To Paris from Romania


From the Civic Education Project Newsletter, Volume 1, Number 2, Summer 1995

In May 1994 CEP lecturer Ann Albritton brought 16 Romanian art history students to Budapest on a study trip. Their wonderful experience inspired Ann to contemplate organizing a more ambitious trip to Paris for her students. Despite skepticism from some of her colleagues who thought it was just a dream, Ann approached fellow CEP Romania art history lecturer, Sylvie Moreau, for assistance. A resident of Paris, Sylvie was able to establish contact with French diplomats and colleagues at the University of Paris. Together they wrote proposals in French and English complete with budgets, schedules, and letters to different agencies and individuals. They began a fax campaign to France to obtain the necessary funding to take 36 students to Paris for 10 days. They then compiled invitations and obtained letters of support from their universities, the local and national art museums, the Soros Foundations, and Liana Ghent, CEP's Romania country director, in Romanian, French, and English.

Eventually the Office of the Mayor of Paris offered housing for all 36 students. In addition, Ann and Sylvie received the needed funding for transportation and living expenses from the Higher Education Support program, the Soros Foundation in Cluj, the Soros Center for Contemporary Art, CEP, the Academy of Art in Bucharest, and Joe and Jay Iseman. From Bucharest, Ann, accompanied by 18 of her students and a Romanian colleague, boarded a train at midnight on May 4 for Cluj, where they arrived the next morning to climb into a bus with Sylvie and 18 of her students from Cluj. After traveling through northern Romania,Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Germany to France - a journey that lasted two days and one night complete with occasional picnics of sausages, cheese, and bread - they arrived in Paris.

The museum visits started Sunday morning and continued throughout the trip. The Brancusi Retrospective Exhibition at the Pompidou Center was one of the major highlights as well as the Musee d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, the Louvre, the Musee d'Orsay, and numerous galleries. The I.M.Pei pyramids at the Louvre, the Gai Aulenti renovation of a train station into the Orsay Museum, the Frank Gehry American Center, and Jean Nouvel's exciting Cartier Foundation, plus the wonderful medieval and 19th century buildings, were additional architectural wonders seen by the students. The trip was made even more special by receptions and dinners organized for the students by Annette Malochet and Sylvie's mother; Annette Laborey, the Director the Soros Foundation-Paris; American University in Paris; Marie-Amelie Anquetil; and Joe and Jay Iseman.

Aside from the day-to-day events they participated in and the artistic marvels they observed, the students appreciated the very fact that this kind of trip could actually happen, that such an enriching journey could be undertaken despite the logistical obstacles. Above all, the students' understanding of art was greatly magnified. When asked by Ann for her opinion on the type of image a slide portrays, her student replied, "I am now aware that no picture can accurately reproduce art. Seeing the original work is essential." CEP hopes that a similar trip will be organized again next year.