Gift helps Washburn art students study abroad
Peru's architecture and biodiversity provided inspiration for 15 students studying abroad with the Washburn Department of Art.
One learned new pottery techniques. Another will use bugs she saw as imagery for her painting. They all saw art, architecture and nature in 11 days traveling from the coastal city of Lima to the low-lying Amazon rainforest and to points in the Andes Mountains between Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca reaching 14,000 feet.
Students provided some of their own funding for the trip. The rest was made possible by Washburn Transformational Experience scholarships and a private gift from long-time art supporter John Adams, honorary doctor of humane letters ’08.
Adams, 93, is a retired architect from Topeka who has supported fine arts at Washburn for 28 years. His contributions of more than $350,000 have made student travel and other fine arts initiatives possible throughout the years and he is including a generous gift for Washburn in his estate to continue funding art scholarships and travel.
“I hope my gifts allow the students to have the same appreciation I had seeing different styles of artwork,” Adams said. “I’ve always been an enthusiastic traveler but I can’t do it now as I would like.”
The adventurers started their trip at a remote rainforest lodge where they saw tarantulas, frogs, army ants and horned crickets on the forest floor. The creepy crawlies didn’t bother junior art major Amber Aylor, Perry, Kansas. Insects already appear in her work and a blue morpho butterfly and elephant beetle she encountered will both likely make it into her portfolio.
After spending two nights in the rainforest, they set out for the Andes and Machu Picchu, a city built in the 15th century, abandoned before conquistadors ever found it and left untouched until 1911. The architecture still blends perfectly with the mountainsides it was built on.
“It was just like the pictures you’ve seen,” Marydorsey Wanless, a faculty trip leader and associate professor of photography who retired after the spring semester, said. “Then you got up close and could explore it on your own. I enjoyed watching the students in awe.”
Ryan Caldwell, a ceramics major from Topeka who graduated two days before departure, was glad he had a chance to see the Inca handiwork.
“I was mesmerized by the skill it took to build that up on a mountain,” he said.
While Aylor coveted the bugs, Caldwell enjoyed playing with the dirt. He met local artists and learned techniques for burnishing clay with a stone and drying it in the sun.
Wanless hopes all her students had a chance to see and learn something different.
“We saw crafts, textiles, pre-Columbian art and ceramics,” Wanless said. “We learned how they built their reed houses on handmade reed islands, and how they constructed their boats. Hopefully, all that inspired the students.”
Aylor had never flown or seen the ocean or mountains. This trip checked all those items off her list.
“I give a humungous thank you to those who give because I wouldn’t be able to do this otherwise,” she said. “I’m more aware of what’s out there and have seen that there is so much more to experience.”
Caldwell agrees. “There are so many things about a culture that can inspire you,” he said. “Not necessarily to make art in that particular style, but to make you a more rounded person. It’s important to put that into your work.”