For the three weeks prior to my arrival in Strasbourg (as I mentioned in my last post), I traveled from Berlin, Germany, to Prague, Czech Republic, and finally to Vienna, Austria, with 14 other students on Herron's study abroad program entitled "Exploring Art in Central Europe."
It was an extremely fast-paced three weeks; we took in literally thousands of works of art and architecture while visiting galleries, cathedrals, monuments, etc. across these three cities. After so many new experiences traveling this summer, and armed with a full sketchbook and hundreds of reference photos, I'm quite excited to get back to the painting studio when I get home. (I don't know how anyone could not return full of creative energy after a trip like this.)
During the program, I took two courses. The first was in art history, focusing on different theories of memory as it relates to place and visual culture, and the second was a sketchbook-based studio course. Before leaving the states, we received a collection of old photos from the cities we were going to visit. After sketching several of these images per city, we located the spots in Europe and drew them as they appear today. I've drawn a lot less in the past year than I'm used to, so it was nice to get back into sketching more regularly — and more so, it was great to have an aesthetic and historical framework through which to view these locations. It's pretty amazing how we can "read" the consequences of time, war, reconstruction, and differing political and economic systems in the way we visually interact with the infrastructure of a city.
Aside from the purely art-focused side of things, I really enjoyed visiting so many different kinds of arts institutions, from small local galleries to a school of art to museums with thousands of pieces in their permanent collection. There are so many things to manage in these kinds of organizations: conservation and restoration, security, collection curation, fundraising and financial management, donor relations, collection display, informational displays and educational programs, etc. It's really an exciting field, and this trip was a good introduction to arts management on an international scale.
It was a lot of fun to be so submerged in the world of art for three weeks through our daily itineraries, homework assignments/readings/class discussions, and by living with so many other artists and art-lovers for this time. I used to worry about these kinds of saturated experiences making me "tired" of art in some way, but I've found time and time again that in spite of their challenges they are instructive and inspiring rather than draining. (Perhaps this is how we find the things we are "meant" to do.)