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Campus Celebrity: Katie Paolano

Katie Paolano ’16 had one amazing summer, and is ready for her junior fall at Amherst, check it out!

1)Where was your program this summer?

I studied painting and the art history and architecture of Renaissance Venice in Venice, Italy through Boston University’s College of Fine Arts.

2)Why did you choose this location/program?

Playing field hockey and lacrosse, I knew I wouldn’t be able to go abroad as a junior like most of my friends, but it was something that I’ve always aspired to do. I traveled to Italy with my family growing up, but I had never been to Venice. Reading up on all of the incredible programs in Italy, it was tough to choose. But Venice had everything I was looking for. For one, it’s an absolutely beautiful city, but it also has such an incredible history and has birthed so many of Italy’s renowned Renaissance artists, I knew it was the place for me. It’s a pretty small city and not touristy, so I was able to fully immerse in the history and culture.  

3)What is the craziest thing you did?

The coolest thing about my art history course was the fact that we didn’t have a designated classroom. We would meet each day in an ancient church or a famous museum and spend hours studying the art and architecture.

The craziest thing I did would probably be the weekend that I flew off to Paris for a day and a half and sprinted through the Louvre ignoring Michelangelos and Caravaggios just to see the Mona Lisa, while narrowly missing my flight back to Italy. Either that or the night a friend and I got drinks with two old Italian men over eighty who spoke absolutely no English.

4)What is the biggest lesson you learned?

I certainly grew as an individual while living in Venice. The hardest thing at first was knowing where the heck I was. I would say I have a pretty good sense of direction, but the thing about Venice is that all the canals look exactly the same and you make one wrong turn and you either end up walking in a circle for an hour or at a complete dead end into a canal. So once I memorized the map and figured out where I was and how to get around, I was able to develop a religious schedule. I would leave my apartment and get espresso at the same little café every morning to the point where they knew my order and even offered me a job.  After class, I’d stop at all the fresh fish and vegetable/fruit stands which were actually on boats, and pick out what to make for dinner that night.

I also learned how to paint with oil paint for the first time, which was definitely an adjustment, but so rewarding. I’ve never been professionally trained in painting, I pretty much just grew up experimenting with acrylics and water colors, so to spend four hours with an easel along the canal experimenting with techniques that were developed in this very country, was pretty incredible to me. Being so busy at Amherst, it was relaxing to finally be able to get away from all the stress of the American culture and literally just paint the day away with nothing to worry about but the brush in my hand.

5)If you can pick one, what is your favorite memory from the summer?

My favorite memory was definitely when my family came to visit me. By the time they came to Venice, I was already comfortable with the city, so I was able to take them around and show them all the best restaurants and the most exclusive canals and secret gardens.

6)What would you say to someone considering doing this program, but wasn’t positive they wanted to?

It was definitely an art-intensive program. Most of the other students in the program are fine arts majors and had way more experience than I did, so that was probably my greatest challenge. But if I did it all over again, I would go back to Venice in a heartbeat. It’s the perfect city for someone who is looking for a historically beautiful site, while avoiding the hectic tourism of a big city.

7)What your looking forward to most this year at Amherst?

After spending my summer abroad focusing on art, I realized that I wanted to pursue both the studio arts and history of art here at Amherst. I decided to put my pre-medical studies on hold until after graduation, in order to focus on what I truly love to do. With that, I am now able to double major in English and Art and the History of Art. I am most looking forward to my photography course with just eight students that meets every Friday. We travel to a site within a 50 mile radius from Amherst, and spend the entire day photographing, to later combine what we have created into a single book. I have also created a Special Topics course for which I will be illustrating a children’s book that Christopher Tamasi ’15 is writing for his senior thesis. It’s not like anything I’ve ever done before, but I’m really excited to work with him and be able to express my artistic side in a different way.

8) What I miss most about being abroad?

The food. Easy. The ingredients are so fresh it’s incredible. And everyone knows Italian food is the best anyway. Coming in at a close second is the drinking age. I really do miss the way they pour wine like it’s water.

Amherst College Senior, Amherst, MA. Member of Amherst Women's Varsity ice hockey team. Hometown is Washington, D.C
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