While many University of Tennessee students enjoyed the lax, carefree days of summer, 16 art students spent a month participating in the Blood, Iron andVelvet program, and exploring Europe in the process.
Blood-Iron-Velvet exposes students to Central and Eastern European culture through a three-day introduction and preparation session held on the UT campus, followed by a three-week tour of Slovak Republic, Czech Republic, Hungary and Austria that delved into the architecture and visual and performing arts of the region.
"Although we did many things in Europe, the thrust of the course was art in Central Europe," Clark Stewart, professor in the School of Art, said. "It was an experience in which it was difficult to separate the course part of the trip from the fun part, because almost everything we did - from meals to performances, studio visits to artists and gallery and museum visits - was enjoyable."
Throughout the course of the program, each participating student was required to keep a sketchbook or journal of the class visits and other activities. Entries were taken in the form of sketches, collages, photographs, research, diaries in the form of observations, insights and reflections on the events. Students received credit for the course under Foreign or Independent Study.
Housing was provided by the local academies and institutions in each city visited, and the students traveled among cities in a chartered bus.
"The whole thing was quite an experience," John Migas, freshman in fine arts, said. "My favorite place was Bratislava. I liked that it was a small, quaint town that you can't get lost in and very old and interesting. I felt comfortable there."
Four professors accompanied the students abroad: Stewart; Marrianne Custer, professor in the School of Theatre; Marcia Goldenstein, professor in the School of Art; and Peter Lizon, professor in the School of Architecture.
According to the Blood-Iron-Velvet Web site, some of the primary objectives of the program were introducing the concept of artists as architects of extreme social change, exploring the contrast of cosmopolitanism and nationalism, studying the influences of prominent Central and Eastern European artists on Western mainstream movements and considering post-Communist developments across the artistic spectrum.
"I think what made our program a bit different is that in addition to visiting the fabulous museums, theatres and architectural sites, we schedule studio visits with working artists," Goldenstein said. "These conversations give the students a view into history from a truly personal standpoint."
In addition to other events, the students attended a production of "Faust" in the bowels of a medieval castle ruins in Prague, Mozart's opera "Don Giovanni" in the Estates Theatre in Prague and a Czech production of "Romeo and Juliet" in the courtyard of the Bratislava Castle, Goldenstein said.
"t's been a real pleasure to have participated in the two years of this program," Stewart added. "Both years were very successful, and I think were real door openers for our students to this part of the world, and for that matter Europe and other ways of life."
For more information about the program, visit the Web site at http://web.utk.edu/~biv/.