In Greek mythology, Calliope was known as the Chief of all Muses. The wisest and most assertive of the Muses, she presided over eloquence and epic poetry. The literal translation of her name is 'beautifully-voiced'. She has been credited with being the inspiration for Homer's Iliad and Odyssey. A portrait of her by the French Baroque artist Simon Vouet shows her holding a copy of the latter work.
Calliope is also the name of one of the world's smallest migratory birds, the Calliope hummingbird, which spends its summers in western Canada and winters as far south as Mexico. This small but mighty creature is the inspiration for our organisation's logo.
In musical terms, a calliope is an instrument devised in the mid-nineteenth century, originally powered by steam. Often associated with circuses and riverboats, even small calliopes could be heard for miles as there was no way to regulate their loudness. Not necessarily the most melodious, but impossible to ignore.
So, whether you pronounce it ka-LIE-o-pee, ka-lee-OPE or any other way, Calliope Arts aspires to have an impact that belies its modest size by focussing attention on art, literature and social history with a distinctly female perspective.
About the founders
Wayne McArdle & Margie MacKinnon
Founders of Calliope Arts
“My interest in Florence began in 2011 when I took an extended holiday to study Italian and Renaissance art history at the British Institute of Florence. I fell in love with the city and, after my return to our home in London, contrived to go back to Florence as often as I could. Eventually, my husband and I found a small apartment in the ‘Oltrarno’, Florence’s artisan neighbourhood, which has become our cherished second home.
In 2017, I came across Advancing Women Artists’ FirstLast campaign to raise funds and awareness for the restoration of Plautilla Nelli’s monumental sixteenth-century Last Supper. It seemed a wonderful opportunity to contribute to the rediscovery of one of Florence’s most important early female artists.
My support for this cause led to a meeting with AWA’s then-director, Linda Falcone, and to a deeper involvement with the Nelli project and, eventually, a seat on the AWA Board of Directors.
Active involvement with local organisations has been a vital part of our Florentine experience. We have been happy to support the British Institute of Florence, the Il Palmerino Cultural Association (former home of British writer Vernon Lee) and the Bertocchi/Colliva Foundation in nearby Monzuno. In July 2021, I joined the Board of Trustees of the Medici Archive Project, a historical research institute devoted to the study of the vast epistolary collection of the Medici Grand Dukes held in the State Archives of Florence.
As Londoners, we are interested in the historic ties between London and Florence, and the relationships – especially between female protagonists – that led to cultural exchanges. Calliope Arts is a natural extension of our desire to engage with cultural life in our two home cities and to forge connections between arts organisations in Florence and London.”
“My wife Margie and I are both lawyers by training. We met at a summer exchange programme for Canadian law students in Sherbrooke, Quebec some 40 years ago. Coincidentally, our first joint philanthropic effort was in support of an art institution. We were part of a team of ten runners who ran relays continuously over 24 hours to raise money for the Art Gallery of Ontario.
My law practice spanned 35 years. As well as working in private practice, I spent three years as Chief Counsel to the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and travelled extensively in Russia and Eastern Europe. The final 18 years of my career were as a partner at the Los Angeles-based firm Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher where I balanced complex commercial transactions with pro bono work for large and small charitable organisations. One of these was Operosa, a classical music and opera festival that promotes young opera talent in the Balkan region. Another was The Akshaya Patra Foundation which provides hot meals to school children in India and combats holiday hunger in the UK.
Retirement has afforded me the time to serve as Chair of the Board of Conduit Capital Partners, a leading environmental and social impact investment business. I am also currently serving as Chair of the UK Foundation of my alma mater, the University of Western Ontario.
Forty years on, we are embarking on a new joint project with art at its centre and Florence at its heart.”
Header photo and Calliope image: Simon Vouet, c. 1634, The Muses Urania and Calliope
Samuel H. Kress Collection, National Gallery of Art, Washington DC
Wayne McArdle and Margie MacKinnon at Gray's Inn: photo by Karla Gowlett