April 3, 2014

Traveling Abroad to Experience the Irish Catholic Art Tradition

Blarney Castle in Cork

During the College's weeklong spring break in March, twelve Emmanuel students, alongside Associate Professor of Art and Department Chair Cynthia Fowler, traveled abroad to the beautiful country of Ireland to experience the Catholic tradition of art.

In the duration of the trip, students toured several art galleries, museums and monuments all pertaining to the art associated with Catholicism, which has long been celebrated in this foreign country. The students and Professor Fowler were able to find themselves in the presence of art that dated expansively from "the stone age up to modern times." The course met regularly throughout the semester, and the trip abroad was an inclusive component of the class.

Fowler remarked that traveling to Ireland was "a perfect complement to the class," and that "students had the opportunity to see firsthand many of the works that we had been studying in class prior to the trip."

To get a better look at this travel course, two students, Alec Simonette '14 and Christa Bohan '14, shared their experiences of Ireland. Interestingly, both Simonette and Bohan stated that this trip appealed to them because they are of Irish heritage and wanted to learn more about the country their families had come from. This was a popular trend with not only these two students, but with many others who traveled abroad as well.

"As someone who has quite literally attended Catholic schools my entire life in predominately Irish neighborhoods, I thought it would be interesting to understand more about what I grew up around," Simonette remarked. "Traveling to Ireland made it all the better,"

Simonette's interest in this travel course revealed a personal aspect that was also evident when Bohan shared her reasoning for taking this course.

"This course looks at Irish Catholic art tradition and my grandparents were strong Catholics from Ireland," Bohan said. "Not only did I learn more about my own heritage but I got to learn it from my favorite professor."

Aside from traveling as a group and viewing Irish artwork, students also had a variety of different opportunities. Bohan said, "outside of educational trips, we explored the two cities, Dublin and Cork, stopping in local restaurants and tourists spots."

The combination of having both an educational and a cultural experience suggested that the flexibility of the trip was deeply valued by the students.

Simonette, in great detail, explained his favorite parts of the trip, all of which included touring the Irish monuments and countryside, where he remarked that, "the scenery of the Dingle Peninsula in the southwestern part of the country was absolutely beautiful and nothing like anything you would see around here," giving an allure to the visual aesthetics of the travel course.

Aside from the artwork and landscapes leaving students in awe, there also was a distinct wondrousness alluding to the culture and foreign way of life in Ireland. Bohan shared her opinions on the cultural immersion saying, "It's hard to understand a culture from an outside perspective. Experiencing it first-hand changes how you learn about it and how you appreciate it."

In this one week abroad, these twelve students, through their shared experiences and memory-making, went from being strangers and acquaintances to forming new friendships. As well as students finding this trip to be an opportunity to establish new relationships, Fowler felt similarly in stating, "I genuinely enjoyed getting to know each one of them in a new way on the trip, and I was taken by how quickly the students formed a cohesive bond as a group that I am sure will lead to lasting friendships in the future."

Both Bohan and Simonette made evident their appreciation to have had the chance to take this trip to Ireland.  The trip was said to "add dimension to what the students learned in the classroom," which was significant to the course, being that the focus was placed on the visuals of Irish art traditions. Not only was the travel component of this course adored for its sightseeing, but it was meaningful to students to have a chance to travel to another country in a safe environment; where, in addition to the educational component, there was room for fun, too. Bohan and Simonette certainly made it clear that this course was a once-in-a-lifetime experience, providing them with an education instilled through a recreational exploration of Ireland's culture and art.

-Brittany Adams '14