Welcome to NY: AC Foundations program ventures to the Big Apple

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Kristina Wyman's picture
Caitlin Pierson

On October 26, 35 Assumption students left campus on a three-hour bus ride to New York City on a mission to explore the Metropolitan Museum of Art. At approximately 8:00 a.m., Associate Professor of Political Science and Director of the Fortin and Gonthier Foundations of Western Civilization Program, Professor Geoffrey Vaughan, loaded a coach bus with students. Most were a part of the College’s Honors and Foundations programs.

“An attempt to bring adherence to the general education requirements, the core curriculum, and try to make it coherent…because whatever your major, you have to take the core curriculum,” said Vaughan on the purpose of these programs.

“[In one of the] greatest cities in the history of the world [with] perfect confluence of politics, art, history and literature, and you get to experience it,” said Vaughan of the trip.

Students in the Foundations and Honors programs begin their college experience with Art and Politics I, a class co-taught by one art history and one political science professor. There are currently three sections of this class running. The first section of this class attempts to connect art and politics, starting with Classical Athens through the seventeenth century. The Foundations trip to the Metropolitan Museum of Art provides the perfect opportunity for students to see and experience the art they learn about in class.

“One [of the goals] is to get students into museums…students who may not think museums are something they would be interested in, or maybe ‘That’s not for me, that’s for old people’ or something like that,” said Gearhart. “There is a huge difference when you see things in person and you just cannot get the same effect from looking at a slide in class…the pictures [we see in class] are nice, but when you go to the museum, you can actually see the real thing and it has presence.”

Visiting the Metropolitan aims to give students the chance to gain a better understanding for the objects themselves, like seeing the actual size of Egyptian statues and getting up close to the detail in Greek funerary vases.

“As a professor, my goal is to help students understand that art history is not something that we just study, that it exists in the past. It’s not that it is some sort of archaic thing that is looming out there in the ether…these are things that exist,” said Gearhart. “These are things that exist in the world and have stories of their own, and have histories of their own. We have to understand those histories and those cultures for their own sake, and understand that we are living now, and these objects have a function in our own world.”

After appreciating the artwork in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, students were allowed to explore the streets of New York City. Many chose to wander the meandering paths of Central Park, taking in the picturesque scenes of the autumn trees against the city skyline background. A handful of students walked the forty blocks to Times Square to have the full Big Apple experience. With its mix of New Yorkers on lunch break, tourists taking pictures of everything and street performers awing audiences, Times Square was a bustling center of overwhelming sights, sounds and smells.

At the end of the day, 35 exhausted students reconvened on the steps of the Met and, after a quick head count, loaded back on the bus for the three hour ride home.

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