Italy - Spring 3-Week 2016

Travel Dates: April 22 - May 11, 2016

The Faculty

Christopher Ryan, Associate Professor of Art

The Course

Art 248: Creative Space: Studio Art Experience in Florence & Tuscany (CM, EW)

Course Description

This course will provide an intensive studio art experience by immersing students in the vibrant city of Florence, Italy and encouraging them to respond to this new environment through a series of carefully designed activities and art projects.  Florence will be our primary focus and base of operations, but we will also travel to relevant locations in Tuscany, such as Fiesole, Siena, San Gimignano, Lucca, and Cortona.  Rather than serving as an "art tour" where students visit foreign sites as observers only, this course will prepare students to directly confront the "differentness" of their new environment and respond artistically to the visual, intellectual, psychological, and emotional stimuli all around them. By traveling to a new place and responding daily to their immediate environment and personal interactions and experiences, participants will learn how art can communicate direct impressions, personal reactions, and emotional sensations.

Through readings, discussions, site visits, individual exploration, and directed art projects, participants will address the unique attributes of their new location.  To provide structure and direction, one or more themes will be emphasized.  Participants will respond to their new environment through the creation of an Artist Journal as their primary means of artistic work.  They will utilize both traditional drawing and water based painting materials, as well as many unconventional and experimental techniques and materials.

In addition to studio art work, participants will be exposed to some of the historic sites and artistic treasures of the past.  They will study the geographical and architectural design and growth of the city of Florence from its Roman origins to the modern age.  In addition, participants will have daily opportunities to interact with the local population.  Some language preparation will take place in orientation sessions and they will be expected ask directions, talk to shopkeepers, order meals, and respond when approached by curious locals. Meetings with resident artists and visits to area art galleries will also offer opportunities to mix with locals.


Students will fly into Florence and will experience and make artwork related to places such as the churches of Santa maria del Fiore, San Miniato, and Santa Croce, the grand public plazas of Piazza Signoria, Santissima Annuziata, and Piazza Repubblica, the Boboli gardens, the Forte Belvedere, and La Specola anatomical wax museum, to name but a few.  Students will also have scheduled and informal time to visit many of the world famous historical sites, such as the Uffizi museum, the Pitti Palace, the Academia museum and many others.  The group will also likely have the opportunity to make a visit or two to the studios of some contemporary Florentine artists.  Local galleries will be visited to witness the vibrant local art scene often overshadowed by the city's historic art monuments.

Artistic investigation will not only take us all over Florence, but to the hills outside of Florence, the hilltop towns of Fiesole and Cortona, the medieval stone cities of Siena and San Gimignano, and the walled city of Lucca  In these distinctive locations, group participants will be encouraged to experience and respond artistically to museums, churches, cafes, street life, open air markets, intimate gardens, and other public and remote spaces.

Class Requirements:


All artwork (finished pieces, sketches, prelim, plans, etc.) both in artists' journals or separate, will be graded on quality, sophistication, and progress demonstrated.  The ability to incorporate or synthesize new ideas and information, a willingness to try new approaches and work with a seriousness of purpose, and a sense of care and craftsmanship regarding work will all factor into the grade.

Written Work:

All assigned and unassigned written responses, observations, reflections, and notes done in the artists' journals will play a role in the final grade.  The readiness to reflect and think deeply and to write frequently and thoughtfully will be recognized.

Final Reflective Writing:

Artists will be required to complete a final thoughtful and well-composed journal entry that will provide a synthesis of their experiences and accumulated knowledge.  Essays will be a response to an assigned (but broad) question.


Refers to individual involvement and investment in the course.  All are expected to participate and be involved in class activities, discussions, and critiques.  Also expected is to demonstrate a consistent work ethic by being diligent and productive.  Participation also involves being prepared for class, attentive, willing to offer constructive and insightful comments, ready to ask thoughtful questions, and showing consideration and respect to everyone in class.  All are strongly encouraged to take the initiative in their own artistic development.


Presence and active involvement in all class/trip activities is required. Travel and logistics are very important when traveling abroad, so punctuality and promptness when meeting and reconvening are important. An inability or unwillingness to be present for all events and to be on time will result in a significant grade reduction.  An acute inability or unwillingness to be present and punctual that negatively impacts the quality of the experience for the group may result in being sent home prematurely.  Attendance also implies preparedness: all should be ready each day with assignments completed and appropriate materials at hand.

Materials List

Some group materials will be purchased for everyone to use as needed (masking tape, gesso, acrylic matte medium, etc.). However, each student needs to have sufficient art supplies of their own.

Required Materials (put your name on everything you can):

  • Set of acrylic paints 8-12 small-medium tubes (approx. 2 fl. oz.)
  • Sketchbook - hard cover and spiral bound, large size (approx. 11 X 14 or 14 X 17 in.)
  • Graphite Pencils (suggested: HB, 2B, 4B, 6B)
  • Charcoal - hard compressed
  • 1 Eraser (pink or plastic)
  • Drawing Pens, black (suggested: Uniball Vision micro & fine, Precise V5 & V7)
  • Paintbrushes (for paint, ink, acrylic medium, etc.): at least 5-6 small-mid size, softer bristles
  • Palette: plastic or disposable - med. size
  • Water bottle - small, sealable (example: Nalgene bottle)
  • Zip-lock plastic baggies
  • X-acto knife (purchase in Italy)
  • Scissors (purchase in Italy or pack in checked luggage)
  • Digital Camera - with removable memory card

Recommended/Optional Materials:

  • High-quality art paper, decorative papers, golf leaf, etc. (as needed) (purchase in Italy)
  • Tool Box: plastic & compact, for storing/carrying tools, etc.
  • Paint Markers
  • Chalk Pastels
  • Oil Pastels
  • Colored Pencils/Watercolor pencils
  • Metal Ruler

Estimated Program Costs

$3,900 above tuition and fees

Costs include round trip airfare, housing, meals, ground transportation and required excursions.  Personal expenses, materials listed above, passport fees and independent travel are not included.  This figure is a good-faith estimate, students might be required to pay an additional amount at the end of the program to cover unexpected or increased costs.

Application packets are available outside the Study Abroad Office (Hinsdale 139)

A $75 non-refundable fee is due upon receipt of the completed application.

Application Deadline

October 23 , 2015

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