If you’re anywhere in or near the University District this weekend, try to make a stopover to Prisinzano Academy and Institute of Fine and Contemporary Arts. I’m not going to tell you to drive across town to check out the goings-on here… but if you’re already in the neighborhood and you want to see something a bit out of the ordinary, then it’s worth a visit. The only reason that I discovered PAIFCA was the thrifty lawn sale that I passed by on my way back home yesterday afternoon. Two gentlemen were sitting at a table enjoying their lunch near the sidewalk, surrounded by all sorts of random pickings – it was a scene right out of an Alice and Wonderland spoof.
It was only when I read the sign on the building that my curiosity really got the best of me. As I walked up, my thought was, “Is this a garage sale, or something more?” Thankfully it turned out to be ‘something more’, though there was definitely an ever-present garage sale vibe during my entire visit. Dennis Prisinzano greeted me on the lawn and proceeded to guide me through the front door of what I thought was going to be a pawn shop. It was not until I walked towards the back of the shop that I realized that the space led to a church filled with all sorts of books, paintings, lamps, desks, and everything in-between. As we rummaged through the goods, Dennis told me the story of his life’s accomplishments, including the art manuscripts that he had written, the books that he had published, the fine art that he had researched for museums and galleries, his own artwork, and his dedication to Prisinzano Academy and Institute of Fine and Contemporary Arts.
The more I learned about Dennis, the more mysterious the building (and Dennis) became. This guy was a professional appraiser, an art historian and lecturer, an expedition field guide and explorer of nature, an advisory conservator of arts and artifacts and an Africanist – so said his letterhead. His oversized antique desk looked like something right out of a Harry Potter movie. Apparently, before he had ventured out onto the front lawn to have his lunch, he had been researching a painting that hung on the wall adjacent to his desk. He began showing me books and papers identifying the painting, while pointing out inconsistencies between the painting and the research that he had been conducting. I wasn’t exactly sure if he was trying to tell me that the work was an inaccurate reproduction or whether the research materials were flawed. What I can say was that Dennis certainly was an entertaining fellow and was extremely passionate about the subject at hand.
Apparently the church is going up for auction soon, and Dennis told me that he was trying his hardest to purchase it with help from friends. I wish him luck in securing the church, and hopefully he will be able to continue on with his pursuits while offering an eclectic place for thrifters to frequent.
Prisinzano Academy and Institute of Fine and Contemporary Arts
3189 Main Street