Nick LaPole

Graduate Student - Printmaking 

Pratt in Venice 2017

Pratt in Venice proved to be a refreshing experience that kept me engaged with Venetian culture and with my own art practice. The trips and tours are stripped of the fluff and filled to the brim with interesting insights. There is so much to see; the canals, the streets, the churches and the surrounding countryside all provided a stunning view and a moment of pause. 

That pause is brief, though, because there was plenty of work to do! Libraries in Venice are filled with materials and have a history all their own (I wish I spent more time there, myself). The painting studios at UIA have an excellent sea-side view, which gave light and air an opportunity to flood into the classrooms. The library of artist books reserved for Pratt and the espresso machine nearby made each painting session a relaxing experience. The Scuola di Grafica print-shop was organized quite differently; equipped with a variety of press-beds and facilitating many students/artist-in-residence at a time, the entire space felt perfectly constructed for a great workflow. I particularly enjoyed the printing atmosphere, because it was such a collaborative experience that was run by truly amazing individuals. Roberta is a great print-maker, and I'm glad I got to meet and work with her!

The art, of course, was important and exhilarating to see in person. Fresco murals; Master paintings in situ or in a museum; I was introduced to several Venetian painters while here (Tintoretto was a particular favorite). All of this is done so with context, thankfully. I definitely appreciated this context when addressed alongside the contemporary scene. We were fortunate enough to see the Venice Biennial and all the pomp and circumstance that followed it. Aside from this, there were various exhibitions that blew me away (The Boat is Sinking, The Captain Lied and Phillip Guston and the Poets both stand out to me). Experiencing the mix of styles, influences, and ages made each one resonate more fully. The work engaged each other just as we, the viewers, engaged the work. This, I think, is especially important moving forward into the future.

The little moments and the small conversations were perhaps the most enjoyable thing about the trip. Eating and drinking with your peers, responding to the things you see and retelling stories you experienced personally; every moment was punctuated by exhaustion and wonder in equal measure! It's a busy experience, to be sure, but it is one that cleared my head and kept me moving.



Marietta Burdick

Undergraduate Student - Art History 

Pratt in Venice 2017 

For an artist or student of art history, Venice is like no other city.

The city is unique in terms of its cultural and art historical richness, due largely to the fact that Venice played a key role in world trade between the 13th and 15th centuries, and became a major patron of the arts leading up to and during the Italian Renaissance. It is for this reason (as well as for the city’s sheer beauty and accessible size), that Diana Gisolfi, director of the Pratt in Venice program and scholar of the Italian Renaissance, chose Venice as the site for Pratt’s study abroad program over thirty years ago.

While Pratt students are privileged with the opportunity to study in a place that is made up of a collection of islands built on top of the sea--full of seemingly endless museums and beautiful churches, historical passageways and bridges that enable one to traverse the entire city by foot--it is truly the faculty that make the Pratt in Venice program unique. Diana Gisolfi, professor of the Materials and Techniques class, is an expert in 16th century Venetian art. Travelling around the city with her allowed students access to information and ideas that made the city’s history come to life. Diana’s class was very hands-on. She brought us to many sites around the city that provided students with a rich understanding of Venice’s historical role as patron of the arts and home to many great painters (Titian, Veronese, Bellini and Giorgione, just to name a few!). For instance, we visited the famous Orsoni Mosaic lab to understand how glass for mosaics is manufactured. We went on private tours of the Benedictine monastery at San Giorgio Maggiore and the Ca’ d’Oro museum. Most exciting of all was our visit to San Marco’s Basilica, the iconic symbol of Venice, where we were granted a behind-the-scenes tour of the construction and reparations that were going on in the church at time, as well as a visit to the church’s mosaic restoration lab. For students of art and history, experiences like these are unbeatable.

The privilege of having Joseph Kopta, (a Pratt in Venice alum himself) as our professor of Art History made our experience all the more engaging and invaluable. Professor Kopta teaches Venetian Art History. All but three of his classes took place on site. Because of his knowledge of Byzantine and Italian art history, as well as his extremely organized and engaging lectures and class plans, Joe is the perfect professor to complete the Pratt in Venice experience. His lectures and tours allowed us to develop an intimate understanding of the city. He is an engaging and caring professor who makes sure that every student is doing his or her best in terms of learning the necessary material. Joe is dedicated to his subject and to his students. Our class trips took us all over Venice and into the larger Veneto region (to Ravenna, Padua and Bassano del Grappa!). With his knowledge of Venetian art history, Joe is able to cultivate within his students an understanding and appreciation for the city that would not be possible without him.

Although I did not take the studio classes (painting and printmaking), I often visited the studios to see the work of other students. I got to know professors Grayson Cox and Mario Naves due to the intimate size of the program and our class trips together. Pratt in Venice is special because everyone very quickly grows to feel a sense of togetherness, of friendship, comfortability, and intimacy. Grayson and Mario worked closely with their students, both encouraging and challenging them to develop their individual styles and an understanding of their materials. Not only are Grayson and Mario extremely kind and caring professors who make the Pratt in Venice experience fun and engaging, but they are practicing professionals who bring enthusiasm and hands-on knowledge of the contemporary art world directly to their students. (Together they organized a trip to the Venice Biennale. Their lessons and guidance while we were there offered us different perspectives of the contemporary art scene that made the Biennale a far more rewarding and meaningful experience.)  

In addition to our classes all around Venice, we were also had class trips to Ravenna (to see the Basilica di Sant’Apollinare Nuovo), Padua (where we had a private viewing of Giotto’s frescoes at the Scrovegni Chapel!), and Bassano del Grappa (to see Palladio’s villas and then climb to the top of a hill overlooking the Swiss alps to have the most memorable feast together at the home gracious Italian friends of the program). The intimacy of the Pratt in Venice program and the dedication of its professors allows for the most stimulating and gratifying summer adventure I have been on. I recommend it to all students, but especially to those who are excited by art history, Italian culture, and the chance to pursue their creativity in a city that has inspired artists for centuries. I think back on my experience in Venice with nothing but fondness for the connections I made with my professors and fellow students, as well as for the thrilling experience of studying art history in a place so perfectly suited for it. 


Daisy Tainton 

Graduate Student - Library and Information Science

Pratt in Venice 2017

Pratt in Venice was like a backstage pass to some wonderful places in Venice and the surrounding area. From the mosaic workshop at the basilica of San Marco to the restoration lab at UIA, we were able to access work spaces and watch conservators handle delicate works of art. The classes were informative and helped me appreciate what I was seeing, and gave me background for all my own excursions. Almost every single day, I went to churches, museums, and galleries, and as time went on, I got to know the area pretty well. Thanks to the courses and readings I deepened my appreciation for what I was seeing. Pratt's courses enriched my experience in ways that I see as invaluable and ongoing. I would recommend this program to virtually anyone with the caveat that you get out of a thing what you are willing to put into it: take advantage of your time and make the most of this opportunity, and you will take with you something priceless. 


Evy Barnett

Undergraduate Student - Graphic Design

Pratt in Venice 2017 

The Pratt in Venice experience was one I will never forget! Overall I found the experience enjoyable, fun, and challenging. The classes I took--Art History of Venice and Printmaking--were incredible and I found that taking these classes in Venice was such a fantastic opportunity. For example, the art history classes were on site: we had just two classes in the classroom the whole time, which is a great way to immerse yourself in the art. Printmaking was great because, while I’ve never taken a printmaking class before, I felt I was always provided with the tools and techniques to accomplish the ideas I had. Although I did not officially enroll in the painting course, I attended almost every class and I felt that practicing painting in Venice was another great way to experience the environment around me. I definitely felt like I was not only challenged by my professors, but also by my fellow students. The group as a whole was definitely invested in our studies and I think that pushed me farther in my work. At the end of it all, I’m really satisfied with the work I’ve produced and what I’ve learned!


Ariel Miles

Graduate Student - Creative Arts Therapy

Pratt in Venice 2016

After graduating from Pratt’s Creative Arts Therapy program, I was thrilled for the opportunity to immerse myself in art-making, history, and culture in Venice, Italy. I could have guessed that my experience would be a nurturing and amazing one from the moment of arrival. I’m constantly gushing about the warmth of Italian locals and their desire to keep others well fed. I doubt that my experience would have been the same without the classes I was enrolled in. The Art History, Materials and Techniques, Painting, and Italian language courses heightened my knowledge of Venice and my experience in the city.

Venice feels like a perfect city for creative people of all kinds. The program similarly compliments the diversity of the students/artists who participate. While I studied art therapy, my peers were painters, sculptors, interior designers, etc. In Art History, we visited sites such as churches, mansions, villas, and bridges that Italian artists and architects had a hand in building in Venice and neighboring cities. The Materials and Techniques course allowed me and my peers behind the scenes where we saw, first-hand, men, women, and students at work melting smalti, cutting tesserae, gilding gold, conserving artwork, or creating new frescoes and wood etchings. The experiences were rewarding because it’s difficult to find information about many of these traditional processes. It was also interesting to be an artist learning the meaning and metaphor behind creative and architectural decisions people have made in Venice. If that’s not enough, one literally feels like a VIP with access to space and information no one else is allowed. I actually brag about my library card and about the beauty of the library, the Universita Internazionale dell’Arte, and the staff at both.

The city continues to inspire artists in much the same way my classmates and I were drawn to it.  While my brief descriptions hardly do the experience any justice, I felt the same of the pictures I took throughout the trip. There truly is no such thing as a bad picture in Venice but nothing beats seeing the sites (and even the graffiti) for yourself. There is also no such thing as a bad time painting along the canal. Both local adult and children occasionally stop by to see what each artist is painting. At some point local men and women opening their windows or setting their laundry on lines from their balconies would greet me as I became a familiar face, painting an image of their homes, most mornings. That only heightened my desire to learn Italian language. The more I learned the language and history of the city, the more immersed I felt. It also helped that the boss and staff at a trattoria near my apartment often treated me to food and wine as I ate there regularly.

Each student apartment had a personality and I loved that mine was in a location convenient enough for me to catch a boat 30 minutes before class, shop, eat, or walk to hang out with locals and other students at night. Though some days required early mornings, un brioche e café and a commute along the water, sleepily daydreaming into the waves hitting the vaporetto, is a great way to start a day.