Tiny Florence: A Student Exhibit

written by Alexander Daggett & Lily Carrol for Special Project: Experiential Learning in Journalism

Hosted at Via Ricasoli, 21’s Palazzi Community Center on May 30, “Tiny Florence” showcases the work of summer semester FUA-AUF study abroad students enrolled in both the courses of Introduction to Digital Photography and Intermediate Landscape and Architectural Photography. For three weeks leading up to the exhibit, students were given the opportunity to explore and capture the essence of Florence through their photographic lens, all culminating in a selected portion of 6 cm x 6 cm black-and-white digital snapshots, framed by white borders. 

On this rainy day, it’s a packed house. Students, teachers and passersby are welcomed with prosecco and a place to dry off, but got much more than that. The exhibit lines the two walls of Corridoio Fiorentino, proceeding towards Palazzi Community Center's terrace garden. The images lining the walls, while small, encourage the viewers to take a closer look. A powerful testament to the ample character the city has to offer, beyond the conspicuous beauties Florence is known for. 

“Through Tiny Florence, you're supposed to get an essence, a microcosm of the city of Florence itself, whether that be architecture, people, or just the general way of life,” says Michael Moses, one of the students featured in the exhibit. Each participant took over 100 photos, and narrowed it down to the 12 that best fit the themes and goals of the exhibit.

Students from both classes were able to venture out and take photos independently, and come together in the classroom for editing and selection. Implementing the unique experiential learning opportunities FUA-AUF has to offer, students were given free reign of the city, to honor the city these students get to call home for a short period of time. This exhibit brings light to the little things that get lost in the whirlwind of excitement Florence has to offer.  

“What we really wanted to influence was the students going out on their own time outside of the classroom,” Robert Thompson, Teaching Assistant for the Introduction to Digital Photography course said. “And photographing things that intrigued them about the city personally. Whether it was their first time traveling and seeing something new, or seeing Italy from a different angle.”

The photos on display are arranged in different patterns and shapes on the walls, with some in frames, and some adorned simply in just their white outlines, with each different position reflecting a different theme. The scenes in the photographs range from a variety of subjects, with some featuring classic street photography tropes such as interesting angles of alleyways, harsh contrasting shadows on roads, and simple portraiture of pedestrians. The exhibit will be up for observation for three weeks, with a new one taking its place at the conclusion, featuring more photo students' works with a different theme. 

“I would definitely come back to future exhibits,” student Riley Guerette said. “I think that this is a great opportunity for the people of the community and students alike to gather and share a common interest and it creates a very welcoming and relaxing environment.”

"Tiny Florence" is still available to be seen in Corridoio Fiorentino. Another exhibit, "Alchemy of Love”, will be showing at Via Ricasoli 21’s Palazzi Community Center in the place of "Tiny Florence" on June 20, 2024 at 6:30 p.m.

A Class Without a Classroom

written by Amber Roldan for Special Project: Experiential Learning in Journalism

The city of Florence replaces the traditional classroom setting for students enrolled in FUA-AUF’s Painting En Plein Air class. This unique class structure allows students of all levels and expertise to gain hands-on experience and practice during their time in Florence. Students explore the city and familiarize themselves with the pleasures and challenges of painting outdoors.

The course’s combination of art and sightseeing creates an unparalleled way for students to paint the town during their time abroad. Traveling to new locations each day allows students to explore locations that they may not have seen otherwise, while simultaneously refining their skills and building a portfolio.

“I would like to encourage students to join because it's an inclusive course and art is inclusive,” said Professor Nicoletta Salomon. “We sometimes think that art is just for artists. That's not true, art is for everyone and everyone can learn. And it's very thrilling to teach beginner students,” she added.

“[There is] a larger selection of locations, because when you paint you have to take into account the light and the light changes based on the seasons and based on the day... and that makes it very interesting," Salomon said.

With a unique class structure comes unique considerations, and one of the main challenges that comes with teaching this class is rain. Rain is inconvenient to walk in, to learn in, and is dangerous to expose to sketch books. Therefore, there is always a backup plan in case of rain. Additionally, since the course is not classroom-based, students must carry all materials with them while traveling between locations. When deciding what tools students would use to paint in the class, colored pencils and a water pen were chosen for their practicality — “they really are handy to carry... They are malleable because you can use it dry or wet,” Salomon said. 

This course presents students with the foundations of outdoor painting, enhancing their capacity to engage with different styles and techniques. For example, the day of class I was able to observe tackled painting with a limited palette, color wheels, and color mixing. Visiting two locations, students had the opportunity to paint a variety of scenery, while applying the techniques that they learned. The first stop was Giardino Martin Lutero, followed by a visit to Palazzo Pitti. At Giardino Martin Lutero, specifically, students produced a small painting of something they saw in front of them; from flowers and a water fountain to the cityscape featuring the Duomo.

Palazzo Pitti was the second location. Upon arrival, Salomon spent a few minutes going over the Piazza’s history and significance. She then transitioned into lecturing about primary colors, and prompted students to share prior knowledge and locate primary colors in their kits. Palazzo Pitti’s location epitomized the adaptability that Salomon considers when planning her classes. Palazzo Pitti’s larger canopy protected students and their sketchbooks on Friday as a light rain passed through Florence during class time.

Open to all study abroad students and majors, this course allows students to discover their new city in a creative way, capturing its beauty through painting. At the end of the course, students have an entire sketchbook full of sights of the city that serves as tangible proof of their progress that they can take home as a souvenir.

“I love being able to document the places that I'm going to in a physical journal,” Audrey Nawa, a study abroad student from Penn State said. “I like learning new techniques like mono chromatics and depth; it's been so fun and relaxing,” she added.

Walking around Florence with watercolor materials may not resemble a typical class structure, but the juxtaposition of walking and painting presents a colorful addition to any student’s schedule.

Inside the Mind of Leonardo

written by Kyla Pehr for Special Project: Experiential Learning is Journalism

FUA-AUF’s new class titled Leonardo da Vinci: Art, Botany, Alchemy, and Recipes began with students being prompted to write the first seven words and expressions that came to mind when hearing: “Leonardo da Vinci.” The instructor read out some of the most popular answers:

Art. Genius. History. Italy. Creative. Renaissance. Talented.

Satisfied with the results of the icebreaker activity, Professor Lapo Morgantini continued on, explaining the relevance of each word to his course, and providing context on da Vinci, a “strange man from his own time.” 

The class, which counts for three semester credits, serves as an overview of da Vinci’s life, art, and his experiential and interdisciplinary approach to the exploration of nature, according to the class syllabus. The class also has a particular focus on da Vinci’s contributions to gastronomy. These contributions include the study of table manners, the creation of kitchen utensils as well as early cooking devices. In addition to traditional lectures and discussions, students learn about da Vinci and his range of accomplishments through field learning activities, guided visits to locations relevant to his life and art, and workshops with culinary professionals on recipes written and inspired by the renowned polymath.

This new class has no prerequisites, though Morgantini recommends prospective students have the flexibility to empathize with historical thinking. Morgantini himself has been teaching art history at FUA-AUF for eight years and has a strong appreciation for da Vinci, who he considers to be "a brilliant man." Morgantini hopes that students will take inspiration from da Vinci during the course, exploring alternative approaches to life and opening their minds to perspectives from the past.

“We are working inside the mind of Leonardo,” Morgantini said. “This mind is a jump from today [and] how we approach science, [so] we have to learn to think more elastically.”

During the class prior, students went upstairs to the kitchen to participate in a cooking lab with Grammatico, baking a “torta rinascimentale con crema al limone e mandorle,” otherwise known as a Renaissance tart with lemon custard and almonds. Students were led through a series of interactive lectures, describing da Vinci’s background — making many references to American pop culture to bolster the understanding of concepts for the students.

The class then went on a brief walking tour through the San Marco neighborhood of Florence. During this experiential learning activity, the group paused at multiple historical locations to explain their significance to da Vinci as well as to Renaissance culture, art, and society in Italy.

“The students are here to learn about Italian culture, [and] we are in Italy’s cultural capital,”  Morgantini said. “I can see the relevance of the cultural experience; the art, the history, the food, it speaks for itself.”

Leonardo Da Vinci: Art, Botany, Alchemy, and Recipes offers students with an interest in art history a unique way to better acquaint themselves with Florentine culture. Morgantini serves as a passionate course protagonist and is well-versed in the topic, jumping at the opportunity to share his admiration of da Vinci with others. Overall, this class would be a welcome addition to any summer schedule.

Cultural Introduction to Italy

written by Alice Hamilton for Special Project: Experiential Learning in Public Relations

Arriving in Florence for my semester abroad, I felt a mix of excitement and uncertainty. Having never left the United States before, I was eager to explore this new chapter of my life. Enrolling in a Cultural Introduction to Italy Course seemed like the perfect way to dive into the experience. For three weeks, our daily classes covered a wide range of topics related to Italian history and culture. From Italy's journey to unification to the impacts of World War II, we touched on the key moments that shaped the country. We also explored Italian cuisine, the Mafia, the economy and the influence of Italian cinema.

The course was structured for students to not only learn and retain information but also be able to utilize it during our time in Florence. Our classes were interactive, with small groups allowing for lively discussions and engagement with our professors. Italian language was integrated into our curriculum, as we would learn new phrases every class. We covered basic Italian from greetings and verb tense to grocery items and professions. Doing this helped us develop practical communication skills for daily life in Italy.

This course pushed us to practice our language skills outside of the classroom and throughout the city. Some of our assignments consisted of using our Italian in real-life settings like cafés and
restaurants. This not only improved our language skills but also deepened our connection to
Italian culture. Assessments were varied and valuable, ranging from regular homework assignments to a final project and exam. Whether it was crafting journal entries, conducting research on different regions of Italy, or delivering presentations, each task widened our knowledge about Italy.

Looking back, the course provided a solid foundation for my time in Florence. Beyond developing a deeper understanding of Italian culture and history, it provided me with a sense of connection to the city that would become my temporary home. For any student looking to immerse themselves in Italian culture and language, this course offers a rewarding and enriching experience.

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