By: Alyssa Lem
Book Arts in Venice, Italy
Studying abroad has been a life changing experience. Traveling to Italy for three and a half weeks has made me eager to get out and see new places, to experience new cultures, and expand the world as I see it. Every day brought upon new challenges that forced me to step out of my comfort zone and force myself to be comfortable in a different environment. Starting the study abroad, we stayed in Venice for a week working in a graphic art school, learning and using printing presses to make prints out of etchings. While in Venice, we were also able to visit beautiful churches, visit the Nuova Manica Lunga, a library with some books as far back as the beginning of the printing press in the 1400s, and visit the Biennale, an art fair with 136 artists from around the globe bringing forth some of the best contemporary art. While in Venice, our group took a trip to Padua, a city with the third oldest university in the world. At that university, we were able to visit Galileo Galilei’s lecture halls and his dissection rooms back from the Renaissance era. With above describing the nutshell my first week on the study abroad, I had already fallen in love with the country. Being in a new culture, having a language barrier, eating new (but the best) foods, I was growing and changing my perceptions on how I see the world.
Verona was next: a weekend that I will never forget. Verona was one of the most beautiful towns we traveled to. With many less tourists than Venice, it was nice to have a break from being surrounded by people. While in Verona, we got to visit Museo Conte, a printing press museum and then we were able to go to the Capitular Library of Verona. This library is one of the oldest libraries in the world, dating as far back as August 1, 517. Although we couldn’t touch any of the books, some of the works were manuscripts; what was used before books were invented. The history of that city was incredible to see and the weekend was filled with so much learning and enjoyment.
Florence was also very wonderful. We worked at the Florence School of Fine Arts with an artist from Florence and her husband, who was from America. We made posters at this school in the few short days we had at the school. What was most incredible in Florence, was visiting the museums. We went to the Uffizi Gallery while housed several famous artists including Leonardo Da Vinci, Michelangelo, Titian, Giorgione, and several more. We also went to the Accademia Gallery in Florence; housing Michelangelo’s David- what an incredible experience to see that in person. Florence was a week full of art and visiting the most incredible pieces in the world.
Lastly, we went to Cornuda; my favorite city of them all. We worked at Tipoteca, a letterpress printing museum. In the three days we were there, ten other students and I made a book that we wrote and illustrated ourselves. We printed each page by hand after setting each letter of type for all twenty three books, an incredible amount of work we accomplished within the three days. Cornuda was a little village surrounded by grape vineyards and in the Dolomite Mountains, an incredible scene to spend five days at. This village was the hardest place to get around because very few of the natives knew English, many restaurants didn’t have menus; but this was the place I fell in love with. I was forced to find a way to communicate with the locals and we were able to be a small part of their lives while attending the towns wine festival.
Three and a half weeks in Italy, a brand new country to me, was the most wonderful time I’ve had. I want to go back, experience more of Europe, grow in my knowledge of culture more, and for that, I have to thank Western Michigan University, Haenicke Institute for Global Education, the Kalamazoo Book Arts Center, and Professor Jeff Abshear for this opportunity. My Italian dreams would never have happened, nor would I have been able to learn and experience so much without my study abroad trip.