by Cassie Prena
Last Spring, I spent an unforgettable semester abroad at John Cabot University in Rome. Although my courses at the university and my daily life in a foreign country allowed a certain level of immersion, I was nevertheless determined to experience the more intimate aspects of Italian culture. I decided that an internship would be the perfect complement to enrich my semester, and John Cabot University put me in contact with several potential positions. By mid-January, I secured an internship working in the studio of the American Contemporary Artist, Joseph Kosuth on the historic Tiber Island. As an Art History major, the internship was an absolute dream! Joseph Kosuth is one of the fathers of conceptual art and his exhibitions have been featured at museums such as the Georges Centre Pompidou, the Guggenheim, the Louvre and the MoMA. He is known best for his philosophically inspired works, such as One and Three Chairs (1965), and artworks which deal with language and its interpretation.
Since my internship was in a studio, not a gallery or museum, I was able to witness the creation and promotion of the works of a living artist, which is very rare in ancient town such as Rome. I worked closely with my Italian supervisor, Barbara, to help her organize the studio and prepare for upcoming international exhibitions. I was in charge of cataloging Joseph’s prints and works in the studio, which meant I was handling valuable pieces of art on a daily basis. From my window as I worked, I had an excellent view of a Ponte Fabricio, a Roman bridge that has been standing since 62 BC. Only in Rome would I be able to work with a cutting-edge contemporary artist, who has a studio situated among ruins from centuries before.
However, without a doubt, my favorite part of the experience was interacting with the Italian and International employees. Through our conversations I have come to look at America more objectively, understand Italian politics, learn about Italy’s university system and discover differences in cultural customs. Stepping out for un caffè with Barbara was not only a time to people watch in the beautiful piazza di San Bartolomeo all’Isola, but a chance to practice my Italian as I helped Barbara with her English. I believe it was these experiences outside my Italian classroom that helped me to develop my language skills and more deeply understand daily life in Italy. Returning to the states, I have become a well-rounded individual with a greater comprehension of the international art world and Italian culture.