A post-grad costume designer. A Mount Holyoke theatre student native to Bangalore, India. A rising senior at Hendrix College studying International Relations and Politics. What drew Elonna Bettini, Urvi Jacob, and Isaac Filat to study in Arezzo this summer? Find out in the interviews below!
Which classes are you taking this summer? What interested you about them?
Isaac: I am taking an Anthropology course and a Documentary Film course. I selected Anthropology because it afforded me the opportunity to study Tuscan culture. The professor is very well know at my home institution (Hendrix College), so I gladly took the opportunity to take one of her classes. Plus, what better place to study culture than a place like Tuscany that has centuries of historical development? I selected the film course for many reasons. I have zero experience working with filmmaking, but I have always been intrigued with documentary films. I think documentaries are a great way to tell a story, and as a student of International Relations and Politics, documentary films have the ability to inform and push policy reform. It is a skill set that I hope to use with future projects.
Urvi: I am taking the Commedia dell’Arte class as well as the Documentary Filmmaking course this summer. What interested me about these courses was my love for Theatre. I wanted to study a new dramatic art form, and be able to express myself in a form different from the ones I have previously studied such as Mime, Method acting, and Voice & Movement. As for filmmaking I wanted to explore life behind a lens, as compared to movement on a stage and be able to differentiate between the two. I am an avid photographer and love to capture life’s best and most honest moments.
Elonna: I am currently taking the Commedia class and the Mask Making class. I studied costume design in college and thought that learning mask making while here would be a great opportunity. I’ve recently become a lot more interested in the relationship between props and costumes and I thought picking up some new technical skills could help me develop that more. The Commedia class I am taking majorly to push myself. I’ve taken acting classes before but I’ve never been so pushed out of my comfort zone before. I’m a firm believer that if you want to be a good designer you need to also be a strong actor. The relationship between them are too vital to ignore and I felt like I hadn’t exercised that side of my skill set enough especially since graduating from college.
Why did you decide to come to this program?
Isaac: I learned about the program through a friend and former ADA student. I thought that it could not hurt to at least apply, so on a late night whim, I filled out an application for the Summer Arts Program and waited. Soon after I received word that I had been accepted. Taking summer courses is one thing. Taking summer courses halfway around the world is an entirely different (yet exciting) decision I had to make. My home institution (Hendrix College) requires that all students take an Expressive Arts course before graduating, and as a rising Senior who had yet to do so, I was beginning to run out of time. ADA kind of fell into my lap at the right time. So I asked myself, what kind of fool passes up the opportunity to study art in Italy? It made my decision to attend ADA very easy.
Urvi: I decided to come to the Accademia because a professor of mine encouraged me to come here, and explore acting outside the United States, mainly in europe. He told me about this program knowing what I wanted from theatre, and keeping my personality in mind. We looked toward the bigger picture, and the bigger picture certainly included Italy!
Elonna: I’ve known about this program for maybe 5 years now? I’ve had many friends who has studied here previously and they all came back from their trips changed in a way that’s almost indescribable. I saw a new spark behind their eyes and I wanted that. The thought that there was a school in Tuscany where I could connect with other artists and experience a new culture all while studying theatre was incredible to me. I unfortunately couldn’t ever fix my college schedule to allow me the semester off from classes but on a whim I applied to the summer arts program as a post-grad and now here I am!
What has been the most exciting part of living abroad for a month?
Isaac: The most exciting part of living abroad is that it forces you out of your comfort zone. I didn’t know anyone in Tuscany. I don’t speak Italian. I don’t know any of the local customs. This entire experience is a shot in the dark, and that is the most exciting leap that anyone can take.
Urvi: The most exciting part about living abroad for a month is the complete freedom I have to explore the Art world, and be one with myself. Exploring the city and just being a little more of an adult, being responsible I would say. It’s been great making new friends and sharing exciting adventures and growing together.
Elonna: I would probably say the people and mix of cultures. Not only am I getting to experience what Italian culture is like but I’m also learning so much about American culture by hearing it explained to me through the Italian gaze. I’m also a bit obsessed with languages and I’m trying desperately to become as fluent as possible in these 4 short weeks.
How do you think this study abroad experience will impact your future as a student, artist, and individual? What do you hope to take home with you?
Isaac: This experience is pushing me far outside of my comfort zone. I’m a passionate student, and ADA is giving me the tools to express my passions. I’m excited to use film as a media to share political stories. There are a lot of intangible lessons that I am learning here as well, and that is what I will likely take back home with me. I hope the experience of living outside of the United States will allow me to better understand my own culture. Naturally, I have begun to compare and contrast the two worlds, and it is allowing me to recognize the semantics of many “American” behaviors. I hope to better understand my way of life once I am back across the pond.
Urvi: I feel that this experience has been an extremely intellectually engaging experience. It has honestly changed my perspective and the way I look at things. It has made me more open minded and patient. It has also enabled me to let go and completely be myself, which I sometimes lose track of. It has made me appreciate my talents and learn to appreciate other peoples as well. It has made me love myself. I hope to take back all of these things.
Elonna: Well hopefully if the class goes well I’ll at least have a mask to take home with me… honestly, I think I’ll carry all of what I’ve learned here with me forever. I think studying abroad in general is so vital for young people. It’s important to push yourself as a student and especially as an artist because it’s vital we all find common ground to stand on. It’s easy for college kids to get stuck in their own little worlds. Campus might seem like the most important place in the world so it’s nice to take a step back and get a better idea of the big picture. I knew this place was magical even through the brochures and the photos on my friends’ facebook pages; the fact that I’m finally getting to experience it for real is almost unbelievable.
From Little Rock to Tuscany: Anthropology with Anne Goldberg
What inspired you to offer the course, “Exploring, Understanding, and Documenting Culture in Tuscany?” What makes Tuscany a uniquely ideal environment in which to teach it?
I wanted to teach students to observe a unique area that has drawn people from around the world because of its culture. People come here to see things that are cultural: food, olive groves, wine, and a certain way of living.
What are your impressions of the Accademia dell’Arte and Arezzo?
The Accademia is filled with warm and creative people. I have found everyone to be very welcoming. Living in Arezzo has been great. I’ve already met several shop owners and people greet me on the street after only two weeks. I love that people welcome tourists, but are mainly catering to locals.
What do you hope your students will take away from this 4-week intensive course?
I hope they will have the tools to really observe, rather than make assumptions about people. I want them to pay attention to details. Even when we don’t speak the same language, we can learn about others if we take the time to watch and listen.