By Alyson Blech
St. Ambrose University art professor, Clea Felien, hung up her painting smock and left the classroom for Guangzhou, China this summer. After interest came up about developing a study abroad program in Guangzhou, Felien has worked throughout the summer to bring a new opportunity to art students.
It was initially Ben Fawkes, the owner of Rozz Tox in Rock Island, Ill., who contacted SAU with the idea of bringing students on a study abroad program to Guangzhou, China. After much planning and communication between Fawkes, Felien, the study abroad office, and the art department, Guangzhou was more than an idea. So, Felien, complete with her thick framed glasses and pigtails, packed up her converse and left for Guangzhou for 11 days.
“I was so amazed by Guangzhou because it was not at all what I was expecting. It is a beautiful, hot, subtropical city that is incredibly clean, with great food and easy public transportation. It is known as the city of flowers because the climate keeps the flowers always blooming. It’s a very new looking place, the cars look no more than five years old, the buildings are all very tall and there is art everywhere. It’s so, chic,” Felien said.
Even though Felien did not speak the language herself, Fawkes is extremely familiar with the area because he owns a second business known as Loft 345 in Guangzhou, China. Both Rozz Tox and Loft 345 serve as galleries, music venues, and cafes. Together Felien and Fawkes walked about 12 hours a day for this exploratory trip. During the visit, Felien was introduced to members of the American consulate, the directory of Times museum, and a professor at the Guangzhou Academy of Fine Arts which is the top art academy in Guangzhou with over 3,500 students enrolled.
“Students should consider this trip because it is a cultural experience that is unlike anything else. The more different the culture the better, because you will learn more about the rest of the world which is so important. It is so good not to be isolated and to see how well 15 million people live together while being so organized. Guangzhou is a sophisticated and chic city and the people are so kind,” Felien said.
The plan is to have a group of students study abroad for two weeks with Fawkes as the guide in Guangzhou. During the two weeks, students will have the chance to go to the prestigious GAFA School of art and sit in on an art class, see and travel Guangzhou, along with other endless opportunities.
“The most expensive thing is the plane ticket, other than that the city is incredibly affordable. For instance, in some places you could buy a dress for four dollars; the prices are just a fraction of what we pay in the states,” Felien said.
For now in the states, Felien continues to work with the rest of the art department and study abroad office in order to make the program available for the Spring 2016 semester.
However, outside of the program planning, Fawkes and Felien have also coordinated to show some SAU painting students’ work at the Rozz Tox gallery in October. However for now, Felien will take that painting smock off the hanger and wait for the final touches to be added to the program.