Graduate Student Experience, 2012

Kelly Davis, Graduate Art History/Library Science Student

Before the Pratt in Venice program, I had been to parts of Italy to study art, but this was my first visit to the Veneto and Venice. Immediately upon arriving on the first day, stepping out of the train station and crossing Piazzale Roma to board my first vaporetto, I knew this experience would be unlike any other. Venice is a place that boggles the mind. As I sat on the waterbus, traveling around the western edge of the city and through the Guidecca canal, dazed and overloaded by sensory experience, all I could think was, “Is this real?” After completing the program and having the unrivaled experience of six weeks in those fairytale surroundings, I was no longer asking if it was real, but instead had decided nothing else was real but canals and the sunlight dancing on water.


It’s not just the incredible beauty of Venice that seduces us, but its history, art and architecture that makes this experience not to be missed. The onsite visits to locations within the city (some famous, like Piazza San Marco, some lesser known, like the Tiepolos of the Scuolo dei Carmini), allowed us all to experience living art history in a way that can only be achieved by standing in front of an altarpiece, in situ, and examining its location within the larger architecture of the church, or viewing Veronese’s stunning ceiling paintings in San Sebastiano and discussing conservation efforts. Visits to locations within the Veneto gave us unprecedented access to Giotto’s seminal frescoes in the Scrovegni Chapel in Padua, a particularly special experience for me as an art historian, and a beautiful day spent traveling to Castelfranco, Villa Maser and Bassano del Grappa, tracking down Giorgione and enjoying a delightful afternoon in the foothills of the Alps.


Students Michele Jenkins and Paul Lee at work in the Scuola di Grafica printmaking studio (photo: Kelly Davis).


These experiences were not only valid for me as an art historian, but also allowed me to nurture my blossoming interest in creating art. The printmaking class at the Scuola di Grafica in the Cannareggio neighborhood (sestiere) of Venice quickly became a chance for me to express through art the overwhelming delight I felt at being in such a special place. And while I was simply a novice, it was inspiring to see my fellow students’ art during their time in Italy. What better place to be inspired by art and color than Venice?


I would recommend this program to any student interested in expanding his or her knowledge of art, or those looking for inspiration outside of their usual surroundings. I believe every student can benefit from this program, some in more obvious ways than others, but all growing and changing as part of the experience. The effects of Venice are long term– maybe one day you’ll notice your designs have started incorporating those particular Venetian pointed windows, or on a hot day in New York, you’ll find yourself longing for Venice’s shady narrow streets. No matter how it affects you, it certainly will, and I can promise the program will be one you never forget.