When Pro­fessor of Clas­sical Studies Joseph Gar­njobst, a small group of stu­dents, and other faculty gather to eat gelato, sip espresso, and look at great Renais­sance art, they imagine they are in Italy in the summer.
Actually, they gather in the Classics Reading Room of Kendall Hall, during a wet and windy Michigan March, cel­e­brating Renais­sance Friday.
“It’s not a class,” Gar­njobst said. “It’s just a bunch of people talking about Renais­sance art, archi­tecture, and culture.”
“Fresh fruit, gelato and espresso,” Asso­ciate Pro­fessor of Art Barbara Bushey, who co-leads and par­tic­i­pates in the group, said. “What more do you want?”
Every Friday at 4 p.m. Gar­njobst, Bushey, and a small group of stu­dents and other faculty, gather for the event to discuss Renais­sance and ancient art, archi­tecture, and culture.
Gar­njobst ini­tiated the gath­ering after his return from leading the High School Summer Study and Travel Program to Italy with Hillsdale College in 2015. He guides the trip every two years, alter­nating with Pro­fessor of Classics David Jones. Gar­njobst said he wanted to con­tinue learning about the art and culture in order to guide the Italy trips more knowl­edgeably in the future.
“I didn’t want the con­ver­sation about the art and the culture to end because I enjoyed the trip so much,” he said. “As an extra incentive, I threw in gelato and espresso, two things that we had a lot of on the trip.”
He invited Bushey and other faculty who have interest in the Renais­sance to join him for the con­ver­sation.
“We had gotten together to talk about how to talk about art and how to best engage people to teach them to under­stand works of art as primary doc­u­ments by teaching them to look and gather visual infor­mation from works of art,” Bushey said.
The group, which began in Sep­tember of 2015, is open to anyone who has interest in art. It has attracted stu­dents of various dis­ci­plines and several pro­fessors, Bushey said.
“Some weeks the Mongol hoards descend and some weeks not,” she said.
Gar­njobst said the size ranges from four to 15 people.
Every week, the group looks at dif­ferent works of art — usually fol­lowing some sort of theme, such as images of Her­cules or Moses — from the Greek and Roman world to the Renais­sance era and beyond.
“We do try to look across time at images,” Bushey said. “It is increased col­le­giality, which is not to be dis­counted. Dr. Gar­njobst and I am both very inter­ested in hearing other people talk about art, to develop a deeper under­standing of what people do and don’t see.”
Gar­njobst said he tries to pick themes and works of art that stu­dents on the high school trip encounter in Rome, Flo­rence, and Venice — such as “Madonna and Child” art, cru­ci­fixion scenes, or com­par­isons between Christ and Moses in paintings.
Senior Katherine Sinkovitz, who has attended, said she enjoys the dynamic between Bushey and Gar­njobst and their knowledge of art.
“It is a great end to the week, and it is great to have those images in your brain through the weekend” she said. “It is nice to have funny and light-hearted aca­demic con­ver­sation without wor­rying if it will be on your next essay. Who doesn’t want more art in their lives?”
Bushey said these casual con­ver­sa­tions and obser­va­tions about art help the pro­fessors learn and develop their teaching based on how and what indi­vidual stu­dents observe about art.
“People have dif­ferent points of view and areas of interests, so they bring up dif­ferent things,” she said. “Some­times we are com­pletely ridiculous. It is Friday afternoon, and we’ve had too much sugar and caf­feine, and that’s what you get. It’s developed into a very inter­esting social inter­action.”
Gar­njobst agreed that the valuable insights of stu­dents and other faculty have helped him prepare for future Italy trip.
“It’s a way of doing my job better,” he said. “It is very much going to benefit the next trip for 2017, and the trips beyond that.”

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Emma Vinton
A senior and English major from Brighton, Michigan, this is Emma’s second year as assistant editor of the Features page for the Collegian. She has interned as a writer and editor at Faith Magazine in Lansing and at Family Research Council in Washington D.C. doing research on marriage and family issues. She enjoys writing about culture, literature, and religion. This is her sixth semester contributing to the Collegian.