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Image by: Brian Fitzgerald 

Episode # 10 - Castaway: Donna Galluzzo

From: Jeff Wax
Series: Desert Island Discs
Length: 01:23:26

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My castaway this week is Donna Galluzzo the Executive Director of The SALT. Institute for Documentary Studies in Portland, Maine. Donna's fascinating career spans many dimensions. She's worked in "Corporate America", taught elementary school in the South Bronx, she's impacted the lives of adolescents as an outdoor education instructor on Maine’s Hurricane Island and for several years served as a victim’s advocate with the Portland Police Department. One thing Donna knows about herself is that she loves to tell stories. She really has no idea if she’s a good storyteller or not, but she doesn’t think that it’s any accident that she works in a place that is all about storytelling.

Donna_galluzzo_small Donna Galluzzo says, “There’s no doubt that my love of storytelling comes from my family, most especially my mom.  This is how she grew up, in a family that was Catholic, Italian, Irish and German, in a town called Ossining – just outside of New York City and home to the infamous Sing Sing Prison. Sing Sing was the place where the Rosenberg’s were executed, a famous reference in James Cagney films when he was talking about going “up the river,” and the place where her grandfather had been a prison guard with 50 years of service at the “Big House.” In more recent years, her hometown has received notoriety as a bedroom community for Manhattan and home to Don Draper from the popular television series, Mad Men.

The first time Donna left NY was to go to college in Maine. Right after graduation she found myself back in NY, in the South Bronx, in a neighborhood made famous from a 1981 Paul Newman film, Fort Apache, The Bronx . She was teaching third grade at, The Immaculate Conception School. To this day, that remains one of the biggest learning experiences in her life. All she can say is, "Hollywood didn’t embellish at all in portraying the neighborhood."

A year in the South Bronx will tempt anyone to get out of New York for a while. Donna moved to DC to be with a group of college friends and wound up staying for almost 8 years. The recession happened, and she decided to live off of her modest retirement fund – accumulated during a stint working for Merrill Lynch. She gave away everything she owned, made sure her belongings would fit into a Toyota Camry and after a cross country trip to Alaska, made in a car that wasn’t hers with a person she hardly knew and no working radio, she flew back to DC and left to come to Maine, a place she had long wanted to return to.  Donna says, " I have been here ever since. A few years after I moved back I was taking a photography class through MECA’s continuing education programs and I saw a poster – just outside the darkroom – that really caught my eye. It was of a young girl, surrounded by her family – generations at the table, in their kitchen somewhere in Maine- making sausage. I immediately thought, “that’s the kind of photography I’d like to do.” I called the Salt Center for Documentary Field Studies (as it was called back then) and asked if I could volunteer. I was coaxed into applying and spent a semester there studying documentary photography. A few years after I completed the program, Pam Wood, Salt’s founder, called me and asked if I was interested in coming in and interviewing for a job. I wound up working there part-time, Pam retired and somehow, just a few years after I’d come back to Salt to work, I found myself leaving a board meeting in total disbelief, having just been appointed Executive Director. That was about 2003, and I’m still at Salt, now called the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies and about to celebrate our 40th anniversary in 2013. Now, Donna really does feel like she's come home, to live and work in a place with strong community and great stories.

Piece Description

Donna Galluzzo says, “There’s no doubt that my love of storytelling comes from my family, most especially my mom.  This is how she grew up, in a family that was Catholic, Italian, Irish and German, in a town called Ossining – just outside of New York City and home to the infamous Sing Sing Prison. Sing Sing was the place where the Rosenberg’s were executed, a famous reference in James Cagney films when he was talking about going “up the river,” and the place where her grandfather had been a prison guard with 50 years of service at the “Big House.” In more recent years, her hometown has received notoriety as a bedroom community for Manhattan and home to Don Draper from the popular television series, Mad Men.

The first time Donna left NY was to go to college in Maine. Right after graduation she found myself back in NY, in the South Bronx, in a neighborhood made famous from a 1981 Paul Newman film, Fort Apache, The Bronx . She was teaching third grade at, The Immaculate Conception School. To this day, that remains one of the biggest learning experiences in her life. All she can say is, "Hollywood didn’t embellish at all in portraying the neighborhood."

A year in the South Bronx will tempt anyone to get out of New York for a while. Donna moved to DC to be with a group of college friends and wound up staying for almost 8 years. The recession happened, and she decided to live off of her modest retirement fund – accumulated during a stint working for Merrill Lynch. She gave away everything she owned, made sure her belongings would fit into a Toyota Camry and after a cross country trip to Alaska, made in a car that wasn’t hers with a person she hardly knew and no working radio, she flew back to DC and left to come to Maine, a place she had long wanted to return to.  Donna says, " I have been here ever since. A few years after I moved back I was taking a photography class through MECA’s continuing education programs and I saw a poster – just outside the darkroom – that really caught my eye. It was of a young girl, surrounded by her family – generations at the table, in their kitchen somewhere in Maine- making sausage. I immediately thought, “that’s the kind of photography I’d like to do.” I called the Salt Center for Documentary Field Studies (as it was called back then) and asked if I could volunteer. I was coaxed into applying and spent a semester there studying documentary photography. A few years after I completed the program, Pam Wood, Salt’s founder, called me and asked if I was interested in coming in and interviewing for a job. I wound up working there part-time, Pam retired and somehow, just a few years after I’d come back to Salt to work, I found myself leaving a board meeting in total disbelief, having just been appointed Executive Director. That was about 2003, and I’m still at Salt, now called the Salt Institute for Documentary Studies and about to celebrate our 40th anniversary in 2013. Now, Donna really does feel like she's come home, to live and work in a place with strong community and great stories.

Musical Works

Title Artist Album Label Year Length
Desert Island XTC Mummer. Island Records 2001 01:00
Hitching A Ride Vanity Fair British Treasures. Jukebox Entertainment 1982 03:08
Scenes From An Italian Restaurant Billy Joel The Stranger. Columbia 1998 07:35
Pour Some Sugar On Me Def Leppard Hysteria. Island Mercury 1989 04:25
Amazing Grace Ani DiFranco Dilate. Righteous Babe Records 1996 07:09
Elgar Cello Concerto - Part 1 Jacqueline Du Pre A Lasting Inspiration - Jacqueline du Pré . EMI Classics 1996 12:58
Faithful MeShell Ndegeocello Comfort Woman. Maverick 2003 04:45
Mary Patty Griffin Flaming Red. A & M 1998 05:19
A Taste Of Honey Lizz Wright Dreaming Wide Awake. Verve Forecast 2005 04:32