Upcoming Study Abroad Info Meeting


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World Art II Timeline

tikitoki“What’s the difference between Baroque and Rococo?”
“What was happening artistically in Asia during the Seventeenth Century?”

There are lots of web resources to help you answer these and other art historical questions, but MSU Denver now has its own. For the last two years, students in Jessica Weiss’s World Art II courses have contributed to an interactive timeline, and it now has over 200 object reports!

Click here to check out the “World Art II: 1400-1900 Online Timeline”

Art in Italy 2017 recap: Week 3

By Summer Trentin

In June, drawing professor Sandy Lane and I took 18 students, including 13 art majors, two art history majors, one communication design major, one art history minor, and one continuing education student, to Italy for three weeks. Our Italy program, like many of the art department’s summer study abroad programs, offers 3 art history credits and 3 studio art credits. The students on this trip were enrolled in an upper-division art history course, Roman Italy and Its Legacy. The goal of this course was to study not only the material culture of the ancient Romans, but also the ways in which the art and architecture of later periods responded to the Roman art and ruins that surrounded them. This is a recap of our last week in Italy, which focused on ancient Campania and its continuing traditions.

After two weeks in Rome, we said goodbye to the crowded city and headed south to Campania. The region of Campania has a long and diverse history. It was the site of early Greek colonization in Italy beginning in the eighth century BCE and has since been under Roman, Byzantine, French, and Spanish rule. In the Roman era, it was a summer retreat for emperors and aristocrats wishing to escape the hot and crowded capital. We followed in the their footsteps, except in an air-conditioned bus. After two weeks of walking and public transportation, the bus felt like a luxury.

We arrived in Castellemmare di Stabia late Sunday morning and checked in to the Vesuvian Institute, where we were treated to beautiful views of Mount Vesuvius and the Bay of Naples. After lunch, we visited the Roman villas of ancient Stabiae, built by unknown members of the Roman elite in the first century BCE and destroyed by the eruption of Vesuvius in 79 CE. These villas give a glimpse into the life of wealthy Romans, who spent their leisure time in these huge country estates complete with baths, gardens, and pools. The eruption of Vesuvius preserved many of the wall paintings and architectural features of the villas, which we admired while walking in the footsteps of their ancient owners. Before dinner, a small group of us walked to the city center and along the seashore. The beach at Castellammare di Stabia was a busy port in antiquity and it was here that Roman historian Pliny the Elder died from the noxious fumes emitted by the eruption of Vesuvius.

On Monday, we traveled to Paestum, site of some of the earliest and best-preserved Greek temples in the world. On the way, we stopped to visit a cheese factory and taste some of the famous Mozzarella di Bufala Campana that is a specialty of the region. Production of this cheese is protected by law and it must be made using traditional methods. We met the water buffaloes that produce the milk used for the cheese and learned that they are given massages and treated to Classical music in order to produce higher-quality milk. We watched the cheese being made by hand and visited a small museum dedicated to farming and cheese production before getting the chance to taste the cheese itself. It was the freshest and most delicious cheese I have ever eaten. Afterward, we had a chance to sample more delicacies in the cafe, including gelato, cappuccino, and pastries made with buffalo milk.

At Paestum, we visited the archaeological museum, which is filled with pottery, sculpture, and other objects from the Greek and Roman occupation of the site. The most famous work of art in the museum is the Tomb of the Diver, a painted tomb showing a man taking the plunge into a metaphorical afterlife. The painted tombs of Paestum are some of the only remaining Greek paintings anywhere in the world. Across the street from the museum is the archaeological site, which is most famous for its three Greek temples dating from the sixth and fifth centuries BCE. In addition to the Greek remains, however, the site also includes Roman structures such as an amphitheatre and houses. After a picnic lunch, we spent the afternoon exploring and drawing in the city. The experience of drawing in the peaceful shade of a 2600-year-old temple was something I will not forget.

Tuesday was a free day. Some of us went to the beach, while others went to Sorrento or Naples or took the time to rest and catch up on drawing. One group took a memorable trip to the beautiful island of Capri. After some downtime, we were ready for another day of exploring ancient ruins. Wednesday was the day I was anticipating the most–Pompeii day! My own research is centered on Pompeii, and I could not have been more excited to take the students there and see their reactions. We spent the entire day in the ruins of Pompeii. We began in the forum where Brittany led the group in a fascinating conversation on the famous plaster casts of the victims of Mount Vesuvius and Des gave a presentation on Roman painting, including graffiti, pigments, and the four styles of Pompeian fresco painting. We walked to the House of the Faun, where Adam told us about the history and architecture of the house, and then to the Villa of the Mysteries, where Lacey gave a presentation on the villa’s architecture and paintings. Jade explained Pompeian tombs and the rituals surrounding death while we looked at a necropolis outside the city gates. We ended with a walk to the amphitheatre, the oldest surviving one in the Roman world. Inside we were happy to find a special exhibit focused on a Pink Floyd concert that took place in the amphitheatre in 1972. After walking through the city as a group for a couple of hours, we had a picnic lunch and spent the rest of the day looking at houses, shops, temples, and brothels and drawing the ruins of the city. Pompeii is huge, hot, and crowded, but it gives a great impression of life in the early Roman empire. It is possible to wander through ancient houses and see 2000-year-old wall paintings, graffiti, and mosaics in their original locations. Being in Pompeii makes the past seem much more tangible and real, and many of the students said it was one of the highlights of the trip.

Thursday was dedicated to the city of Naples. Naples is the third-largest city in Italy, and one of the oldest. Founded by Greek colonists, it has a long and rich history with influences from Spain, France, and North Africa. Naples has a bad reputation, but I think it is undeserved–in fact, it is my favorite city in Italy. Students quickly noticed differences between Naples and Rome: Naples is more hectic, but somehow more relaxed at the same time. It is dirty and filled with graffiti, but it has a life and vibrancy all its own. We began our day at the National Archaeological Museum, which contains many artifacts from Pompeii and its neighbors as well as some sculptures from elsewhere in Italy. It is the site of the famous Alexander Mosaic from the House of the Faun, the Farnese Hercules from Rome, and the best-preserved Roman copy of the Doryphoros by Polykleitos. We saw Roman paintings and mosaics as well as objects from daily life, from medical instruments to silver cups. Here, the past becomes even more tangible as you realize that ancient lives were not so very different from ours. In the museum Michael gave his presentation on ancient Roman music before we dispersed to view the museum alone or in small groups.

Our next stop was a culinary one. Pizza was invented in Naples, so we stopped at a pizzeria to get a taste of local cuisine. True Neapolitan pizza is absolutely delicious–it is cooked in a wood-fired oven and uses fresh, local ingredients. Each pizza is single-serving, but only a few of us managed to eat an entire pizza. During our lunch, we were serenaded by a group of passing street musicians who performed Neapolitan classics like “Tu vuo’ fa’ l’americano.”

After lunch, we went to the Naples Cathedral where Kaitlin gave a presentation on the relic of the blood of San Gennaro. The cathedral is one of the most beautiful churches we saw on the trip. In a nearby piazza, we were able to locate a work by Banksy, which was a very exciting moment for many of us. We spent time in Naples looking at street art and drawing in our sketchbooks before leaving the chaos of the city behind. That night after dinner, we were treated to a presentation by Walter Maioli, founder of Synaulia, a group that recreates ancient music. We learned all about the study and recreation of ancient music and musical instruments, and even got to make some music ourselves. It was a great reminder that music and sound is an important part of history.

On Friday, we took a bus to Mount Vesuvius, where we had the experience of climbing to the summit and looking into the crater of the only active volcano on mainland Europe. It was this volcano that destroyed Pompeii, Stabiae, Herculaneum, and neighboring cities, but it is also important to the region’s history and agricultural production. The hike up the summit was quite difficult–it was very hot and the loose gravel on the path made it a struggle–but the views from the top were worth it. It was a clear day and we were able to see the urban sprawl of Naples hemmed in by hills and mountains and bordered by the sea. After the climb, we visited a local vineyard to learn about the culinary history of the region. The volcanic soil and mild climate of Campania combine to create an agricultural paradise where grapes, olives, and other crops have been produced since the time of the Greeks. At the vineyard we learned how the soil absorbs water like a sponge, making irrigation unnecessary even in the dry heat of summer. We were treated to a wine tasting and lunch, all with locally-made products, and learned about how food, wine, and culture are intertwined. The act of eating and drinking together was important to the Greeks, Etruscans, and Romans, and we had seen many artworks centered around the ideas of food and feasting, so the communal experience was a great capstone for our trip. Food is so important to Italy that the Mediterranean diet and its rituals are listed by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage. Kerrie reminded us of the long-standing importance of food in Italy by giving a presentation on ancient Roman cuisine. After dinner, many of the students in our group continued their cultural education by attending a concert near our hotel, a great opportunity to meet locals and experience a beautiful summer night in Campania.

The last day of our trip came all too quickly. We began with a trip to Herculaneum, Pompeii’s smaller and lesser-known cousin. Here we saw more complete houses, remains of carbonized wood, and skeletons of the victims of the eruption. Herculaneum is much less crowded and more relaxed than Pompeii, so it is easy to see everything in just a couple of hours. After lunch we had our final critique and a quick art history discussion. For dinner, the Vesuvian Institute prepared a special ancient Roman feast for us, made with ingredients that the Romans would have used. After dinner, we watched the sun set over the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius from a terrace adjoining the dining room. Saying goodbye to everyone was bittersweet–I will admit that I got a bit emotional. After spending three weeks in such close quarters and sharing so many experiences with the group, it was tough to say goodbye.

The next morning we departed for home or further travels; Sandy, ten students, and I went on to Venice to see the Biennale, which was another adventure of its own.

Thank you so much to the students who joined us on this trip–it was an unforgettable experience with a wonderful group of inquisitive, adventurous, creative people. Ciao until next time!


Make sure to check out Week 1 and Week 2 of our study abroad trip.

If you are interested in studying abroad with the art department, check out our Study Abroad page. The next art history trip abroad will be to Barcelona in the summer of 2018–contact us or check out the Facebook page for updates and information.

For a recap of the Winterim 2017 art history trip to Morocco, click here.

To learn about how study abroad can change your life, click here.

Art in Italy 2017 recap: Week 2

by Summer Trentin

In June, drawing professor Sandy Lane and I took 18 students, including 13 art majors, two art history majors, one communication design major, one art history minor, and one continuing education student, to Italy for three weeks. Our Italy program, like many of the art department’s summer study abroad programs, offers 3 art history credits and 3 studio art credits. The students on this trip were enrolled in an upper-division art history course, Roman Italy and Its Legacy. The goal of this course was to study not only the material culture of the ancient Romans, but also the ways in which the art and architecture of later periods responded to the Roman art and ruins that surrounded them. This is a recap of the second week of our study abroad program, which was loosely focused on the later part of the Roman Empire and early Christianity.

We began on Monday with a Metro ride to the beautiful and serene Non-Catholic Cemetery in Rome. This cemetery, the resting place of foreigners who made Rome their home, is most famous for containing the graves of poets Keats and Shelley. It is located next to the massive, 2000-year-old pyramid-shaped temple of Gaius Cestius. Here, we had time to draw in the peaceful enclave away from the noise of the city. Our next stop was the Piazza Navona, a Baroque piazza that follows the shape of the ancient Stadium of Domitian, built in the first century CE. Here we admired Bernini’s Fountain of the Four Rivers and spent time drawing the sculpture, fountains, and crowds. Near the Piazza Navona is the sixteenth-century church of San Luigi dei Francesi, which houses three paintings by Caravaggio illustrating the life of Saint Matthew. On the way to our next stop, we passed the Area Sacra di Largo Argentina, a group of Roman temples that now serves as a cat sanctuary. The cat lovers among us welcomed the opportunity to pet some of the friendly residents. Finally, we visited the Imperial Fora, a group of temples, public buildings, and civic spaces designed under various Roman emperors. Here, Matt gave a presentation on the Column of Trajan while several interested tourists listened in. Next to the Forum of Trajan are the Markets of Trajan, a milestone in urban planning that grouped offices and shops into a single, architecturally unified unit. We wandered through the market buildings and across ancient streets while taking in views of the city.

Tuesday began with a walk to the Campus Martius, which originated as a training ground for the Roman military but was built up with temples, theatres, baths, and dwellings over time. Later it became the heart of the medieval city of Rome. We started with the Crypta Balbi Museum, which traces the history of a specific area of the city from ancient times through the present. I love this museum because it helps to show how a building becomes a ruin and how the city changes and adapts to new times. We also stopped at Il Gesù, a Baroque-era church with a spectacular trompe-l’oeil ceiling, and the Via del Piè di Marmo (Street of the Marble Foot), where a massive foot from the ancient Temple of Isis sits on a pedestal surrounded by cars. This was a great reminder of just how much ancient material is incorporated into the modern city of Rome, an idea that was reinforced with the Temple of Hadrian, which was turned into a Baroque palace and now serves as a financial institution. At the Pantheon, Kailie gave a presentation on the history and structure of the building and Todd explained the use and reuse of obelisks throughout the city. We ate lunch near the Pantheon and many of us stopped for coffee at the famous Tazza d’Oro, one of the best coffee shops in Rome. On the way to our next stop, we saw the Baroque-era Trevi Fountain. Many students braved the crowds to toss in a coin, which, according to legend, will ensure a return trip to Rome (it always works for me!). We spent the afternoon drawing at Rome’s zoo, a nice palate-cleanser after an intense two days of art and ruins.

On Wednesday we visited the Museo Nazionale at the Palazzo Massimo. This museum houses many famous ancient sculptures, mosaics, and paintings, including the Diskobolos, Augustus as Priest, and painted garden room from the Villa of Livia. The students particularly loved the Hellenistic Seated Boxer, one of the few remaining life-sized bronzes from antiquity. After lunch, we went to Santa Maria Maggiore, originally built in the fifth century but renovated in successive periods. The last stop was the Wax Museum, where students were asked to compare the way we memorialize notable people with the way the Romans did.

Thursday was devoted to the Vatican Museums and Saint Peter’s. We took the Metro to Vatican City where Joe did a great job competing with crowds and church bells to give a presentation on Saint Peter’s Square and Basilica. Saint Peter’s was one of the first churches constructed in Rome; it was built on the site of Peter’s martyrdom under Emperor Nero. It was later completely rebuilt by a variety of architects in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. We spent the morning in and around the Basilica, where students used the time to explore the massive church, see art by Michelangelo and Bernini, draw in the piazza, and visit the tombs of the popes. One intrepid student even made the climb to the top of the dome for spectacular views of Rome. Next we walked to the Vatican Museums, where we ate lunch and spent several hours looking at one of the largest collections of art in the world. The museum collection covers everything from ancient Egyptian to Modern and Contemporary art, but it is probably most famous for the Sistine Chapel. Visiting the museum is exhausting, but absolutely worth braving the crowds and sensory overload. After our museum visit, we had a critique in Saint Peter’s Square and then had dinner at a small, family-owned restaurant in Trastevere. Here, we experienced authentic Roman cuisine and some of the best food of the trip. Afterward, a small group of us walked across the city back to the hotel, stopping to see the Trevi Fountain illuminated at night.

Friday was dedicated to Early Christianity and the legacy of the Roman Empire. Unfortunately, our plans were disrupted by a transportation strike (truly an authentic Italian experience). The students were great sports and we all walked the two miles to the catacombs of Sant’Agnese. The catacombs were worth the hot and sweaty walk–we had an excellent tour and learned about Early Christian beliefs and burial practices. We also saw the neighboring Basilica of Sant’Agnese and Mausoleum of Santa Costanza, a fourth-century mausoleum said to have been built for the daughter of Constantine, Rome’s first Christian emperor. It is particularly known for the original mosaics that adorn its vaulted ceiling. We also visited Bernini’s sculpture of Saint Teresa in Ecstasy at the church of Santa Maria della Vittoria.

Saturday was our last day in Rome. We went on an excursion to Ostia Antica, the ancient port city of Rome. The ruins of Ostia give a sense of what Rome itself might have looked like during its height. The city included everything necessary to Roman life: a theatre, a forum, baths, temples, shops, and apartment buildings. Also, despite its proximity to Rome, it is not a popular stop for tourists and thus we had the site almost to ourselves. Here, Kevin gave a presentation on the theatre and Michaela told us about the city’s baths. We also explored the tombs outside the city gate. We spent all morning exploring the ruins and drawing in our sketchbooks. After lunch, we had the afternoon free. Most of the group visited the nearby beach, but others took the opportunity to shop, visit other sites, rest, or work on sketchbooks.

Our time in Rome was busy and sometimes overwhelming, but we were able to see, learn, draw, experience, and eat a lot in two weeks. Stay tuned for Week 3, where we travel to Campania to visit Greek temples, look into a volcanic crater, and explore Pompeii!


If you are interested in studying abroad with the art department, check out our Study Abroad page. The next art history trip abroad will be to Barcelona in the summer of 2018–contact us or check out the Facebook page for updates and information.

Don’t forget to read about Week 1 and Week 3.

For a recap of the Winterim 2017 art history trip to Morocco, click here.


To learn about how study abroad can change your life, click here.