Department of Art and Art History Special Programs

Learning Tuscany: Art and Culture in Italy

Summer 2015! May 25 – July 4

Application Deadline: December 1, 2014
Apply Now!

Learn more at an Info Session
Wednesday, November 12
Art Building, Room 3.210

Learning Tuscany

The Learning Tuscany program exposes deserving students to art and culture first-hand. Students are given the opportunity to be ambassadors from the United States and Texas, sharing their experiences with students and citizens of Italy. Many make connections that continue to exist today, and many have cited this experience as the most important of their academic careers. Our program is one of the foremost programs of its kind in the United States, and has launched international careers of our alumni. The program has trained students from all four of our divisions (Studio Art, Art History, Design, and Visual Art Studies) and students from other majors.

In Italian culture, life and art are inseparable. Countless examples illustrate this—the still-life quality of window displays in Florence, the artisanal care taken by a Sienese stoneworker replacing part of a medieval byway, the sculpted harmony of the Tuscan countryside. We cannot experience these essential qualities of Italian life in a classroom. Only with time and careful observation can we begin to absorb the richness and rhythm of life, and art, in Italy.

This summer program focuses on the cities and landscapes of Tuscany, and emphasis rests upon understanding the region in which the program is located. All students live in the historic facility of Santa Chiara in the town of Castiglion Fiorentino. They take an art history course and a studio course taught by faculty from the UT Department of Art and Art History. Group discussions and visits to other cities, such as Florence, Siena and Rome, serve to frame student experiences within a broader view of Italy. The integrated approach of the program balances carefully designed trips with work in small groups in order to explore the forces that shaped the Italian city and landscape. Students learn local history, which at Castiglion Fiorentino reaches back to Etruscan times, and live and move among the buildings of past cultures.

Courses and Faculty

Art and the Spectator in Medieval and Renaissance Italy
Dr. Ann Johns, Program Director, Senior Lecturer in Art History

In Tuscany, one of the first things we notice about so much of the art and the architecture is that it demands our participation. We need to walk through the space of Siena’s gothic cathedral, move around the sculptural drama of a Baroque ensemble by Bernini, and observe how paintings, left in their original environments, command our attention and instill a sense of wonder. In other words, the experience is very different from the way we learn art history in Austin, in a classroom, projected on a flat screen, and systematically ordered and arranged by your professor and your textbook. Art in context gives us a much clearer sense of the original intent of the artist and patron; it’s closer to our own contemporary notion of installation art, as it invites us to contemplate relationships between painting, sculpture, architecture, time, and the viewer.

In this course, we will focus on the rich tradition of both Medieval and Renaissance art and architecture in central Italy. We’ll address course issues through seminar-style discussions, on-site presentations, post-field trip analyses, and group projects based on works of art in our own hometown of Castiglion Fiorentino. In the first 2 weeks, we will review the essentials of the history of art in the region of Tuscany, and we’ll discuss selected readings relating to elements of spectacle and viewer participation in the art of Medieval and Renaissance Italy. On alternating days, we’ll be traveling to Florence, Siena, and Arezzo, in order to experience, first hand, the art and architecture of the region. We spend week three in Rome, where we see a carefully-chosen array of art from antiquity through the 17th century. After an extended break (during which time students are encouraged to travel to other parts of Italy or Europe), we return to Castiglion Fiorentino. While we continue to take excursions to other cities and sites, the primary focus for these remaining weeks is for you to use your newly found knowledge of the art, culture, and language of Italy to work on group projects, in which you focus on specific monuments or objects within Castiglion Fiorentino itself.

ART 319T / ART 320K / ART 379T / ART 320
Collection, Transformation, Creation: Spatial Exploration of Culture and Site
Beili Liu, Associate Professor in Studio Art

In this studio course, students will explore their rich experiences while traveling in central Italy in order to inform material and process based studio work. Students are asked to carefully observe their surroundings and daily encounters with sight, sound, materials, structures, natural and cultural environments, and a rich array of art, design and architecture. Through discussions, field sketches, ideation and daily studio practice, students will collect, transform, and create a series of site-responsive sculptural works with sensitive consideration to the influence of travel and the cultural contents of the materials and site. Students will develop critical thinking and hands on making skills, and learn to clearly analyze and articulate the concept, content, and context of their works in relationship to their travel experiences.

The course is structured in three components: Collection—discover and collect visual, physical, and conceptually interesting elements, materials and objects; Transformation—studio practice of manipulating, multiplying, and transforming found materials and objects to create a series of sculptural studies; formulate a clear concept based on these studies and a chosen site; Creation—design, produce and install a three-dimensional sculptural project for the specific site.


Program Costs

View Itemized Costs

Financial Aid

Learn more about using financial aid to fund study abroad costs.


Departmental Scholarships

The Department of Art and Art History offers several scholarships to students participating in the Learning Tuscany program. There are two scholarships available to Studio Art students, one scholarship available to an Art History student, and one scholarship available to a Visual Art Studies student. Download the applications below.

Applications due October 20

PDF Document Art History Scholarship Application

PDF Document Studio Art Scholarship Application

PDF Document Visual Art Studies Scholarship Application

Non-Departmental Scholarships

Students can also find other non-departmental scholarship opportunities on the Study Abroad Office website.