University of Houston-Clear Lake art students and faculty experienced a taste of another culture and a feast of new ideas through a recent International Arts Consortium trip to Mexico during the spring semester.
Eight students and three faculty members traveled to Xalapa in Veracruz, Mexico to learn from faculty and students at Universidad de Veracruzana, a partner with UHCL in the International Arts Consortium.
UHCL Professor of Art Sandria Hu led the trip during UHCL’s spring break in March. The consortium’s mission is to foster collaboration through foreign exchange workshops, lectures, exhibitions and study. Hu said one of the most valuable aspects of the trips are the experiences students gain.
“If you are inside a pyramid touching and examining a wall, you learn something that can’t be taught in a classroom – something that can only be experienced,” she said.
Art and design senior Rosa Valdovinos called the trip “motivational,” a reflection of her goal of being engaged and involved in her college experience.
“In college, it’s important to surround yourself with the kind of people you want to be, the kind of energy you want to be a part of,” she said. “It’s so important to grasp and absorb everything.”
Students studied under local faculty and artists in a variety of mediums that ranged from printmaking and ceramics to sketching and photography. Valdovinos, who focuses on drawing and painting in her own work, said creating art in other styles was a worthwhile challenge.
“If you stay in your comfort zone, that’s not how you learn,” she said. “You have to be exposed to different mediums, different artists and different minds in order to grow.”
An experience that stood out to her was creating a book from scratch, then using her hand-made book to record sketches during the trip.
“The book-making was a challenge. I enjoyed it so much because of the process,” she said.
Meeting and interacting with local students and artists was a key focus of the trip – UHCL students often mingled with about 20 local art students between workshops. In addition to the hands-on experiences, the UHCL group also toured local art museums, anthropology museums and, of course, the local food scene.
Hu, who has led many similar trips of student artists throughout the world, said the variety of experiences on the trip was key to its success.
“This was one of the best trips ever we’ve had in Mexico because of the places we were able to visit and experience. We took the students on some archaeological tours that included to the pyramids. We also visited a ceramic factory,” she said. “Everyone on the trip gained information about cultural differences and about creating art from a different perspective. Students not only looked at art from an academic point of view, but also from a creative one.”
The consortium was created in 2003 and now includes UHCL, Universidad de Veracruzana; University of West Bohemia in Plzen, Czech Republic; University of Arts, Faculty of Fine Arts, in Belgrade, Serbia; Academy of Fine Arts and Design in Bratislava, Slovakia; and Kherson Educational-Aesthetic Complex in Kherson, Ukraine.