Juniors in PUC’s Honors Program had a stunning start to their summer when they spent three and a half weeks in Florence, Italy as part of the annual “Beauty” seminar, June 28-July 24. Students in the seminar focussed on the definition of beauty, primarily within the context of Renaissance art, centered in Florence, along with other artistic periods.
The tour was led by Cynthia Westerbeck, chair of the department of English, along with Sylvia Rasi Gregorutti, professor of modern languages, and Roy Benton, professor of mathematics. This is the second time this group of faculty has led the tour; they led it with a different group of students four years ago.
According to Westerbeck, the trip gave students time to become intimately familiar with the city of Florence and its culture. “You really feel like you own Florence, you know the city—it’s yours,” she says. “More than any of the other type of class, you are getting out of the classroom and actually experiencing learning.”
In addition to Florence, the group also visited Rome for its plethora of baroque art; the stunning ancient town of Assisi; Venice and its acclaimed museum of modern art, the Guggenheim; and other locations. In addition to the many museums and sights, the students also kept up an extensive reading schedule during the trip ranging from Giorgio Vasari’s Lives of the Artists to The Notebooks of Leonardo Da Vinci.
Robert Henry, a junior theology major, said he was excited because the trip provided a chance to go overseas for the first time. “I haven’t painted or drawn since I was a little kid,” he says. “I never really had an interest in art or sculpture but after the second gallery, I had an epiphany. I was really able to embrace the art.”
“In terms of the Honors Program, certainly this is the central place in the program where art is truly the subject,” notes Westerbeck, who also teaches the program’s junior seminar titled “Virtue.” “What’s really important, I think, is just the cultural experience of traveling and being immersed in another culture.”