecturer. In 2008 he was awarded by the Daily Telegraph and Wanderlust Magazine World guide of the year. He lives in Cheltenham with his wife and two sons Hector and Tobias. Rome is his favourite city, Velázquez and Degas are his favourite non-Italian painters. His last meal on earth would be accompanied by a glass of Barolo and he was one of the Choreographers of the ‘Sculpture dance’, which if you’re lucky he’ll teach you.
Graham Fawcett (r)
Graham is a writer, broadcaster, translator from Italian and French, and teacher. He lived in Tuscany for four years working at the British Institute in Florence, a year in Catalan France, and 18 months at the Arvon Foundation in Devon. He has been an interpreter, a translator and a radio interviewer for BBC Radios 3 and 4, in English and Italian. He has taught many poetry courses and workshops, ‘on location’ events in England, Italy, (the latest, Poetic Rome, 2015), Spain (The Poetry, Art and Music of Andalusia) and the U.S. (Poets of New England, 2014). Graham is AHA’s poetry and literature expert, has worked for BBC Radio 3 over many years as the writer and presenter of programmes on poetry, music and Italy and takes groups to Italy for weekends on the poets of past and present in Florence, Rome, Venice and Recanati. He is also President of the TS Eliot Society (UK). For further information visit www.grahamfawcett.co.uk. Photo: Birgitta Johansson
Tristan Hambleton (r)
As an opera singer, Tristan has sung with Glyndebourne, Garsington and the Royal Opera House Covent Garden. He studied Art History at St John’s College Cambridge and at Heidelberg University in Germany before joining the Royal Academy of Music in London as a scholar. As both an art historian and singer in equal measure, there’s little doubt that Italy is his spiritual home.
Annabel Howard (r)
Annabel Howard studied art history at Oxford and has an MA in biographical writing from the University of East Anglia. She has worked as a lecturer and guide across Italy and the UK. Annabel is also a writer of ‘creative non-fiction,’ and her work has been published in The Spectator, The World of Interiors, The White Review and various other magazines. She has written three books for Laurence King Publishing on Kandinsky, Caravaggio and Visionnaires – Les plus grands artistes. She is currently artist in residence at the Centre for the Study of Religion and Society at the University of Victoria, Canada, where she is working on a collection of essays that meditate on tradition and its role in the modern world.
Catherine McCormack (r)
Catherine joined AHA in 2005. She studied Art History and Italian at University College London, going on to do a Masters there, specialising in Caravaggio’s depictions of feet and she completed her PhD researching the body parts of female saints! Catherine has enjoyed her fair share of dolce vita, amatriciana and baroque ecstasies in Rome where she lived for two years, but now she teaches at Sotheby’s Institute of Art, Dulwich Picture Gallery and UCL. She is resident art expert at Black’s Club Soho and has appeared on Sky News and BBC Breakfast talking about art. She has a special soft spot for Dante, and, if she could, would eat at Banco Giro by the Rialto in Venice everyday.
Tom Nickson (r)
Ex AHA student, Tom read art history at Cambridge before doing a PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art, London. He is now lecturer in medieval art and architecture at the University of York, specialising in medieval Spain. Tom especially likes saints, stews, and Siena; Borromini, basil and bling; San Giovanni Carbonara in Naples, the mosaics in the baptistery in Florence, and marinated anchovies.
Grant S Rogers (r)
Grant is a practicing artist and curator currently specialising in photography and needle work. He is a passionate advocate of discursive learning and travels all over the world talking to other educators and museum professionals about his approaches to museums as learning environments. Grant is the Informal Learning Manager for the Imperial War Museum London and a Fellow in Holocaust Education for Yad Vashem Jerusalem. He is a visiting lecturer for the National Gallery and numerous other museums and art galleries in which he also runs practical art sessions. Grant doesn’t have a website but has made a decision to publish reproductions of his work on social media which has led to 2 to 3 million visitors a year, showing his pictures the world over.
Ben Street (r)
Ben is a freelance art historian, museum educator and writer. He lectures on modern and contemporary art for Christie’s Education, Tate, Sotheby’s Institute of Art and the Royal Academy, and on old master painting for the National Gallery and Dulwich Picture Gallery. He is a regular contributor to Art Review, Art Quarterly and Apollo magazines and is the author of catalogue essays and interpretative materials for many major exhibitions in London and abroad. Ben was the presenter and co-writer of ‘Duchamp’s Urinal’ for BBC Radio 4, has an MA in Art History and English Literature from the University of Edinburgh, and has a pretty nice website, which is www.benstreet.co.uk.