A highlight of many Romers’ trips while in Europe is the opportunity to see the famous museums and famous works of art scattered across the continent. The Capitoline Museums in Rome, the Louvre in France and the Vatican Museums are just a few locations where students go to see the fabulous artwork that has played such a pivotal role in Western civilization.
UD’s Due Santi Rome campus also shares its own art collection. Yet unlike the aged displays of Europe’s oldest cities, the art display on the campus is actually quite new.
This display has recently been added as part of a larger project by Dr. Peter Hatlie, the Vice President, Dean and Director of the Rome campus. Not only that, but it is also part of a larger effort on part of the plan to improve and beautify the Rome campus.
Hatlie detailed that this effort has gone back all the way to when the art exhibit used to be known as Shakespeare Alley.
He described how the hallway had originally not been in the best shape — it was poorly lit and not well ventilated, meaning leaves and water would pile up and sometimes be a home for some of the local wildlife, and not just the cute local cats. It had also originally been decorated with a mural roughly twenty years ago by a man named Jon Bird, who had formerly been a Rome coordinator.
Yet time took its toll as the paint began to chip away and weather faded the original image. So about five years go, Hatlie and the Due Santi staff undertook a campaign to help remodel parts of the Rome campus. This included the Library and Aula Minore, for example, which were remodeled and furnished with new furniture and a new air-conditioning system for students to use.
Then came the idea to spruce up Shakespeare Alley.
Hatlie explained how the pictures were taken by a professional wine photographer named Michael Housewright, who has worked closely with UD for many years. They contain various scenes and images from popular sites in Rome. One includes a picture of the dome from St. Peter’s, and another that is titled “Stacked Life” which features some of the housing complexes one will find in Italy.
What makes the pictures so enchanting is how realistic they are. They are almost all-consuming and make the viewer feel as if they are at the location themselves. As Hatlie commented, you won’t find such pictures on a Twitter profile or Instagram account.
“Even though you are using a machine, it is still an artistic enterprise,” said Hatlie. Despite the modern medium of cameras, we should appreciate the pictures for the good art that they are.
Yet Hatlie explained that there is more to the art exhibit than simply a campus touch-up.
Hatlie believes that the art exhibit serves a much greater purpose; it helps allow the Rome campus to live up to its name, both in terms of its beauty and because of what the Rome program means to the UD community.
One recurring observation from visitors to Due Santi is that the campus does a phenomenal job integrating itself into the surrounding landscape while also maintaining its distinct identity as an American campus.
“It incorporates the best of Italian beauty and American efficiency,” said Hatlie.
He believes that this exhibit is part of a larger effort to “re-qualify” the Rome campus, helping improve its visual aesthetic while also maintaining its efficiency.
This effort is an ongoing task. Hatlie stated that his next project is to fix a decommissioned tennis court on campus and turn it into an orangery — a large and permanent gazebo or conservatory, in other words — perfect for leisure, reflection and study. Nor is the current art display permanent — sacred art for example could end up in the alley, and pieces made by students could potentially be displayed if they help to exemplify the beauty of the Rome campus.
The emphasis on art is incredibly important to a liberal arts-centered institution such as UD. As Hatlie described, an encounter with visual and performing arts can be a transformative experience — good for heart and soul — and I concur.
Though I’ve never been a major art enthusiast, I have come to always enjoy my visits to art museums while in the city or simply admiring the statues and ruins I come across while walking the roads of Rome. This is one of the many positives of traveling to Europe. You get to visit the places where some of the most important people and ideas of our civilization originated from, such as the land traversed by Achilles and Odysseus in Greece or the Scavi tours where one can see some of the bones of St. Peter.
Reading about these things in a textbook is all well and good, but there is a truly invigorating feeling of walking the same paths and gazing upon the same creations of the titans we study in school. The art exhibit and the Rome campus as a whole help to make this a reality for all of UD’s students.