By Lauren Eller
“For my art history class, when we study the ancient Romans, we are not just looking at slides,” Olivia Lloyd ’16 wrote in an email to the Collegian. “We physically get to stand in the Colosseum, feel rain drip down through the oculus in the Pantheon and touch 2000-year-old bodies preserved in volcanic ash at Pompeii.”
For students passionate about art, the Kenyon in Rome study abroad program is the chance of a lifetime. The program, which has been sponsored by different departments since its inception, brings students and a Kenyon professor to Rome to study in one of the world’s oldest cities.
However, those looking to hone their fine art skills in the world’s oldest capital may be disappointed with the cancellation of the Kenyon in Rome abroad program for the 2015-2016 academic year.
Marne Ausec, director for the Center of Global Engagement (CGE), shed some light on the suspension of the program in an email with the Collegian. “It’s not that it’s cancelled [permanently] — it’s that we’re not running it next year [2015-2016],” she said. “We’re reformulating it [and] I think the plan is to actually do [a] studio art and art history combo [program],” she said.
When the program began in 2005-2006 academic year its focus was art history. In the years since, professors from different departments including psychology, drama, art history, and studio art have joined students on the program. But during one of the early years, there was no professor in that department available for the trip. “We didn’t have anybody in art history to run it, so then it moved to sort of a general Humanities, opening it up,” Ausec said. “What we found was that it didn’t work.”
According to Ausec, it was much easier to develop a following when the program was focused on Art History. “We had students who would come to Kenyon because of the program.” Although she praised the different departments who sponsored the program, she acknowledged that it presented other challenges. “I think it’s an amazing program no matter what discipline. But when you move disciplines, it makes it really hard to recruit.”
To remedy the staffing problem, the CGE is considering running the program every other academic year instead of every year, according to Ausec.
Lloyd, who is currently in Italy as part of this year’s program, said the program provided her with experiences she never could have had in a Kenyon classroom.
Libby Gardner ’15, who participated in last fall’s semester program, had similar stories to share. That semester’s was film-intensive and she took two classes with Assistant Professor of Film Jonathan Sherman, “Rome Through the Eyes of the Filmaker” and “The Screenwriter in Rome.”
“He used Rome as a backdrop for both those classes,” Gardner said.
Sherman purportedly told the class that students cannot study film without studying the lighting of every Caravaggio painting. Gardner was skeptical at first, but then when the class journeyed to the galleries where the paintings were held, she realized how true Sherman’s statement was. “We got there and I was like, ‘Nope, he’s totally right!’” she said.
Lloyd contended there were a few potential issues with the program. “While I can’t speak to the administration’s official reasons for ending the program,” she said, “it is my understanding that there are three major issues with Kenyon in Rome: lack of applicants, expense and the contract between ACCENT [the host program] and Kenyon.”
She mentioned that the cost of living in Rome was much higher than that of living in Gambier. Granted, as Ausec said, “the cost of living in many places is higher than that of Gambier.”
In the meantime, the CGE says it will help students who were hoping to participate in the Kenyon in Rome program next year seek other options. The CGE, according to Ausec, is already assisting at least one such student with choosing another trip.