Every advanced society throughout human history has supported art, be it sculpture, painting, photography, mosaic, mural, or some combination. Study art abroad and you’ll be able to experience the pieces you’ve read about in books and seen in pictures with your own eyes, and develop a new understanding of their creation. From ancient iconography to Picasso’s Blue Period, the world is chock-full of museums and historical sites waiting for you to take in their beauty!
Why Study Art Abroad
Studying art abroad offers several perks, but none so great as the possibility to experience ancient and world famous art first hand. The history of art is a long and winding story, ranging in style, always reflecting the environment and society in which it was made.
Art is a unique field that combines timelessness with a specific moment in time. Therefore, to fully understand a piece or artist, secondhand information can only take you so far. The most important benefit of studying art abroad is the chance to experience and learn in a way that just isn’t possible in a domestic education. Experiencing the culture and the day to day lives of the people of a city sheds light on the perspective of the artist who used to call it home. The same can be said for taking in the landscape, the weather, and learning about the time and mood of the work.
Even if you are studying a type of art born of your country, it is still fascinating to see other foreign artists' interpretations of the style, and give you a more well-rounded view and understanding of the art itself. The chance to experience the culture, society, and people that influenced an artist and their work gives you an incredible chance to get back to the source and the roots. With this advantage and a deeper understanding of the field in general, you can return to your home university and move forward with a bigger picture than any book or documentary could ever give you.
When choosing where to study art abroad, it’s helpful to think of what art in particular interests you. When art and art history are concerned, choosing a city in Europe is never a bad idea. One, because the continent happens to be home to some of the richest collections of art in the world, and two, because the ability to hop from place to place will increase the sheer volume of sites and art work you can see.
An obvious starting place for students really interested in studying artistic masters is Florence, Italy. Home to a few minor players, such as Michaelangelo, da Vinci, and Raphael, (obviously we were kidding about the “minor” part) you’ll find many studios and schools still operating, churning out these artists style of work today. While studying art in Florence, the city will become your gallery. Not only with the mammoth Uffitzi, housing major work, sketches, sculpture, and lesser known pieces, give you plenty of inspiration, but with frescoes covering church walls and ceilings all over the city you will be literally surrounded by art. You may even wish you never had to blink in this art-packed city.
For students looking for a more varied experience, you’ll never run out of works of art to see in Paris, France. France’s capital city is home to the infamous Louvre, which houses over 35,000 works of art, including the Mona Lisa. Most tourists never the get the chance to see each piece, let alone study them. The chance to live and study art in Paris for a semester or year will give you the gift of time with one of the world’s largest collections. If such classic work ever begins to bore you, there’s always Paris’ Belleville district, where you’ll find a modern art movement bursting with new talent and fresh ideas.
London, similarly has the National Gallery, the Tate Modern, the Tate Britain, the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the British Museum, just to name a few. A legacy of wealthy collectors, and of course the Royal Family, has left the city filled with collections big and small. Tere are even some collections you may stumble upon by accident; for example, if you find yourself in the world’s largest collection of Knight’s Armour or small pottery. There is enough artwork in London to fill several lifetimes, and it varies from early oil paintings to modern interactive sculpture installations.
Of course, Europe isn't hogging all of the beautiful art in the world. Australia boasts art that is second to none too. Students who appreciate cartoon art will be remiss if they don't check out study abroad programs in Japan as well. Lastly, for those who love indigenous arts, Ecuador and Peru are incredible destinations to study art abroad.
Art Study Abroad Programs
Art students will have an easy time finding relevant courses to take abroad. Art study abroad programs focused on the history of art in a specific country, and even composition or studio art, are offered in any art heavy city around the world. Each city takes pride in teaching its own artistic traditions; it won’t be hard to find the connection between offered art courses and the surrounding artwork.
One common theme from program to program is the emphasis on learning from local practitioners and artists. The opportunity to study art abroad under a working artist or scholar in the midst of a fast-paced academic experience is priceless. Not a typical classroom, most art study abroad programs will involve class meetings at museums and various sites, for example the National Gallery, the Santa Maria Novella, or even the Louvre, to see work in its true home (instead of projected on a screen).
Many students will have the chance to participate in art internships during their study abroad program at museums and galleries in beautiful cities across the world, seeing a side of the art world that will give them a competitive edge in the future. If you’re looking for something more hands on, you could work to expand your portfolio by interning in a studio while studying art abroad, possibly working with new materials or subject matter. Using the world’s premier museums and masters as your teachers will be a truly priceless experience. You might feel less like a local and more like a tourist, but you’ll still see, smell, and feel original work yourself (actually, probably don’t touch).
Benefits & Challenges
Traveling abroad always offers great opportunity as well as obstacles. For young artists, studying art abroad offers the chance to be introduced to new perspectives and worldviews. Seeing a new way of life and living a new lifestyle yourself can breathe new life into students’ creativity and artwork. Additionally, the chance to meet new people and learn from the artwork of others is exciting for an artist!
Depending on the length of your art study abroad program, you may need to pack your art materials in your suitcase. In some locations you may find lower quality art supplies or unfamiliar brushes, cancasses, pencils, etc.
Another challenge you may face in studying art abroad is the sheer volume of new work and experiences you may be exposed to; depending on the time you have, you may feel overwhelmed or your sense may feel overloaded. Instead of trying to take in every single thing, it may be helpful to take baby steps and look at your time as an opportunity to grow and learn from what you see naturally, rather than being focused on seeing everything.