|Marc Balcells at The Met, NY|
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor
Many page visits to the ARCA blog appear to be from those getting familiar with ARCA and the Postgraduate Certificate Program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies. Last year I interviewed (via email) Marc Balcells, art historian and criminologist, before he entered the program in Amelia. This week I asked Marc Balcells, an Adjunct Professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, a few questions about his experience studying art crime in Umbria.
How did ARCA's program in International Art Crime and Cultural Heritage Protection Studies support your interest in the subject?
Marc Balcells: Well, my interest on researching art crime has grown, of course. That was easy because of two reasons: first, because as a researcher/scholar/proud "ambassador" of the topic, I am very happy on conducting research non-stop. I do take it very seriously, so we can advance the field by very serious academic work.Also, because those 10 weeks were fantastic, on the educational side... I have no words to really express how enriching that was! Professors, materials, books... On the book side let me tell you that when the girl at the check-in counter at Fiumicino wanted to weigh my trolley bag, well... it weighed more than 25 kilos out of how many books I bought in Amelia regarding art crime. I still remember her face! Nerdish? Maybe, but now imagine for three months a professor recommending this book, a guest speaker another, a panelist another... Your trolley will resent you!
The program culminates in the writing of an article -- what area of art crime or cultural protection did you research?
Marc Balcells: I am a criminologist conducting research on organized crime and the links with the art world, so it was obvious that my thesis went on that direction. Because I am in academia my thesis is just a first step on what it will be a longer project (and article) on defining organized crime operations in the art world (for my thesis I just used a small example), getting even to challenge that concept to the extent that maybe when we are talking organized crime in some cases it can be another thing (like occupational crime), changing the players and the scenarios where they act. I hope that more data and some crime-explaining theories will be useful on debating that point.
How have you continued your interest since leaving the program?
Marc Balcells: Well, since leaving the program the show just goes on and on! When I do teach, I like to use a lot of examples from my own research, or even from colleagues' and professors' experiences that I learned during the summer. So my students at John Jay College at the City University of New York get a good deal on art crime in both courses I teach. But I also must confess that ARCA's Postgraduate program really confirmed my belonging in this field, and I do take very seriously (no kidding here!) on producing serious empirical work that may establish art crime as a form of criminality that can rival any other better researched form of crime.I do also take very seriously my "ambassador" role, and I feel that my columns on art crime, or my guest talks (both in an academic environment or on TV, radio or press: yes, future ARCA students, now you know a lot about that and media may want to hear what you have to say!) have to be very seriously addressed: that is, not only talking about the fancy crimes that everybody wants to hear, but also on the serious consequences art crime may have.
What did you enjoy about living in Amelia and what do you find that you miss?
Marc Balcells: Oh, I miss many things from Amelia. One of them could be the silence that allows you to contemplate every single building on the old part (works fantastic for working, or reading a good novel), even during week days. But I have to admit I treasure all the laughs and drinks we all shared at Fuori Porta or the bar at the Park. There were nights that were, simply put, memorable. On the foodie side, I miss the trofie al Pesto or the ragu alla lepre from Punto di Vino (and the cappuccinos), the Porcella pizza at Porcelli's; the lemon ice cream at Tropicana or my favorite breakfast, ciambelle, at Bar Leonardi! And even though I am a city boy, it will be fun being back for the conference, meeting the new cohort, and well... you know what they say about criminals: they like to go back to the scene of crime!ARCA will be accepting applications for the 2012 program through the end of February; to request a prospectus and apply, please contact ARCA Admissions at firstname.lastname@example.org.