Every summer, Dr. Terri Ross and Professor Van Galyon create a course designed to introduce students to the cultures they will be experiencing through the Travel Abroad and Cultural Studies Program. This year, students were touring Central Europe, visiting Warsaw, Krakow, Budapest, and Vienna. The Culture & Art of Central Europe course permitted students an opportunity for artistic expression while they learned more about the cultures of these distinct countries. In this dual coded course, students practiced their artistic skills and also learned more about different cultures, so they had the flexibility to choose to designate their credit toward either the Studio Arts major or their required anthropology course.
In the Culture & Art of Central Europe Course, students were given insights into each diverse country of study and were introduced to the art of the region, while being encouraged to consider how the arts represent the human experience as well as the cultural one. In one early class session, students were led on a tour of Leesburg to consider the idea of public art and to evaluate what cultural and human values were being depicted in the community.
A brief tour of the immediate area surrounding the Beacon College campus reveals a rich environment of public art. Van Galyon pointed out, for instance, sculptural benches around the Leesburg Public Library, asking the students to draw each one and to discuss what they were seeing and why they chose a certain perspective to illustrate. As they contemplated the meaning of the sculptures, students were asked to refine their own definition of public art and to consider what community and human values are imparted through them.
By examining the sculptures carefully, students could develop a fitting narrative for it, with Van reminding students, “In a good work of art, nothing should be there that isn’t important. All the elements should work together to create a cohesive piece.” Drawing a representation of the sculpture helped students gain a deeper appreciation for the work as an example of public art, and it also provided a chance to hone artistic and analytic skills.
Requirements in this course aim to immerse students in different cultures from the classroom. Creating a travel journal helps students envision exactly what to expect when they actually visit the country of study, and fun food labs are a good way to introduce students to the typical cuisine of the area. The travel courses have a dual purpose of both introducing students to a new culture and preparing them for a to visit to the region. Not only do class participants learn about new cultures, they have ample opportunity for fun and creative expression!