New UI European Ceramics Studio study abroad course headed to Rome

The UI School of Art and Art History is traveling to Rome, Italy this winter in the brand-new European Ceramics Studio study abroad course. Partnered with Creta Rome, students will spend their mornings learning about ceramics in the studio and their afternoons traveling to historical locations.


Anaka Sanders, Arts Reporter

A class of University of Iowa students will travel to Rome, Italy this winter to learn about ceramics in both a studio setting and at historical sites.

Andrew Casto, UI School of Art and Art History Program Head of Ceramics, said students were supposed to travel abroad for the European Ceramics Studio in 2020, but was delayed by COVID-19.

“The program was written such that it could be adapted to lots of different locations,” Casto said. “The idea is that we will hopefully do this every three years or so. We will travel to a new place each time within Europe. We picked Rome as a sort of a trial run because the people that run the facility in Rome that we’re headed to are good friends of mine.”

The course will take place in collaboration with Creta Rome, an international center for ceramics and the arts in Rome, Italy. Casto first met Paolo Porelli and Lori Ann Touchette, the center’s husband-and-wife co-owners, at the Archie Bray Foundation, a ceramics residency in Montana in 2012.

Touchette is an American art historian, while Porelli is an Italian ceramic artist. Creta is the Italian word for clay, and is also used as an acronym: ceramics, residency, exhibitions, teaching, and the arts.

“We started out with an emphasis on the residency program, but over the years, we’ve expanded,” Touchette said. “We have not only weekly ceramic classes, but we also occasionally do workshops, both in ceramics and drawing.”

Once the students arrive in Rome, they will stay in an old convent that has been reimagined as a hotel still run by nuns. Casto describes the building as a beautiful, historical place right in the center of Rome. They will leave for Italy on Dec. 29 and arrive back in Iowa City on Jan. 12.

The course is open to any UI student, though the majority going are undergraduate and graduate students focused on ceramics. Students will split their time in half between working in the studio in the Creta center and going on visits to historical sites like the National Etruscan Museum, the Vatican Museums, and the Colosseum.

“We have simultaneously a really top-notch contemporary ceramic sculptor to give us instruction on studio things and a very well-educated and decorated scholar of ancient Rome to talk to us about the physical stuff that we’re seeing,” Casto said.

Students will learn the traditional Italian glazing technique of Maiolica as the main study point for the studio work and visits.

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Madelynn Langridge, a UI ceramics student and art education major pursuing her bachelor’s in fine arts, learned about the study abroad course last spring from Casto.

“The whole experience — going abroad, meeting people from a different culture, doing what I love, in another space, and experiencing Italian culture and Italian and Roman history firsthand, rather than just seeing it in photos — will be really, really cool,” Langridge said.