Students return from journey to Australia


(from left to right) Kyle McKenzie, assistant professor of art; Tracey Graves, BFA Studio Art Candidate; Pheobe Burke, BFA Studio Art Candidate; Grace Sitton, BFA Design Candidate; Rachael Gopalakrishnan, Biology major and Honors Student; Lydia Humphreys, BFA Studio Art 2019; Jamie Robinson, BFA Studio Art Candidate and Honors Student 

Each spring Art Department officials sends students and faculty to study art in the nation or region which is the international theme for the following fall semester.

This year the group went to Australia, as part of the special topics class called Art in Australia.

“Students are studying Australian art and culture, with an emphasis on the artwork of contemporary indigenous Australian,” said Kyle McKenzie, assistant professor.

The Art in Australia course was designed in anticipation of the Oceania Semester in fall of 2019. Art created in response to what participants learned, will be featured within the Spiva Gallery at the beginning of the semester.

“International travel can be intimidating to the uninitiated, so travelling with peers can be a great way to start,” McKenzie said. “I think most of us who take these sorts of trips are more likely to travel internationally again throughout our lives. More importantly, experiencing different cultures helps build empathy. 

“Our worldviews can be built on fear and ignorance.  When we encounter a large variety of people, we may realize that many of our preconceptions come from inflexible thinking and superstition.”

During the March trip, students divided their time between Sydney and Melbourne.

“In addition to just experiencing daily life in Australian cities, we visited many art museums and a contemporary Aboriginal artists’ co-op gallery, toured and saw Salomé at the Sydney Opera House, visited the Herring Island Sculpture Park, and went on a guided Aboriginal Heritage Walk at the botanical gardens in Melbourne,” Mckenzie said.

The group accompaning McKenzie included six students. Grace Sitton, a sophomore graphic design student, was among those taking part in the trip.

 “Going to Australia with the Art Department was such a great experience,” Sitton said. “Australia’s cultural heritage is so rich with art and stories and it was very eye-opening getting to learn about all of it.”

McKenzie said it is important for students, particularly artists, to travel outside of their normal environment.

“Travel expands our perspectives in ways that seem to always enhance creative development,” McKenzie said. “For some students, trips like this one provide opportunities for international travel that they are unlikely to have otherwise.”