NET Television is airing an episode called, “House of Art” featuring the home of John McIntyre and Laura Vranes. John and Laura have an amazing art collection in their home, and I’m fortunate to have one of my pieces on one of their walls. They were one of the collectors who bought shares in the Omaha Creative Institute’s CSArt Omaha program in 2017, and I was one of the artist who produced work for the event.
When John shared this clip of the show earlier today, I had forgotten all about the part of the evening when the camera followed me around their house as I searched for my art on their walls. Needless to say, I had the biggest, cheesiest smile on my face the entire time since I was overwhelmed with all the incredible art everywhere. For the record, it took me so long to find my piece that even when they included my search in fast forward on the program, they couldn’t include me finding it.
I’m very thankful to have John and Laura in Omaha supporting the arts like they do. And they do a lot. THANK YOU JOHN AND LAURA!
Twenty years ago, I’d just arrived in Antwerp, Belgium to begin my independent study semester abroad. I was a senior printmaking student at the University of Nebraska Omaha. I didn’t speak Flemish. I’d never been outside the US before. I had no idea how much I’d learn about the world and myself over the next few months.
When I look back at this experience, it really does stand out as one of the defining moments in my life. Living on my own in a country I’d never been to where I couldn’t read or speak the language was just the kick in the butt I needed at that time. It forced me out of my comfort zone and taught me more than I could have ever imagined.
I think I’m going to spend a bit of time over the next couple months posting images and memories of my experience over the time I was there. It’s a good incentive to digitize photos and other things I collected during my trip. It’s also fun to think about sharing my memories and experiences with others, including the friends I made during my time in Belgium. I still keep in touch with many of those friends today. Thank goodness for the Internet!
It’s also just crazy to think that this was twenty years ago. It seems like it could have just as easily been three years ago. At a certain point, the past just kind of blurs together and all becomes a mashed up highlight reel.
I was fortunate to have two roommates in our studentkamer when the semester started. Marieke was just finishing up her work and would be heading back to South Africa. Her husband Janna was able to able to join her on the trip, too. Having English-speaking friends to help me learn the lay of the land was a huge benefit. They introduced me to another student, Sandro, and the four of us spent a lot of time together over the first two weeks. Fortunately, thanks again to the Internet, I’ve been able to reconnect with all three of them recently!
Janna, Marieke, and I shared a flat in a nice neighborhood where it was about a 20 minute walk to our school. It was also well-positioned between train stations and near tram routes. We had a third-floor apartment that was designated student housing with two big bedrooms and a kitchen. Bare bones, but clean and spacious. An added bonus was that the shower was in the kitchen, so we’d have to warn each other when it was shower time.
I felt very lucky to be able and do the semester abroad in the first place. Veerle Rooms, my teacher from Belgium, had come to UNO as a visiting artist and I helped in the studio during her visit. Thomas Majeski, my printmaking professor at UNO, recommended me to study with her in Antwerp, which was quite an honor. I’ll post more about my experiences as a student at another time.
Just this morning I was chatting online with Sandro. That conversation inspired me to fire up the scanner and get out these old photos. As I think about the stories I can tell, I’ll post more updates and images from my semester abroad and travels, with some of the things I learned along the way.
Just looking at these photos makes me very thankful for the time I got to spend with these people and all that I learned from them in the short time we had together. Mighty fine folks and incredible artists!