August 14, 2014. Silver Spring, US.[Emily Mathe]. Where better to view the work of the masters than in the hub of European artistic ingenuity itself? That’s exactly what 15 students in Pacific Union College’s (PUC) Honors Program did this summer when spending four intensive weeks studying art in Florence, Italy. The summer seminar abroad entitled “Beauty” was a combination of lectures, artistic assignments and tours aiming to provide the students with a comprehensive and contextual idea of beauty from the medieval age to Modernism. With a large amount of material to cover, the students worked to digest the most information possible in each three-hour class session.
“The trip was a once i
n a lifetime experience to actively learn about art and the pursuit of beauty,” said Rachel Veszpeller, a senior Spanish and music major. “I learned first-hand how to see ordinary objects how an artist might see them. And to get to know art in Italy was incredible, especially in Florence; you could almost feel the creativity in the air. It was a challenging trip that opened my eyes to a lot of concepts that I had never encountered before.”
Villa Aurora, an Adventist school in Florence, hosted the PUC travelers for the duration of the trip. Alexander Carpenter, instructor of Art History at PUC, taught the academic element of the course while Sylvia Rasi-Gregorutti, professor of modern languages at PUC, organized the museum tours and day trips outside Florence while also serving as a translator.
“Once again, the Honors seminar students proved to be a resilient and gracious group,” Rasi-Gregorutti said.
The group toured the Accademia, housing Michelangelo’s David; the Uffizi, which contains works by many artists including Leonardo da Vinci, Sandro Botticelli, and Caravaggio; the Bargello; Palazzo Pitti; and other cultural attractions.
One of the tours included a steep climb to the top of the Duomo, or Basilica di Santa Maria del Fiore, the dome designed by Filippo Brunelleschi that dominates the Florentine skyline. On bus trips outside Florence, the Honors students visited the towns of Siena, Vinci, and Assisi, as well as the bustling canals and glass shops of Venice. On the overnight trip to Rome, the Vatican Museum, Coliseum, and Pantheon were also notable stops.
“Studying abroad in Italy has been one of the most incredible academic experiences,” said Katherine Shin, a freshman biochemistry major. “I don’t know which I am going to miss more: my daily gelato or exploring different cities and learning about their cultures. I am thankful that I had the opportunity to go to Italy this summer because it made me see the importance of different perspectives, and I am looking forward to going back one day.”
The trip concluded with a ceremony during which all the students presented the artistic projects they had created to showcase their perspectives on beauty. The presentations were varied, including paintings in different mediums, two musical performances, a children’s book, wire sculpture, theater of the absurd and more.
“I enjoyed seeing what each member of this variously talented group brought to this summer’s seminar,” said Rasi-Gregorutti. “As always, it was great fun to provide orientation to the language, culture, and physical space. Assisting with searching out local connections in areas of students’ and colleagues’ personal interest is always an exciting, ever-changing scavenger hunt for me.”
Although the Beauty class has been a course in the Honors curriculum, this was most likely the last time it takes place solely in Florence. With PUC debuting a new Honors program in Fall 2014, the nature of the summer art course will be changing as well. Going forward, there may be a Beauty “look-alike” class hosted somewhere else to fulfill the same requirements.
Pictures: 1. Villa Aurora, Florence; 2. The PUC students; Florence Duomo.