Exhibition Opening in Orvieto

Every December in Orvieto, Italy, rich traditions surrounding the birth of Christ are celebrated throughout the city. Buone Feste and Buon Natale are added to the usual daily greetings of buongiorno, ciao and arrivederci. Nativity scenes abound: in storefronts, churches and grottoes, including one below Orvieto’s cathedral, the Duomo. Styles range from traditional porcelain miniatures, wooden carvings handed down from generation to generation, to others arranged by friends and parishioners in the different quarters of the city.

Like in America, it is also the time of year when young people return home from University and fill the streets during the holiday season from Christmas to Epiphany. Further enhanced by the-end-of-the-year Umbria Jazz Festival, the town comes to life with young people and others from all parts of the world.

A more recent tradition echoing this goodwill each Christmas season is the bi-annual Gordon in Orvieto exhibition. The semester-end event welcomes Orvieto residents and business owners to the Gordon residence to celebrate the holiday and to extend our appreciation for the months of inspiration the Orvieto community helped foster in the lives of the students. Throughout the week, news outlets based in Orvieto have posted “Arte degli studenti del Gordon College” tweets and feature spotlights about the four-month long study abroad experience that has become such a unique part of Orvieto life.

The open house event takes place tonight and includes music from a local band and food prepared by bakeries in town and the program cook, Maria Battistini—all surrounded by an exhibition of the students’ artwork, poetry and reflections from the course of the semester. Each Mostra, the Italian word for exhibition, is collective by design since displaying the work of the entire semester made by the students.

“This semester we have students from six different colleges and diverse majors in art, history, education, English and psychology,” said program director Matt Doll. “Thematically, the work has emerged to reflect a common thread of mapping through encounter. We have attempted to go further than before in addressing how our work reflects our reading of the city, and what representation and place might mean in a local geography saturated by layers of historical identity.” According to Doll, now serving his eighth year as director, this takes place every semester by, “living in a convent as a community focused upon the dialogue between the inner and outer aspects of experience.” Living in relationship to their community as neighbors in Orvieto, Doll creates a space where his students are faced with the relational challenges of friendship and mutual care in this convent. “When we open the door for our Mostra, we are inviting the conversation to go deeper by allowing our visions, our words and images of this city to join the memories and narratives that have expressed the character of this city for thousands of years. The exhibition reflects our belief that participation and engagement are essential to genuine cultural exchange.”

The Mostra also includes a charitable component when selected student artworks will be for sale to raise money for an Italian family living in Kenya fostering six children.

Gordon’s lively presence in Orvieto continues in January with a two-week Jerusalem and Athens Forum winter seminar in Orvieto with John Skillen, director of the Studio for Art, Faith, and History and Graeme Bird, associate professor of linguistics and classics, teaching “Harmony and Music from Homer to the Renaissance Humanists.” Learn more about other spring events, hosted by the Orvieto-based Studio for Art, Faith and History and the spring Gordon in Orvieto semester through the Global Education Office.