Patti McGill Peterson Center for International and Intercultural Studies
My name is Cullen White, I am from Lakeville, CT and for my project, I travelled to Florence, Italy, where I was interested in experiencing the city from an artistic point of view. I wanted to go to the museums, see the historic sites and immerse myself in the language. I’d wanted to learn Italian since high school, and after taking Italian 101 and 102 freshmen year at SLU, my drive to study abroad in Italy sky-rocketed. However, being an English and psychology double major, I found that the Florence program did not offer courses that were germane to my own areas of study. Thus, being generously granted the Clare Marie Rogers Matthews Memorial Award, I chose to follow my study in London, England in spring 2010 with a 20-day personal study trip to Florence, Italy, where I registered to take an Italian language and cooking course at the Istituto Di Michelangelo, a school in the center of the city. Through the school, I was also set up with a lovely host family, who provided me with wonderful Italian conversation and some of the best food I’ve ever had. When I wasn’t in school, I visited the art galleries, churches and sites, including the Uffizi Gallery, The Academy Art Gallery, The Bargello, the Cloisters of Santa Maria Novella and the Palatine Gallery, all of which display famous renaissance works, as well as those of Michelangelo, Brunelleschi and Donatello, three of the most influential artists of our time. In carrying out this trip, my aim was to immerse myself in Italian art and culture, both through exploring the diversity of works of art, as well as by exposing myself to the language, cuisine and overall pace of life in the city of Florence. In essence, I wanted to get a taste of the Italian way of life, both from the perspective of a young American artist as well as from that of an Italian. I wanted to blend in with the city, make it my own despite its unfamiliarity.
Soon after arriving in Florence, I realized the difficulty inherent in my goal of blending with the Florentines. Florence is a major tourist trap so the center of the city bustled with more American and Japanese visitors than it did Italians. It was on the outskirts of the city where I met the most Florentine citizens. However, the galleries, churches and museums located in the city’s center gave me greater insight into the history of Italian art. My personal favorite work was Michelangelo’s David, which stood in the center of the Academy Art Gallery, glowing with the energy of a live being. Looking at it for an hour and a half, not one moment passed when I didn’t expect him to move, jump off his pedestal and walk away. Michelangelo’s attention to human form and his accuracy in recreating every muscle curve, every bone outline, amazed me. Even David’s eyes seemed to have a soul beneath them, a strikingly human quality about them. He was beautiful, to say the least. I also visited many of the city’s churches, the most memorable of which were il Duomo, Basilica di San Lorenzo and the San Miniato al Monte. All were wonderful architectural gems to consider on my artistic journey.
In my time in Florence, I was exposed to Italian art and culture in ways that, had I not ventured there, I never would have experienced. From perfect meals, to stimulating conversation, from the church to the gelateria, Florence and I blended together just as I’d wanted after all.