Art Department Chair Erin Palmer Szavuly recently joined her peers in the birthplace of the Renaissance, Florence, Italy, for the Studio Arts Centers International (SACI) consortium conference. The group exchanged ideas and concerns related to art education and foreign study.

Founded in 1975 by artist Jules Maidoff, SACI is the oldest and most prestigious American art institute in Italy and offers university-level instruction in studio art, design and the liberal arts.

Last spring, Lourdes became a SACI consortium member to enhance the institution's study-abroad opportunities. Professor Szavuly shares the details of the most recent conference and how it will benefit Lourdes students.

AtLourdes Spring 2012"In November, I had the opportunity to visit the SACI program in Florence, Italy. The annual meeting provided me with an opportunity to meet fellow consortium members, faculty, students, staff and administrators.

"This trip was important; I wanted to know as much as I could about the environment where some of our students were going for their study abroad experience. I wanted to view the work that was created, visit studio environments, observe interaction with the faculty, see the student housing facilities, and basically get a feeling for the overall picture.

"During the week I was able to have a variety of my own learning experiences. I received a personal demo on fresco painting from instructors Mario and Luigi, sat in on a graduate restoration class while they were making paint, observed a conservation class that was piecing together a fresco taken from a demolished building, and received a tour of an entire chapel restored by SACI students over a period of time. All these experiences reaffirmed my commitment to the study-abroad experience for our students.

"What I found was that SACI seems tailor-made to be an extension of Lourdes University. Caring staff and faculty offer students opportunities for intellectual growth, a challenging and diverse curriculum and community involvement. Importance is placed on the significance of art aesthetically and historically; however, courses like Italian language, Italian cinema and fashion design are also popular choices.

Italy garden"Where could there be a better place for students to extend their learning about art, culture, history, language and cuisine? After all, Florence was home to The Medici Empire, Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo, Galileo and Florence Nightingale. In addition, I found that language was not a barrier; walking was the best way to see the city...if you got lost you only had to look to the sky to find the Duomo. Also, the gelato was pretty tasty!

"The next step is to secure the necessary resources to make this possible for those that are genuinely interested in all that study-abroad has to offer. I, for one, would wholeheartedly welcome an endowed scholarship created for study-abroad experiences for Lourdes art and art history majors!"