The Cortona Experience: hosted by UGA Lamar Dodd School of Art and Cortona Studies Abroad Program October 21, 2005

Karen's painting of Santa Maria Nuova in progess

Karen’s painting of Santa Maria Nuova in progress, 2005

Karen with Suore Pierina

Karen with Suore Pierina

The Cortona Experience, Sept 24 – Oct 6, 2005.

 I spent the summer of 1982 studying in Cortona, Italy, through the UGA Studies Abroad program. Twenty-three years later, I learned of the Cortona Experience; a two week program for non-students to return to Cortona and make art.

Going to Cortona was just the thing to help jump-start a lull in my painting, so I packed the collapsable easel, paints, brushes, and canvases, and went back to Italy.

It was great to be back in Cortona and see it from the perspective of 23 years. The morning light was just right to paint the 1554 church of Santa Maria Nuova, located outside the city walls. In the afternoons, I hiked 3 miles down the mountain to Le Celle monastery, built in 1211, to paint a view that included Lake Trasimene in the far distance. A stone fountain near the town center was my third painting.

One of the highlights of the trip was visiting Suore (sister) Pierina at the Santa Margherita Institute. As a student in 1982, I lived in what was  known as the convent of the Suore Serve di Maria Riparatrici. Though neither spoke the others language, Suore Pierina and I became friends that summer. It was wonderful to see her again, nearly unchanged from my memories.

I also taught myself to drink coffee on the trip, something I had never acquired a taste for. But I took it a step further and embraced the traditional, Italian espresso – dark, concentrated, and pure.

To be sure, I indulged in all the food, cheese, and wines, too. I didn’t leave the country with out placing an order for a case of Tuscan Red with Marco Molesini of Molesini’s Wine Shop.

The UGA Cortona Experience was not only a walk down memory lane, but vehicle to revive my senses, and restore my enthusiasm for plein-air painting.

Visit for more info on The Cortona Experience.

 For info on Molesini’s, visit: