Summer Travel Series: Dr. Joanne Allen Takes AU Art History Students on ‘Venice: Splendor to Decline’ Program.

Dr. Joanne Allen organized a two-week study abroad trip for undergraduate and graduate art history students to Venice, Italy during the summer of 2019. The group of 15 students visited the city’s extant monuments, churches, and historical spaces that are usually relegated to two-dimensional Powerpoint presentations in regular art history courses. Co-taught alongside Dr. Susan Steer, Dr. Allen relied on frequent class meetings, cultural excursions, evening tours, and private viewings to communicate the art historical and cultural significance of this incredible city. 

The trip compressed a large amount of academic and experiential material in a short amount of time, including visits to nine islands in the Venetian Lagoon, fifteen churches, ten museums, and four palaces in only 12 days. While the trip was immersive and intensive (after all, is there really any other way to truly experience Italy?), there was fun to be had. The group heard the music of Vivaldi in concert, went on a gondola ride, had an unexpected encounter with a Banksy work, and of course, ate lots of pasta! 


Photo courtesy of Dr. Allen

When asked why she chose to focus on Venice, Dr. Allen mentioned her own personal history with the city. She completed part of her PhD dissertation on the Frari Church in San Polo, and believes that Venice is an incredibly unique city that requires you, “to be there to understand it.” Crucially, much of the city’s art is located in its original sacred or secular contexts. Dr. Allen also notes that although the trip was short, students became experts in Venetian art in no time at all. By the end, they were even telling her facts about Venetian history! 

The recent devastating flooding of Venice shows that rising waters and climate change threaten Venice’s art historical treasures. The record-breaking flooding, noted as the worst in fifty years, is damaging to so many of the city’s extraordinary landmarks. In light of this recent flooding, Dr. Allen hopes that this trip allowed students to become more invested in issues related to art restoration and conservation. She firmly believes that this awareness happens more intensely on-site than in the classroom. This awareness was facilitated through the students’ exposure to ‘Save Venice Inc.’: an institution designated to restoring Venetian art at risk from environmental disasters, which students were able to engage with firsthand.


Photo courtesy of Dr. Allen

For any undergraduate or graduate students eager to experience Venice alongside their fellow peers and AU faculty, Dr. Allen is organizing a second study abroad trip to Venice from June 7-20, 2020. Dr. Allen urges students who have no prior experience traveling abroad to apply for this opportunity. The trip is an excellent way to see the world and enliven your studies through immersive experiences. If you are an art history major (or just a curious and motivated art history enthusiast), get in touch with Dr. Allen to learn more! Registration for this trip opens at the end of March. Contact Dr. Allen at for questions and further information.



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