Last spring, eight intrepid, imaginative students engaged in a Connections class, Rome: Sketchbooks and Space Studies that combined scholarly research and studio practices, culminating in a three-week trip to Rome from May 14-June 4, 2018. Below are brief yet vivid reflections on a transformative trip full of memories and friendships that will last a lifetime.
Each student also provided a photo that represented a meaningful moment in Rome. Also included are photos of each student in their studio at the University of Washington’s Rome Center.
The picture below is one of the happiest memories I have of Rome because it was a morning when Max, Rebecca and I woke up early to get breakfast, sit on a stoop, and paint the buildings around us. This image just captures how inspiring Rome was and also how the three of us bonded from living together.
I got the wonderful opportunity to meet and build relationships with people I may not have otherwise done without the trip to Rome. Studying abroad allowed me to separate myself from a comfortable environment where I knew everyone and really let me experience Rome and create new, genuine, friendships. Having studio time while in Rome was incredible. I was able to be surrounded by historic art every moment and I felt like that really charged my creative nature to create something of my own.
One of the most memorable moments of the Rome trip took place at the Villa d’Este. The mystical environment helped my imagination run free in a way I had only been able to experience as a child; ultimately serving as a testament to how powerful art can be. The group’s dynamic of looking out for each other is only explicable by a sense of inclusion, acceptance, and open-mindedness brought-on by such unique personalities. This translated through activities like communal dinners and especially when it came time to practice in the studio. By being around dedicated artists, I was able to garner honest feedback which helped me leap out of my comfort zone and apply techniques with which I was not yet comfortable. The end product was a reflection of many hours and risks made possible by learning through experience.
My experience in Rome was three of the best weeks of my life. I tried to allow whatever experience that was destined to happen, happen. There is no better way to get to know a group of people than being thrown out of your comfort zone, into a country halfway across the world, in a new culture, and new space. Rome was a sensation overload, with smells of jasmine following you everywhere we went, the lingering taste of gelato, the sounds of drunk voices, and the golden light casting its shadows on each evening. We had the privilege of creating art while we were in Italy, I used this change of scene to break out of my medium and try new kinds of art making including the use of acrylic paint. I was inspired by the textures of the city and the raw vulnerability of contemporary art being created in Rome. I will never forget this experience.
Rome allowed me to experience a contrast between thinking as a professional and student artist. It was as if I were in an art residency, in a truly amazing place I’d never been before. The experience strengthened my personal goals as an artist and my connection to the UPS and larger art community. My studio practice allowed me to experiment with texture and space in a new light. After seeing so much antiquity and classical art, my entire scope shifted and I was able to reflect on myself and my intentions as an artist on a new plane.
Going abroad is difficult, you are thrown out of your comfort zone. However, doing this in a group fostered trust and a dynamic that is unique to just us. It was a privilege to be so close to everyone on the trip, they were so respectful and helpful and goofy and light-hearted and positive even when things were tough. I’m so grateful for all the time we spent together especially in group outings and communal dinners and games and art-making.
The studio time was an excellent culmination to the experience, it gave us time and space to be in our own heads and reflect on the trip as a whole, and encouraged us to savor the last moments of it all. I worked on a painting that included some of the most memorable, interesting and visually captivating subjects I had come across in Rome. It was a collage of images that I had collected throughout the trip and acted as a meditation on everything I had seen or done.
The image below is one taken of Walker and others whom I do not know from within the exhibit, “Take Me, I’m Yours” at the Villa Medici. Quite literally in this exhibit, but also in many museums and places we went and experienced throughout the three weeks, we were allowed, if not encouraged, to take, touch, and interact with art and space in a way that is quite different, if not inexistent in the United States.
When experiencing another culture, especially for the first time, having people beside you with similar intent is powerful because everything our group did together was amplified simply by being in the presence of one another. Living in close quarters with the same initial, directional confusion allowed us to find comfort in knowing that we were all clueless, yet curious to discover and excited to share what we discovered.
My studio practice was a jumble of sorts at the beginning for everything that I absorbed up to that point seemed worthy of translating into some form of tangible reflection. As I pressed on, however, studio time allowed me to reflect as I experienced – a practice that helped shape and formulate thoughts, places, and days.
The photo below is from a long walk back to our apartment some of us took along the Tiber. We saw locals fishing for eels and enjoyed the evening light on the water.
Being abroad with this group worked really well. There weren’t too many of us and since we were all in the same apartment building we were able to have community dinners almost every night.
I loved doing little watercolor landscapes throughout the trip when we visited different locations. Even though I did something unrelated for my studio work, the highlight for me was the opportunities to do some plein air painting.
The photo below may seem like a strange photograph to have chosen, however, for me, it represents motion, transformation, and general intensity, all words I would use to describe my understanding of Rome. This is a photograph of the biggest fountain at the Villa d’Este in Tivoli. We learned that this fountain had been transformed into an extravagant centerpiece during the 1930s after Bernini’s original fountain was dilapidated beyond repair. This, to me, was both an amazing vision of how water acts, and a profound example of the reinvention and dramatization of something from the past.
During the time that we were in Rome, we were all able to see various examples of how the past had and has been invented, reinvented, destroyed, enhanced and generally the way things have changed. Being in this group allowed everyone to comprehend these observations all in very different and profound ways. We were able to share ideas, thoughts, and realizations as we traveled through the rich timeline that is Rome.
This community allowed for the studio time to be productive for some and overwhelming for others. It was quite a task to begin to work through and reflect on the fast-paced experience we had all taken part in. The studio served as a reminder that although time moves with the same rhythm and terrifying pace of water (like the fountain in the photograph) we always have the ability to create a kind of sanctuary for contemplation, understanding and, if appropriate, work.