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International Opportunities in the Arts

| Denise Olson

Students are taking advantage of faculty led immersion programs that greatly enhance their UW-EC education. International learning activities surround them with global awareness and perspectives on visual art. UW-EC led international travel is a proven and exciting way to help students build self-confidence, social skills, and applicable global skills.

UWEC Art & Design Professors Karen O’Day and Jill Olm have lead recent immersion programs that benefit all students at UWEC and offer a flavor of visual art and art history.

Dr. Karen O’Day’s South American immersion program emphasizes culture, society, and economics in contemporary Argentina and is co-lead by Dr. Rosemary Avin. Professor Jill Olm co-leads a multidisciplinary immersion program called the Central European Travel Seminar (CETS) that offers participating students opportunities to build and gain knowledge of the arts, history, and cultures of Central Europe.

What is great about CETS is that it continues classroom learning into real life experience as students travel to exciting foreign countries.

The program begins with a spring semester course taught here on the UWEC campus, followed by a 3 credit month long travel course through Central Europe. The program typically visits five cities: Berlin, Germany; Prague, Czech Republic; Vienna, Austria; Budapest, Hungary; and Krakow, Poland. Students love that they have a clear sense of their journey. This does two things, it builds confidence before they get to Europe and then allows for more exploring to get the most of their immersion experience. This trip provides art students the opportunity to view firsthand-original artworks, public art, street art, and architecture. Students are exposed to the wide range of professional opportunities that artists in Central Europe have and often meet American artists choosing to live and work abroad.

" CETS helps students meet graduation requirements by allowing the students to earn a total of 6 credits, meeting two Liberal Education outcomes. Students learn about the global impacts that systems of power have on the arts in both historical and contemporary contexts. In addition to the academic and disciplinary content that students learn in this program, students frequently say that this experience helps them grow as well-rounded global citizens”, Jill Olm says, after witnessing the outcomes of students.

Blugold art student Heidi Johnson and students from the Universidad de Congreso in Mendoza, Argentina

From left to right: Heidi Johnson, and students from the Universidad de Congreso in Mendoza, Argentina

Heidi Johnson, a UWEC Art student who traveled with Karen O'Day's international immersion program this past summer, talks about the impact of viewing public street art in Mendoza, Argentina. “I feel that this immersion is very important to Art students because it gives them a chance to experience viewing street art every day. It was personally very exciting and eye opening to see so many walls full of the cries of the people, some full of sadness or anger, others expression passion or hope for the future. Street art is something to be respected as it is a powerful force that can bring about change in our world.”

Dr. Karen O’Day says; “The most important thing is that the immersion creates opportunities for students to practice their abilities to communicate and act appropriately across cultural difference. After that, it gives students from the U.S. an opportunity to experience how another society solves challenges like health care and education.”
Heidi Johnson agrees; “I believe it is a great thing when we can actually experience the beauty of other cultures that are different from ours, instead of merely learning about them. Only when our experiences are directly affected by other cultures will we get a better understanding for how we can create a better world full of both understanding, common ground and diversity. “

Some highlights

The fieldtrips in Mendoza Province include the Andes Mountains, including Mount Aconcagua (the highest peak in the Western hemisphere) and the wineries (Mendoza produces the most Argentine wine and is known around the world for its Malbecs).

Traveling in Central Europe reveals Architecture ranging from the famous baroque Karlskirche in Vienna, the awe inspiring Renaissance Revival style of the Hungarian Parliament Building in Budapest, the Cubist buildings (and lampposts) and famous Frank Gehry Postmodern “Dancing Building” in Prague.

The Department of Art & Design continues to provide national and international opportunities for our students to travel and study Art abroad. Ongoing field trips are planned to Minneapolis, Chicago, NYC annually as well as an opportunity to travel to Argentina this coming June.