I sat down with Ryan Gaylor over coffee to discuss his summer study abroad experience. Ryan is a junior Dramaturgy and Journalism double major from Atlanta, Georgia.
L: How do you identify as an artist?
I consider myself as a theater artist, as a Dramaturg. Overall, I consider myself a storyteller and the uniting thread between my two majors (dramaturgy and journalism) is my interest in stories, and how they’re told, and how to tell them well.
L: How much of your life in the United States is influenced by art/dedicated to art?
A large portion of my time is spent thinking about art in one way or another. My journalism stuff I don’t consider art as much because it is inherently more functional, but there’s definitely an art to it, and an overlap between the things I do as a journalist and a theater artist.
L: Where did you study Abroad?
I studied abroad in Italy, in Tuscany. I spent a few days in Rome and spent the majority of my time in Arezzo. I also traveled to Florence, Cinque Terre , Pompeii, and other cities along the Mediterranean Coast. I was there, altogether, for a month in the summer of 2017.
L: What was the purpose of your trip? Why did you decide to go?
I traveled with the Gaylord College of Journalism through OU. The program was Marketing and Advertising and Documentary and Film. We had two projects that we worked on: we created a documentary about Arezzo and we helped a museum in Arezzo re-brand to reach a modern audience in Arezzo. It was a veey project based program.
I knew I wanted to study abroad somewhere. I have traveled all my life. It was something my dad instilled in me as being important– that experiences are more important than material things, that it’s important to broaden yourself. I was attracted to this program because it seemed interesting, especially the hands-on project based work.
L: What were ways you specifically/intentionally interacted with art while in Italy?
We visited the Uffizi Mueseum in Florence. I studied art history when I was younger and I knew the significance of many pieces to the narrative of art history, and it was extremely cool to see in person the pieces that I had studied. Having that background knowledge was cool. I sought out pieces I studie: Birth of Venus, Primavera. Going to Vatican was insane. I’m not religious but I’ve always visited European churches because they are so intrinsically linked with the artistic history of Europe. So going to the Vatican, with its sheer quantity, was incredible. I am an artist but I did not go there as an artist.
In Arezzo, worked with this dead man’s collection of antique items. He was one of the founders of Arezzo’s famous antique fair. It was neat to see through the lens of this collector to see what was artistically and historically valuable. His house, Ivan Bruschi House Museum was converted into a museum.
Overall, I was interacting with historic art more than contemporary. Florence was where the Renaissance was centered so everything I was exposed to was very connected to that and the Renaissance in general.
L: Based on your experiences, how would you describe the artistic culture?
I think one of the biggest differences between the artistic culture there and the artistic culture here is that is has such deep historic roots– most of the art I saw there was older than our country. There’s a much deeper sense of history, and coming from something, and continuing a tradition, rather than creating something knew. Now, this is all based on my own experiences, and I’m not the expert, but this is what I noticed in general.
L: How do you think their artistic culture has affected their culture in general in their day to day life?
There’s a sense of connection to the past. There are buildings that have been around for a couple thousand years, whereas in the US we don’t even have that a little. Common root, the ties to history, etc.
L:How would you describe the artistic culture of the United States?
There’s a big cultural emphasis on what’s happening next and, y’know, what are we going to do that’s new? What are we going to do next? I didn’t get that impression, and it might have just been because it wasn’t the scene I was interacting with. In the United States, art from different locations feels different and is different, but there is not as much sense of place in the art itself. There isn’t as much of a sense of coming from the place it’s coming from or history informing art.
L: How does the artistic culture affect US artistic life?
I think it’s reflected a lot more in industrial design, and there’s a lot more exposure to art in the work place than their used to be. I also feel like our art is very loud and opinionated, which is a reflection of our culture. If you look at a lot of US contemporary art, it’s a lot of “We’re making a statement. We’re making a point.” American art is as loud as we are and it could be that one just fuels the other.
L: How would you say your experiences abroad have affected you as an artist back in the US?
More than anything, I would say it has given me a greater sense of context and the ability to place where we are now (in terms of “Western Art History”). I’ve been able to see where we fit in and experience things that we’ve been discussing, artistically, for centuries, and the ideological connections that go with them. It’s been very powerful to see how the ideology of places affects the type of art that’s created and the ability to see how time, thoughts, and art have progressed have been beneficial.