LCU’s Chou says experience enhances teaching immeasurably

Textbook knowledge is one thing, but immersion is a whole different pallet of paint.

Louisiana Christian University Art Professor Wangling Chou has been teaching art history and other foundational art courses—in addition to her specialty, ceramics, since 2008. Teaching students about some of the most important artists and periods in art history is always interesting, she said, but it was only informed through mass communication methods.

Chou spent 17 days over the winter holiday break immersing herself in the works of the masters in Italy and France.

‘The experience has reinvigorated my passion for teaching the subject, reaffirming the importance of art history and art education,” Chou said. “Technology today allows us to see so many of these great works, but travel allows you to experience them, to feel the space, and that you can’t substitute.”

While an international professor, hailing from Taiwan, Chou had only traveled extensively in Asia prior to this trip.

“I’ve taught art history for many years, but to see the real thing, the real works, it made me understand so much more why so many are so important,” she said. “It fills so much of my knowledge gap.”

Chou holds an endowed professorship in art at LCU and she said she is incredibly grateful to the university for providing the funds for her to experience these artworks in person.

“Ms. Chou was presented the BoRSF Eugenia Dawson Professorship in Art for her award-winning contributions to art,” said Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Cheryl Clark. “Her works have been shown in more than 56 solo, juried and invitational exhibitions all over the country, including a solo exhibition in Gallery 456 in New York City, Wheaton College, Illinois, Samford University, Alabama, Henderson State University, Arkansas, University of Arkansas, Monticello and others. Her works have won eight national awards, including first place at River Oaks Square Arts Center’s national cup competition. In addition, her students’ works have also received recognition and have won awards in professional juried competitions.”

LCU currently has 29 endowed chairs or professorships, 13 of which are part of the Board of Regents Support Fund (BoRSF) endowment program, a program that matches resources to non-state donations to establish endowment funds for professional development, Clark said. The professorships are awarded to outstanding faculty for their superior contributions, and the earnings from the endowments are used to support faculty productivity and enhance their professional development.

In addition, LCU was blessed with a generous gift from the families of C.O. Walker and Andrew Walker that has provided endowment income to supplement budgeted funds for professional development for the faculty.

“LCU values and promotes professional development and supports faculty members in their efforts to maintain competence in their teaching fields,” Clark said. “We seek to foster a climate for innovation in teaching and learning, and I know this experience will not only enhance Ms. Chou’s personal development but also her classroom teaching.”

Chou’s art-centric journey was meticulously planned, focusing solely on galleries, museums and architecture. In Florence, Italy, the birthplace of the Renaissance, Chou visited the Uffizi Gallery, Piazzale Michelango, Medici Chapel and Pitti Palance.

From Florence, she traveled to Rome, where she visited the Colosseum, the Roman Forum and the Vatican Museum.

Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is in Vatican City.

“I tell you, it’s just overwhelming,” Chou said. “It’s three-dimensional, and the size and detail, the photos we’ve seen just don’t do it justice. The entire ceiling, the allusion it creates, it’s just hard to experience it all digitally.”

Visitors are not allowed to take pictures of the space.

Chou next spent two days in Milan where she visited Duomo, the high Gothic building and its museum, and attended solo exhibitions of El Greco and Morandi, famous pieces of Italian art.

The second week of her European venture included major museums in Paris, France.

She visited the Louvre, Versailles, Musée d’Orsay, and Centre Pompidou, covering art from the medieval through post-modernist periods.

The famous “Mona Lisa” by Leonardo da Vinci is in the Loevre, and Chou said it was very crowded with visitors wanting to see it in person.  But there are so many lesser known works that are equally rich and deep in meaning.

Chou’s last stop was back in Italy, where she spent a day in Milan visiting the Prada Foundation, a contemporary experimental art site featuring internationally renowned artists.

“The contemporary exhibits provided fresh ideas for my teaching, offering valuable content for design and lecture courses,” Chou said.

Chou encourages both faculty and students to explore Europe. Seeing so much history gained from a lifetime in the classroom can be brought to life and make things make sense in a way that only experiencing something firsthand can bring.

“It’s like meeting a famous person you’ve always admired in real life,” she said. “I was able to see closely and to see the intimate details of the craftsmanship and not simply wonder why it’s a masterpiece.”

Chou said she stayed in a sense of awe.

“College students need to backpack or travel around Europe at least once,” she said. “It’s affordable and life-changing experience. Students from all over the world travel everywhere there. It’s possible, and a lot of things are free.”