Blog 1: Art - Themed Day, May 4, 2018

Our day began early at 8:30. 4 stops on the tram later, we arrived at the beautiful Belvedere grounds. We first captured the moment on the steps of the palace before heading inside for the tour.

We had a tour guide named Marcus who was extremely knowledgeable and passionate about the grounds. The main tourist attraction to this place was Gustav Klimt - specifically The Kiss. My mom lived and worked in Austria for a few years after college. Because of her experience, I grew up watching her get excited every time there was Klimt painting on sale at Ikea. It was familiar and new seeing the painting in person. I find the evolution of technology interesting in museum behavior. Of course everyone was trying to get a picture of this iconic painting. But it’s funny to imagine people even 30 years ago just enjoying the art free of cell phones. I wish I could experience more museums in the time before the iPhone.

One section I enjoyed was the 1950s photography. These quotes from the exhibit stuck out to me:

“People should feel they are looking into a mirror when they see the exhibit - as the basic purpose is to show how alike we all are, from Bombay to Boston.” -Edward Steichen

“...the best authorities are unanimous in saying that a war with hydrogen bombs is quite likely to put an end to the human race...there will be universal death - sudden only for a fortunate minority, but for the majority a slow torture of disease and disintegration…”
-Bertrand Russell

I thought both of them captured the commonality of the human struggle and search for meaning. It’s incredibly interesting to me that our species from the age of Prince Eugene of Savoy (as described by Marcus), to the present, have the same desire for acceptance, purpose, and safety.

After touring the museum, a large group of us walked around the grounds before heading to a nearby cafe called Huber’s. Our lunch was spectacular and it was the first time we had all ventured into a new restaurant as a group. My three roommates and I get along well and I’m looking forward to getting to know all 16 students of the class!

Blog 2: Music - Themed Day, May 5, 2018

Today was exciting because it was our first performance! Our day started at 12 with a lecture and I was thankfully able to catch up on some sleep. I’ve loved living in the center ring of the city because there’s always something going on. When I’m closing the windows at 2am to sleep, or waking up at 9am to have some coffee, the streets are perpetually buzzing with excitement.

I enjoyed today’s lecture in many ways. I haven’t been “classically” trained in music since I was in 3rd grade and played piano. Thus, all the basics we touched on were familiar while also new. While I knew what some of the clefs were, I began to understand how to interpret music staffs in a way I never comprehended before. I was also fascinated by the connection between history and art. While it now sounds obvious to say the state of a society affects the art created, it wasn’t something I had thought about before. It was interesting to hear about the spread of music as well as it’s advancement over different time periods. It seems that the separation of church and state in England during the Renaissance really sparked creativity in artists across Europe.

Tonight we attended a ballet at the State Opera House. It wasn’t one story, such as the Nutcracker, but rather a collection of different scenes. The first was very dark. The dancers wore dark or neutral clothes and hit their poses with a heavier, intense weight. The following scenes were cheerful and dancers with colorful costumes performed with a light, fast movement.

My favorite scene came towards the end. The dancers began using umbrellas and were first walking in lanes as if they were passing each other on a city street, each carrying an umbrella. I saw this as a representation of the inner struggles or past experiences we all carry with us. Next, the dancers began coupling up and walking together with one umbrella. I thought this represented relationships and friendships we form to get through hard times together. Next, large crowds of dancers began following pairs that were under an umbrella. I thought this was a great representation of people spreading themselves thin with the intention of helping others. This eventually led to a formation with a singular dancer holding an umbrella and all the dancers surrounding her. She first tried to cover everyone with the umbrella before closing it. I saw this ending as a representation of the power of humanity when united. I’m not sure if this was the purpose of the scene, but I enjoyed the many possibilities of symbolism behind it.

Blog 3- Program Reflection, May 21, 2018

Thinking that I just started this program 3 weeks ago is incredible. I’ve grown so much in this short amount of time.

On a personal level, the independence I’ve gained has been a huge accomplishment. During the first week or two, I told myself I had no sense of direction (I really don’t) and always relied on others for finding my way around. However, with time I learned how to use the subway and grew familiar with the area. I went on runs with a group a few times and am proud to say I feel comfortable enough to run on my own through the parks, something I never would have thought possible a month ago. I even got a little lost a few days ago. Instead of panicking, I enjoyed wandering the city by myself. On a rainy day, I went to a cafe alone and enjoyed reflecting on my experiences. I think an important part of growth is being able to do things independently, and I’m definitely more prepared and comfortable in conquering any city alone than I would have been before the trip.

I also met so many people of different backgrounds. People whose schools couldn’t afford to put on plays. People whose relatives have been trying to become US citizens for 15 years. People who worried about having enough money to pay for outings during this program. Getting to know a diverse group reminded me of my blessings and opened my eyes to the infinite backgrounds U of M students come from. Excluding the class lectures, simply getting to know the students on this program has exposed me to invaluable lessons about the human experience.

As far as activities go, I thought we attended a vast range of performances and were exposed to all types of music. From opera, ballet, baroque, and jazz ensembles, we truly saw all Vienna had to offer. My knowledge of the history and develop of music over different artistic periods has definitely grown. I’ve also been exposed to a variety of artists both in and out of Europe thanks to our museum days. This program has given me a great understanding of how society influences art and vice versa, as well as memories and friendships I will treasure for a lifetime.