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Brandeis in Siena impassions students’ love affair with the Renaissance

By Sabrina Pond

Section: Arts

August 19, 2016

As the summer of 2016 quickly comes to a close—a summer which, by the way, was full of glorious nights and mildly hot weather—some students’ study abroad experience also comes to a sudden halt.

One of Brandeis’ most exciting fine arts-centered opportunities, the Brandeis in Siena Program boasts an amazing studio art driven class coupled with an art history course. The program is particularly riveting as students get the chance to create their own artwork in the birthplace of groundbreaking, classic works that were highly influential during the Renaissance.

What makes the program complete is a culturally rich, experiential escapade where Brandeis students are given the opportunity to be immersed in Italian culture and experience, first hand, the artwork that they study in class. Over the course of five weeks, students are given the opportunity to learn in depth about the works that were fundamental to the Renaissance, to go on field trips to see that artwork in the flesh and to use that experience and knowledge to inform the creation of their own artwork. In other words, students are given the chance to learn, experience, reflect and create!

According to the program’s description, Siena is an excellent location to study the arts: “While enrolled in the Brandeis in Siena program, you will study in the historic city of Siena, Italy. Siena is a city rich in artistic masterpieces and complex social structures. The city itself is a jewel of preservation in Europe and is surrounded by a dynamic and thriving landscape filled with ongoing agricultural production. Siena as a location for studying art and art history is extraordinary for its contributions to art of the early Renaissance.”

Brandeis students are lucky enough to have an opportunity to study visual art in such a rich locale because Brandeis University and the Siena Art Institute partnered in recent years. Because of this collaboration, a Brandeis professor teaches one course and a Siena Art Institute professor teaches the other course. Both are taught in English.

In an exclusive interview with The Brandeis Hoot, Tova Weinberger ’18 talked about her experience with the Brandeis in Siena Program over the last five weeks. When describing the reason why she first applied to the study abroad program, she said, “Siena is an amazing city and the opportunity to study in a place with such a rich artistic history was a very big draw. I’d never been to Italy and I’m glad I was able to go and do what I love while experiencing Europe.”

While reflecting on the program as a whole, she said, “The teacher really pushed me outside of my comfort zone in terms of technique and I’m thankful for that. The art history course also helped give me a larger visual vocabulary to reference in future works. You have to know what came before to create something new, you know?”

With nothing but good things to say about the program, it appears that studying amid the greats can be a spark of inspiration to modern day artists—or so it would seem. Students who are finally making their way home, if nothing else, have wonderful portfolios to showcase; and that, for sure, is something to celebrate!

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