From Ireland’s countryside to International Village

Syeda Raji, left, and Kathrine Briedis, traveled to Ireland for a Dialogue of Civilizations trip this summer. Photo by Mary Knox Merrill.

October 26, 2010

From the lush scenery to the miles of glacial limestone formations rolling across the Irish countryside, 12 Northeastern University students had plenty of inspiration to create works of art while on a Dialogue of Civilizations trip this summer.

In July, the students traveled to Ireland’s Burren College of Art and immersed themselves in the local culture. They learned the history of Ballyvaughan village, conversed with its residents — mostly farmers and fishermen — and soaked in the picturesque landscape. They ultimately translated this experience to canvas, and the impressive results are on display in the main lobby of International Village as an art exhibit, “Transformation,” through the end of November.

For five years, Mira Cantor, professor of art in the Department of Art + Design, has led the Dialogue trip, which she said incorporates an important aspect of global learning by integrating students into an experience and culture unlike their own. With the example of professional artists close at hand, students develop a strong work ethic, and also have the luxury of working in their own studios.

“It’s a good way to introduce students to the intensity of working in the arts,” Cantor said. “The studios are open 24/7, and the requirement of producing a meaningfully developed project by the end of four weeks can get pretty intense.”

The faculty-led Dialogue of Civilizations programs exemplify Northeastern’s broad range of unique experiential learning opportunities that have expanded around the globe under President Joseph E. Aoun’s direction. 

The Dialogue program has enjoyed tremendous growth since 2005, when 60 students participated in three programs. This year, 950 students have participated in 49 programs in 40 countries.

In Ireland, students spent the first week becoming acclimated with the area through structured assignments, lectures and tours, and the final three weeks working on their individual projects.

The works displayed in International Village include abstract paintings, charcoal drawings and even an architectural model of the coastal village.

Kathrine Briedis, a third-year student pursuing her bachelor’s degree in art, used the Dialogue trip to gain more experience working in an art studio and focus more on painting. The stone walls along the Irish landscape inspired her artwork, which incorporate different layers of fabric and paint.

“This Dialogue was very important to me because even though I was nervous at first I learned and grew as an artist enormously,” she said.

Syeda Raji, a junior communications studies major and art minor, drew inspiration from the textures of rocks she discovered while doing charcoal rubbings during a group hike. Raji said it was exhilarating to go from Boston’s urban atmosphere to the Irish village’s sprawling fields, where she felt free to explore her passion for art.

“This experience gave me more confidence to continue pursuing art,” Raji said.

For more information, please contact Greg St.Martin at 617-373-5463 or at g.stmartin@neu.edu.

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