A Summer in Tuscany

Spotlight Date: 
August 25, 2014
Jessica Kirby

Visual Arts major, Jessica Kirby, didn’t just take it easy this summer - Jessica gained college-level experience at a summer program with Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA). Through a newly established scholarship started by Foundation Board Member Lisa Marie Browneand friends, Jessica joined other pre-college students and MICA staff on a study abroad program in Tuscany. There they spent three weeks Drawing and Painting the Tuscan Landscape, and learning about art in the birthplace of the Renaissance.

The students lived in Le Puscine, a refurbished farm near the small village of Montelaterone. “It was an amazing experience. It was nice because it wasn't bombarded by tourists. We would hike into classical Italian towns surrounding the area we were residing in and we would paint in two four-hour sessions each day with a lunch/open studio period in between. The people were all very encouraging and they welcomed us into their small towns to paint.”

Although focused on painting (perhaps with acrylic, Jessica’s favorite medium), the curriculum offered a variety of freedoms and challenges. “The projects were very open to our own interpretation. We were allowed to throw our own flavor into the paintings. We also had a few academic projects. For one, we were assigned partners and told to research something particular to the Tuscan region. It was pretty hard since we had no internet access but it was really interesting. We also had a project where we had to present to our group what inspired us most on the trip.”

The program also allowed Jessica to travel through Tuscany, including Florence, Siena, and some ancient Etruscan cities. “My favorite spots that we visited were the beaches, a volcanic hot spring, and some really cool sculpture gardens.” When it came to her favorite experience, Jessica named the Uffizi Gallery in Florence, a place where she was able to take in some art history, something she admitted to being “obsessed with.”

When asked what she took away from Tuscany, Jessica said that “This experience helped me expand my portfolio. It also taught me how important the land is. Learning to appreciate the land was very beneficial in understanding the landscape and being able to paint it. This experience also prepared me for the college lifestyle. Besides meals, transportation, and the teaching proponent, we were pretty much on our own. We even had to hand wash our own clothes.”

Now in her senior year, Jessica not only plans to apply to MICA for college, but also state schools like University of Florida and University of Miami, to study graphic design or animation. As for advice for incoming freshman, Jessica says to “begin thinking about college early. It takes a lot of pressure off of your shoulders if you have an idea of what you want to pursue senior year. I kind of just blindly made art through the years and only now am I beginning to consider what I want to do. When you want to do something specific, it's good to know early so you can start structuring your way through high school to meet that goal.”