Three West Liberty University students received a chance to travel to the heart of Europe and work on their printmaking skills in what turned out to be a life changing experience recently.
Faculty member and visual artist Martyna Matusiak escorted Amanda Carney, Emily Hastings, and Abbie Merryman, and coordinated their activities during the trip, June 16 – July 5, 2013.
The group stayed in what is known as the Hungarian Multi-Cultural Center and worked in the art studio, enjoyed sight seeing, sketched outside and visited museums and art galleries during their stay. The busy center is located in Budapest, the capital city of Hungary and one of the largest cities in the European Union.
“The experience was quite an eye opener for my students. We lived and made art for about three weeks. We were immersed in new language, art life, lifestyle and culture. There were moments where we felt uncomfortable – but that’s essential for visual artists,” Matusiak said. “We want to get stimulated and everything around us was new and unknown. It provoked us to try new things not only in life, but also in our artistic practice.”
The work that the students made is now in Budapest and was exhibited at the Barnabas Villa Gallery, where it hung for several weeks in a public display.
“I thought the trip was life altering as an artist. I left as a student, and came back an entrepreneur. Not only did I have a new thirst to learn, but also the need. It helped me grow as a person as well, and I feel that I see the world in a newer way, with eyes a little more wide open,” said Merryman, who is studying art education and is from Bellaire, Ohio.
Considered one of the most beautiful cities in Europe, Budapest is situated on the banks of the Danube River and also ranks as a financial hub of Central Europe. It is home to approximately 1.74 million people.
“The part that stood out to me wasn’t art related. I was actually taken aback by the large amount of enthusiasm elders had to continue on with their lives and not slow to a stop. They were out sweeping street corners, walking home with large bags of groceries, selling flowers and occupied almost every seat on the buses. I was so surprised. I really admired their ability to carry on with integrity, and not expect any help,” she added.
“I am very grateful to everyone in West Liberty’s administration who assisted in making this trip happen. I especially want to thank Dean Bill Baronak, the chairman of the Department of Arts and Communication Brian Fencl and the WLU Internationalization Committee for their support,” she said.
Matusiak herself is multicultural, having moved to the United States from Poland for graduate school in 2007. She earned her Master’s in Fine Arts degree at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and now lives in Pittsburgh.
“I love teaching at West Liberty and enjoy the students and the campus very much,” she added. She teaches printmaking, silkscreen and advanced drawing. Her own artistic practice combines all these mediums.
“This type of effort from a first year faculty member just shows what great people we have on campus. This was a unique educational opportunity for these students,” said Baronak. “Everyone from Academic Affairs Senior Administrative Assistant Beverly Burke to the business office and the International Committee worked to make this possible. We are looking forward to having the students share their experiences with us.”
“The students have an active Facebook page that shows the amazing work that they did in Budapest and the Hungarian artists we met. It includes short film clips, so we encourage everyone to take a look at West Liberty University Printmaking the next time you’re on Facebook,” added Matusiak.
West Liberty University offers undergraduate degrees in art education, graphic design, digital media design and most recently, creative arts therapy. It also is home to the Nutting Art Gallery, which features public exhibitions throughout the year.
For more information on the art department, please visit westliberty.edu/art or contact Matusiak by calling 304-336-8417.