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Enchanted Italy at Academy of Art University, Fresh Works from Fine Art Study Abroad

SAN FRANCISCO, CA.- This month the Academy of Art University’s 79 Gallery presents Enchanted Italy, an elegant and transporting collection of paintings created by AAU students during the university’s first-ever study abroad course in Italy this past August. Traveling from San Francisco to Corciono, Italy, fourteen School of Fine Art students joined AAU instructors and renowned Bay Area artists Jason Bowen, Carolyn Meyer, and Craig Nelson for seven weeks of exhilarating painting instruction in the Tuscan countryside and historic city centers.

Corciono, nestled in the undulating landscape where Umbria meets Tuscany, became a daily inspiration for the students who embarked on the Academy of Art University’s intense curriculum of on-site, plein-air painting. Students expanded their perspectives with multi-day painting tours of Florence, Rome, and Venice. For many, it was the defining experience of their artistic education: delving into a landscape ripe with centuries of artistic heritage and closer connection to mentors who have reached national acclaim. For the Academy of Art University, it is a spectacular achievement to fully integrate a rich and extensive study abroad experience into the core of their nationally renowned Fine Art Painting curriculum, offered at the same tuition as studying on-site in San Francisco.

“The Academy of Art University’s inaugural Study Abroad program is the exciting result of four years of preparation by our faculty and the supportive vision of AAU President Elisa Stephens,” says Craig Nelson, Director of the School of Fine Art Painting at AAU. “My own experiences leaving California and spending time in Europe at the age of 23 continues to have a profound effect on my passion and motivation for pursuing a career full-time as a fine artist. It is absolutely thrilling to witness similar transformations in my students. The work ethic, growth of technique, and overall advancement of artistry in all of the students was extraordinary.”

On Thursday, December 4, 2008, a large group of students, art enthusiasts, and collectors converged on the Academy of Art University’s 79 Gallery to witness the extensive plein-air painting achievements from Italy. The exuberant reaction to the artwork and the overwhelmingly positive experience shared by students and instructors has moved the School of Fine Art to expand the 2009 program, welcoming Photography and Printmaking students. To the AAU Fine Art faculty’s delight, students are already signed up for their flights to Italy next summer. In the meantime, Enchanted Italy offers stunning visual testimonials to gallery visitors through January 3, 2009 at 79 New Montgomery Street, San Francisco, CA 94105.

Academy of Art University Student Profiles
Amid the preparation for exhibiting their finished plein-air works in Enchanted Italy this month, several students expressed the resounding effect their study abroad experience had on their artwork. Children’s Book Illustrator and current Academy of Art University BFA student Robert Burcar traveled from Montana to attend the program in Italy. “Traveling to Italy was one of the most exciting and influential times in my life,” states Burcar. “My experiences there gave and continues to give me the confidence to hold a paint brush and slap paint on a canvas with authority and without fear.”

Exemplifying the Academy of Art University’s reputation for attracting international talent, School of Illustration student Theo Felizzola hails from Brazil. He chose to study abroad in Italy to further his goal of bringing writer’s stories to life. “Italy tells you a story within itself: its old buildings, the breathtaking landscapes, and the community who is a part of a very ancient civilization, full of intense history and formidable lessons,” shares Felizzola. “To live and paint in Italy for seven weeks was the single greatest experience of my life.”

Graduate Fine Art Painting student Sola Sawyer, who predominantly concentrates on the human figure, seized the study abroad in Italy as an opportunity to intensely focus on landscape and cityscape painting. “The constant painting and learning in the field has now helped me approach my paintings with an attitude that says, ‘I can paint anything,’” shares Sawyer. “There were so many learning moments for me, but most of them occurred outside of class time when I had spontaneous conversations with our instructors Jason Bowen, Carolyn Meyer, or Craig Nelson about being a professional artist over dinner or coffee. This is when I learned the things you really cannot learn when you are not painting, traveling, and living with your instructors.”

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