Jewelry Designer of the Two Worlds

If not for the Internet, Katey Brunini’s Italian cousins may never have found her. The jewelry designer reunited with her relatives five years ago, when her cousin Barbara, from Spoleto, Italy, tracked her down through her fine-jewelry Web site at

Spoleto, of course, is famous for the Spoleto Festival (officially Festival dei Due Mondi or Festival of the Two Worlds), founded in 1958 by composer Gian Carlo Menotti, which for 50 years has showcased music, opera, dance, drama, and the visual arts. Having relatives in Spoleto turned out to be a good career move for Brunini—she not only rediscovered her family heritage but also became the first American jewelry designer to be part of the Spoleto Festival, which was held this year from June 29 through July 15.

Katey first visited the city in 2001, when she finally met her extended family, including her uncle Massimo Brunini, the mayor of Spoleto. Mayor Brunini attended the Spoleto Festival’s American counterpart—the Spoleto Festival USA—in Charleston, S.C., last year and saw some of Katey’s jewelry in person.

Last fall, Katey Brunini was invited to exhibit at the 2007 Spoleto Festival. “Since its creation, the Festival dei Due Mondi has been a center for international artistic experimentation, which is an idea I have always been drawn to,” says Katey. “Artists of mixed media thrive together in the most beautiful part of Italy. I am honored and inspired by it.”

The jewelry exhibition space is across the street from the entrance to the Piazza del Duomo, where most of the special evening events are held. The space has a museumlike setup with an ornate charm: antique white walls, vaulted ceiling, and tasteful crown molding. Each vendor gets two or three showcase windows protected by glass and 24-hour guard at the entrance. Since K. Brunini Jewels was a special guest of the festival this year, Katey was given a second room in the same space to exhibit her new Objects Organique collection. The other exhibiting jewelry designers are all based in Spoleto or the Umbria region, and some have been participating in the Spoleto Festival for years.

The organizer of the jewelry exhibit at the festival for the last 15 years is the owner of Spoleto Gioielli, Enrico Morbidoni. Morbidoni owns two fine-jewelry stores and has helped choose which designers to invite based on their contributions to the fine-jewelry industry in the Umbria region. “Having K. Brunini be part of the festival helps further strengthen the bond between the Italian and American artists,” he says.

In her display, Katey incorporated pieces from two exhibiting sculptors, Emanuela and Elena, who create the Forme dell’Anima (Shapes of the Soul) collection. The two sculptors have worked together for 10 years and sell mostly to private clients and people who see them at this type of exhibition. This design duo has been participating in the festival for seven years. Emanuela’s father did the first festival with Gian Carlo Menotti in 1958, the year of her birth, and she believes it was meant to be part of her life. “The people who are in the town to see the festival understand the work and appreciate it for its artistic value and worth,” Emanuela says. “The one-of-a-kind pieces have always been of the most interest to the festival attendees, and the regulars, who come each year, come to see what we’ve done this year.”

Sculpture has played a big part in the Spoleto Festival’s history. In 1962, Alexander Calder, David Smith, Henry Moore, and other famed sculptors of the time created a 120-piece exhibit across the city. Many of these sculptures remain in Spoleto today at the Galleria of Modern Art and other locations around the city.

For half a century, the Festival dei Due Mondi has attracted great artistic figures like Jerome Robbins, Henry Moore, and Ezra Pound. Luciano Pavarotti, Andy Warhol, Yo-Yo Ma, and Jessie Norman are some of the other notable talents who have appeared—and sometimes been discovered—at Spoleto. This year, actor Andy Garcia joined the Cineson All-Stars for a concert of Cuban music. He also debuted his latest movie, The Lost City, which drew vast crowds of fans and supporters.

Choreographer Alonzo King brought his 25-year-old Lines Ballet from San Francisco to the festival this year. An experimental ballet that mixes traditional and interpretive dance, Lines performed in Spoleto’s Roman amphitheater and was one of the most popular events.

Spoleto has invested in the future of its citizens by founding and running its own Institute of Art, where students 14 to 18 years of age come to learn textiles, art, jewelry design, music, painting, theater directing, and filmmaking. The institute acts as a secondary education for students who are interested in a trade instead of university education. It houses 150 students from September to July and has 60 teachers. While we were there, we ran into an American high school program in town for two weeks, which rotates students in and out for the summer. Students stay in a convent down the road and get to create and study in concentrated subjects during their stay.

At dinner one evening, I was introduced to Rita Correnti, who has worked with jewelry exhibitions in Italy, from Rome to Milan, for 14 years. Her work now includes many private jewelry shows. She moved to Spoleto 22 years ago because she fell in love with it. She favors expanding the presence of jewelry and handmade luxury items at the festival. “Spoleto is building a year-round exhibit hall to house our first-ever luxury handmade goods center,” Correnti explains. “Bringing Katey to the festival this year was part of the first step in pursuing Menotti’s vision of making Spoleto a center for artists’ works and performances. We need to continue to reach out to those who believe in this—invite them to join us, and continue to harvest and cultivate new talent and to help capture the meaning of the creative world.”

It’s exciting to think that there could be a stronger fine-jewelry presence at the Spoleto Festival in the years to come. As they say in Italy, tutto è possibile—everything is possible.

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