Director’s Journal – 2010: Spring, Summer, Maymester, Fall




2010 – Spring and Summer Semesters, Maymester

A  few thoughts for the Summer (and before) that might be interesting to our alumni… but we are in hyper-mode as we are locking down the Severini Building today… a big ancient art field trip tomorrow… bocce tournament on Friday… we leave for Ravenna-Venice early Saturday morning. By the way, we have the bocce tournament on the last day as it “holds” the students in and they thus get their packing done with as little panic as possible.

Let me jump back and say that the Spring Semester went off without a hitch. There were 53 students and 10 faculty and we added English for the very first time. So besides the regular Studio Art and Art history classes, there were also Italian Language, Italian Culture, Creative Writing, and English. All of these courses stay within the context of the “Italian experience” in regards to their individual curricula… It is so important that our curricula stay attuned to this very special country/region/town. Also, Art Education was with us for the spring and held a class in the Elementary School. This is the only art the children of Cortona are offered and now (after six years) we are seeing these students become teenagers and constantly are thanking us for providing this for the citizens of Cortona. There were three snows of over six inches during the Spring Semester!

The two Maymester programs were increasingly popular and we can say that they are an essential part of the Studies Abroad Program now! There were 54 applications for the 35 slots in the Science Maymester so this program set up for the science major (pre-med, pre-vet, pre-dental, pharmacy, etc.) is a strong and necessary partner. As you know, they all get an art history/appreciation course taught by Shelley Zuraw and this aspect shows how “Arts and Sciences” do work together… Shelley is a dynamo.

The Viticulture/Enology May Program remains the only program of its type from our Eastern Seaboard. This year we increased the number to 22 students and I can see that it too is a solid part of the May Program. It is my opinion that the programs outside of art have made significant efforts to work under our supervision and they seem so grateful to be in Cortona and share the adventure. Student evaluations from both groups ditto all the good remarks the professors and staff are saying.

And as I sit here and write this today, we are, as I started saying, in that paradoxical place where the students are anxious to get back to their families and so, so sad about leaving their Tuscan home. The first thing that I’ll mention (and I hesitate to say much as I don’t want rotten tomatoes thrown at me from those in the Deep South) is that we have had the mildest weather of any summer anyone can remember. We literally had about of week where the mercury hit 90° but we have hovered in the mid-80°’s for the remainder with most night going down to the high 60°’s!

We had 83 students and 14 faculty and I think a buncha my long-time Cortona colleagues wanted to come back for one last bout with my strange humor? Anyway, this was truly the “Dream Team” as there were 6 of our colleagues from UGA and the other 8 were area chairs at least from their home institutions. It is so important for us to maintain our national/international status as the elite Studio Art program in Italy and this can only be done if we bring in the best of the best faculty… and it proved true this summer. The Mostra was one of the best I have ever seen… across the board. The entire town turned out to see the work and congratulate us.

Major improvements have been made in the John D. Kehoe Cortona Center and I will not go through all of the little (ongoing) repairs and renovations it takes to keep an old building up and running. But we did finally finish the reinforcement and re-bricking of the balcony outside the Common Room… as well as complete restorations of five bathrooms. But our big project of the year is the bringing of natural gas (in Italy = methane) to the Center. This is an arduous task in both the physical sense and the bureaucratic involvements on both sides of the Atlantic. We will bring in two new boilers with two new pumps in the cisterns. There will be new hook-ups and piping required but the result will see safer, cheaper, cleaner and easier control of our heating units for water and air.

Finally, and something I hope our alumni will get behind, the Belle Arte and the Comune of Cortona have approved the installation of solar panels on the fourth deck of the Kehoe Center. This will be the first solar collectors inside the walls of Cortona. We are now getting bids and will ask our university to work with us in making this a reality. In my preliminary figures, we could put over 100% of our electrical needs back into the grid and thus there would be a positive cash flow! We would set the standard for green campuses in Italy.

2010 – Fall Semester

My goodness… so much happens between April and November and looking back it seems that paradoxically I am riding a tsunami in this slow moving culture. Hard to put to words. But at this writing (November 10) we have exactly a week left in Cortona during the Fall Semester and next Wednesday we will depart for three days in the Naples’ area before ending the program on the 20th.

Both the May programs mentioned in the first update and the summer and fall programs have been very successful with advanced enrollment (during a time of a less than favorable exchange rate) and continued improvements to the 4.5 acre campus. We now have our natural gas lines connected up to the front of the Kehoe Center and as soon as we pull away in a week, crews will arrive to install all new boilers, pumps, and lines carrying a much cleaner and more efficient source of heat and water throughout our building. We’ve taken another small invisible step into the 21st Century. We have also doubled our band width (Wi-Fi capacities) and our wireless cloud over both buildings allows the students internet access from all corners… I am still constantly chiding them to “get a life” when I catch them net-surfing while the beautiful valley is out there for the taking.

Of course this is bitter-sweet for me as I end my forty years at UGA and thirty-six years involved in some fashion with the Cortona Program. Having Scott Belville (drawing) and Jo Anne Paschall (book arts) with me this autumn demonstrates yet once again that what goes around comes around… we were buddies here as students in 1974. I look forward to many more years visiting this beautiful Tuscan hill town and active work with C.I.A.O! See you in Cortona.

I hope to see soon in Athens or Cortona.

Ciao from Rick


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