“It was a life-enhancing experience...The feeling of family and community is so strong in Argentina. That really inspired me.”
Argentina Trip Weaves Art into Learning
Sharon Wilson relished the opportunity to expand her horizons through Armstrong Atlantic State University’s annual Art in Argentina study abroad program.
“It was a life-enhancing experience,” says Sharon, a Savannah native who attended the study abroad program in 2009 as a rising senior. “I enjoyed learning about cultures that are so vastly different than anything I’ve ever experienced before. The feeling of family and community is so strong in Argentina. That really inspired me.”
Every summer, students have the opportunity to travel through Argentina, learning about indigenous cultural traditions and art forms that define various regions of the country. The program showcases the rich culture of the nation’s capital, Buenos Aires, but places a special emphasis on the rural Andean Northwest, with its rainforests and high desert landscapes. For centuries, artists and artisans have created original pottery, weavings and bone carvings throughout this off-the-beaten-path area in Argentina.
“Northwest Argentina is home to a lot of indigenous cultures with distinctive craft traditions, including a rich weaving history,” said Rachel Green, a professor art at Armstrong who has organized the study abroad program in Argentina for the past three years. “The students get to meet artists from other countries and learn how the environment, the culture and the people are all interconnected.”
Through this innovative cross-cultural exchange, Armstrong students have engaged in a wide range of projects to support Argentinean artisans. Study abroad students have designed a web site to promote the artists’ free trade goods and have purchased handmade items, taking them back to the United States to sell and then delivering the profits to the artists on the next trip to Argentina.
In addition to enjoying the opportunity to photograph, draw or paint in Argentina, study abroad students stay in the city of Salta, where ancient Incan vestiges blend with a Spanish colonial legacy. They also spend time on a family ranch, practicing traditional Andean crafts and customs, exploring local caves and learning about the indigenous Calchaquí people.
“This trip really expands students’ understanding of the culture,” said Professor Green. “The international travel gives our students the chance to learn about cultures directly, without the filter of the media. It gives them a direct experience and broadens their definition of what’s possible. It takes them outside themselves and encourages them to draw upon new skills.”