About the ICS
The Italian Cultural Society of Washington D.C. (ICS) is your home for cultural and social events in the Washington metropolitan area, and for courses to learn or improve your Italian.
Our mission is to enhance the appreciation and knowledge of Italian language and culture. We create opportunities to explore the many facets of Italian culture, and to strengthen bonds between the Italian and American people.
We do this primarily through the Italian Language Program, founded in 1974, thanks to contributions from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Today, our school counts over 1,600 enrollments per year. We work in collaboration with the Italian Cultural Institute and with the Education Office of the Italian Embassy.
The ICS organizes cultural events every month, and special events for Christmas, Carnival and an annual Gala. We finally offer a scholarships program to award students who excel in Italian, classics, art, science and music.
ICS members include Italians, Italian-Americans and Italian sympathizers. We welcome everyone, regardless of race, national origin, or religion. The only requirements for membership are an interest in Italian culture and a desire to share that interest with others. The Italian Cultural Society of Washington D.C. is a 501c non‑profit organization.
History of the Italian Cultural Society of Washington, D.C.
An Italian Society was already in existence in Washington by the second half of the 19th century. This is attested by a date chiseled on the fine marble bust of Giuseppe Garibaldi, the popular hero of the Italian Risorgimento, which is prominently displayed opposite the entrance of the old Supreme Court Chamber in the U.S. Capitol building.
The bust is signed: Giuseppe Martegana, 1888. The official catalogue lists the bust as: “Gift of members of the Italian Society of Washington, Citizens of Italian descent, 1888. Accepted by the Joint Committee on Library.”
The present Italian Cultural Society of Washington was formed in 1953 when a group of Americans and Italians was organized under the leadership of Professor Salvatore J. Castiglione, Chairman of the Italian Department of Georgetown University.
In 1978, the word “Cultural” was added to the Italian Society of Washington to reflect its broad objectives, and the organization was chartered as a non-profit corporation in the District of Columbia.
Dr. Maria Guarrera Wilmeth
After a distinguished career as coordinator of foreign languages in the Fairfax County (VA) school system, Dr. Maria Wilmeth established and became the founding Director of the Italian Language Program of the Italian Cultural Society.
Dr. Wilmeth envisioned an organization that would provide educational services to the Italian community in collaboration with the Education Office of the Embassy of Italy, and would serve as a welcoming venue for Americans wishing to learn the Italian language and about Italian culture in the Washington metropolitan area.
In addition to establishing a role for the Italian Cultural Society as an Ente Gestore to manage Italian Embassy efforts in placing teachers of Italian in local schools, and educating children of Italians planning to return to Italy, Dr. Wilmeth — along with Prof. Roberto Severino of Georgetown University and others — initiated a very successful program, with funding from the National Endowment of the Humanities, to bring teachers from all over the United States to Rome for several weeks: “The Art of Teaching Italian through Italian Art.”
Dr. Wilmeth received many honors for her work, both within the United States and from foreign governments, including Japan. The Italian government honored her as Commendatore dell’Ordine della Stella della solidarietà italiana.
Dr. Wilmeth retired from her post for health reasons after a brief illness.