Pratt in Venice 2011

Diana Gisolfi, Director

2011 was a special year for Pratt in Venice.  The group of participants comprised 21 students, balanced equally between graduate and undergraduate, including degree candidates in painting, printmaking, art history, library science, illustration, art direction, and various combined degrees.

The printmaking studio at the Scuola di Grafica was active overtime with highly determined printmakers tirelessly guided by Jennifer Melby. Chris Wright and his painters labored outdoors and in the Universita` dell’Arte studio, producing a wide range of responses to the experience. Art history students tromped and floated around the city studying the visual arts in situ with Dimitri Hazzikostas, while in Materials and Techniques students were admitted, through the help of Diana Gisolfi’s Venetian associates, to conservation laboratories and sites to learn about ways of making and salvaging art. Visiting lecturers included Tracy Cooper on Palladio, Paolo Spezzani on non-destructive analysis of art works, Robert Morgan’s view of the Biennale, and Stefania Sartori on wood conservation.

In addition to our traditional visits to Padua and to Castelfranco/Maser/Bassano, including architect Antonio Stevan’s lecture at the Giotto Chapel and an outdoor feast at Bassano, there were two unique happenings. The publicity office at Pratt contacted the program to ask if CBS could film some of our students viewing the Biennale. As Hilary Thompson, our wonderfully organized on-site assistant, had already organized the visit to the Giardini part of the Biennale, we set up a visit to the Arsenale part, with CBS in tow. Some segment of the filming should appear on CBS Sunday Morning very soon! The other unique event was in relation to conservation of the church of San Sebastiano, decorated by Paolo Veronese. Materials and Techniques students visited the exhibition of the three ceiling canvases, just cleaned, at the Palazzo Grimani, and they later were able to mount the scaffold in the church with the superintendent of the project, Dr. Amalia Basso as guide, to see up close all the varied painting techniques used by Veronese and his helpers.

Our Pratt in Venice exhibition on campus October 17-22 in the Second Floor Gallery reflects the richness of the program in the range and high quality of work exhibited. The conservation research and on-site photographs shown in the display cases outside the gallery remain on view throughout the year.

Ryan Jones, Undergraduate Print Making

When I studied in Venice in the summer of 2011, it was my first time traveling outside of the United States. I was surprised at how easy it was to navigate the city and interact with the locals. Venice may be small, but it has so many different ways to get around that I never saw the same thing twice. Around any corner would be a new church or campo that begged to be explored. The apartment I lived in for the six weeks was incredible.

It comfortably housed three people and we had a view of our own personal canal. On a daily basis gondoliers would float by our window singing and playing accordions for the visitors.

I studied art history and printmaking during the six weeks. Of course I was impressed, if not overstimulated, to draw and paint the City of Water, but more importantly, my understanding of art history as been completely revolutionized. There was no sitting in a classroom and being lectured about artwork via Powerpoint. We went to the sites and discussed the artworks and architecture first hand. You could take pictures if you would be so inclined, but looking back on them would not come close to the initial experience. The colors used in the paintings or the overwhelming sense of space in the churches could not be imitated in any form. To experience that awe again would only be possible on site. And I would go back as soon as possible to experience it all over again.

Christina Manzella, Graduate Art History & Library Science Student

I knew from before I was accepted into Pratt that I wanted to participate in the Pratt in Venice program. First, it’s always better to experience art in situ. I’m a contemporary art person, which was a major factor in my choosing a school in NYC to study art history. Why wouldn’t I want to go to Europe to study Renaissance and Baroque art? Second, I’m a contemporary art person, so that Renaissance/Baroque distribution requirement was a bit daunting. I knew that fulfilling that class in Venice would be more fun. What I found out was that going to Pratt in Venice was also the best way for me to actually learn about that portion of art’s history. Taking the two art history courses offered meant a minimal amount of time in the classroom. The majority of our class meetings were field trips, and, when we were in the classroom, we had quite a few guest lecturers. This ‘hands-on’ approach was so engaging and ideal for learning about an area in which I thought I had little interest. Thanks to the program, I also learned that I’m really interested in architecture.

The benefits of participating in one of Pratt’s most established study abroad programs were evident in the art history classes. The benefits of going to a city with faculty who have been year after year became evident in our group outings and free time. Thanks to them, we found out which islands to visit, which areas to go shopping, and at which restaurants to eat. And, though I won’t divulge any of the surprises, there are some amazing group events. Finally, the Festa Redentore is not to be missed. It’s one of the best reasons to go to Venice during July. Do not miss this night!