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Here We Are in Florence!

Here We Are in Florence! April 13, 2016
Here We Are in Florence!

Five Days in Florence

Daily posts and photos from ACM faculty and consortial staff during the site visit to the ACM Florence program.
Day 2 >

Above: Approaching Florence by air.

Day 1: Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Posted by Christopher Welna, ACM President

Here we are in Florence for the start of our faculty site visit. The second group of students in the ACM London & Florence: Arts in Context program are midway through their time here, after spending the first half of the term in London.

I’m with six ACM faculty. Each proposed compelling ideas for on-site lectures they could give, while getting to know the program, its faculty, staff, and site. They include mathematician Tom Halverson from Macalester, religion professor Ben Zeller from Lake Forest, art historian Rebecca Tucker from Colorado, art historian and environmental studies professor Jo Ortel from Beloit, art historian Greg Gilbert from Knox, and theater professor Susan Wolverton from Coe. You can imagine the conversation across these fields!

Coffee breakProfessors Jo Ortel, Ben Zeller, and Rebecca Tucker take a coffee break.

Our immersion in the legacies of history, art, and knowledge from the 15th and 16th centuries began as we flew into the international airport named for Amerigo Vespucci. Vespucci grew up in Florence and the Americas gained their name from the maps he drew to demonstrate these new lands — at first thought to be part of Asia, but actually another continent entirely. Americus was the Latin version of his first name.

After a 15-minute drive past rows of plane trees, with their smooth, peeling bark, and buildings the color of champagne and peaches, we arrived at our hotel. It overlooks a statue of Justice on a pillar, put there by Cosimo Medici to emphasize his new regime. A block away is the Fiume River.

View from the hotel of Piazza Santa Trinita and the statue of Justice.
The group goes to dinner. From left: Greg Gilbert, Jo Ortel, Ben Zeller, Susan Wolverton, Kristi Fackel (Macalester), Rebecca Tucker, Tom Halverson, Jodie Mariotti, and Andrew Whitfield.

This is a program where students take up big questions. What is beauty? How does the material construction of beauty change? What are the social and political foundations of art? How are knowledge and art entwined? How do we decide what to preserve, memorialize, celebrate, or toss out from history?

This week, the students will engage with ideas from six people who have thought about these questions themselves from quite different perspectives. That is the beauty of liberal arts education.

Jodie MariottiJodie Mariotti with her motorino.

We met for dinner to go over our plans for the week with our hosts, Program Director Jodie Mariotti, Program Coordinator Rosita Cirri, and the ACM Affiliated Scholar Andrew Whitfield from Luther.

Strolling back to the hotel we savored the warm air, Italian cooking, and muffled sounds of the city tucking itself in. Jodie jumped on her motorbike to head off to her home next to the spot that was once Galileo’s home. We said our goodbyes for the evening looking forward to meeting the students in the morning and to seeing some of the extraordinary treasures in this city through the eyes of the students and our visiting companions.

Photos courtesy of Christopher Welna.

Five Days in Florence

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