By Mary Whitfill, editor-in-chief
Students in this summer’s inaugural Art in Ireland program were the first from Northeastern to earn their art minors by studying among the Karst Hills, sketching the Celtic high cross in Kilfenora and painting the scenic Galway Bay.
In eight weeks, a group of 13 students took up to four classes in history, culture, drawing and painting at the Burren College of Art in Ballyvaughan, Ireland. Students were allowed to stay only four weeks and take just two classes, but those who stayed for both summer semesters walked away with a completed art minor. Now, 12 of those students have their works featured in an exhibit in Ryder Hall.
“In a small school, we get to know all of the students individually,” Burren College of Art President Mary Hawkesgreene said at the gallery’s opening. “I’ve seen their artwork develop over that time, and it’s nice to be here and see it in a different environment. I saw what they went through to make these works, and to see it hanging here is delightful.”
The gallery of drawings, paintings, photos and illustrations opened Monday with a reception in its home space – 239 Ryder Hall.
“It’s imperative for students to travel and see other cultures, to understand there is a world different from theirs,” Mira Cantor, professor of art at Northeastern, said. “When you go to any other part of the world, your perspective changes. Education is about reading or listening to music and responding, whether that be through making music, making art, anything.”
In Ireland, Cantor led students for the Summer I semester, and faculty member Chloe Piene led them for Summer II. Each student created a final project in a medium of their choice and was given a private studio space in which to work.
“In my group there were lots of painters, that was the most popular medium,” Cantor said. “You don’t get a chance to make big art here because students don’t have studio space. Ireland was the ideal place to make art, to respond to a culture unlike their own and really dive in.”
While painting may have been the most popular medium, other projects included sculpture, sketching and photography. Joseph Brottman, a junior art major, illustrated a wordless, 40-page children’s book. The completed book is in the gallery.
“I studied art initially in Italy for some time before I transferred to Northeastern, and one of our assignments was to create a six-panel, wordless book for Italian children,” he said. “When I presented it, I loved how it could communicate with anyone and watch language barriers fall… I’m working on hopefully getting it published soon.”
Junior behavioral neuroscience major Alexis Stefano was one of just three students who stayed for both semesters, starting and finishing her art minor.
“I was always science-driven and ended up going to school for neuro, but this is still what I prefer to do in basically 100 percent of my free time,” she said.
In the gallery hangs one of nine sketches that came out of her final project. The sketch, inspired by farm equipment located near the rural college, measures roughly five feet by two feet and is one of the smaller pieces in her collection.
“I picked up a piece of rusty farm equipment and took several photographs of each piece,” Stefano said. “I then made a series of sketches that mixed and matched pieces. The final project was to ‘make something that fills an entire room,’ so I have pieces the length of an entire wall.”
Hawkesgreene credits the program’s guidelines, as well as the surroundings of Burren, for the students’ success.
“We are a very small school on the west coast of Ireland – the location provides time, space and inspiration,” she said. “Mira does such a brilliant job with the students.”
Artists Lu Qin, Kelsey Eng, Kim Tran, Kelly Burgess, Emily Mui, Amanda Gross, Albert Chung, Lucas Boegehold, Vy Nguyen, Stephano and Brottman all have their work on display in the gallery.
Photo by Brian Bae