Calabi Family Scholarships

Sonja Schubert Calabi Scholarship for Textile Arts
Lorenzo Calabi Scholarship for Woodworking

Lorenzo Calabi and Sonja Schubert Calabi lived in Newton for more than 60 years, where they raised four children. Intellectuals and carriers of culture, they each practiced handcrafts throughout their long and productive lives.

Dr. Calabi was born in northern Italy. The first of his several emigrations was to Switzerland during the Second World War, where he met Swiss-born Sonja Schubert at university. He attained his bachelor’s degree in German and his PhD in French; their early married life was in France. The Calabis came to this country on a Fulbright travel grant, when Lorenzo joined the wave of European professors who bolstered the US educational system in the 1950s. After teaching at Boston College, he became a pioneer in the computer industry. Mrs. Calabi, a self-taught art historian, applied her fluency in several languages and ability to engage in international circles to help grow a prominent Newbury Street gallery and to work as curator of a private collection of prints and books. She also volunteered as a docent in Boston College’s McMullen Museum of Art.

Throughout their lives, the Calabis’ handwork covered a range from do-it-yourself fixing to pure creativity. When they bought a house that even in 1955 still had almost no wiring, Lorenzo consulted a library book on home electricity to wire the house himself; Sonja wallpapered, stenciled and painted. Lorenzo designed and made furniture and other objects from wood and metal. Sonja made clothes, embroidery and quilts of her own design. Their house was full of books and art – books in the bookcases that he built and art that they framed themselves. They taught their children about fonts and calligraphy by hand-cutting printing blocks, and made gift-wrap with potato prints. They engaged with the history and culture of their new country through traditional American artisanry, Lorenzo making metalwork lanterns and Sonja decorating wooden milk-pails.

Their daughter recalls, “My parents thought that making things was a basic activity, part of the natural order of things. They believed in self-sufficiency and problem-solving. They also believed that functional objects should be beautiful. Pleasure and necessity, creativity and practicality, the satisfaction of making something and the satisfaction of using it, frugality and a love of fine things – all came together in hours spent making their home comfortable, efficient and beautiful by the work of their hands.”

The Calabi family scholarships will allow a certain number of students to take classes tuition-free each year for years to come.