The ferry pulled out of port and plodded away toward mainland Greece. The island of Paros eventually fell out of sight, leaving only sun gilded sea in its’ stead. The very same currents of change that had taken me to Paros two years prior were now pulling me away.
Paros had been the mise-en-scene for one of the most spectacular dramas of my life. On this island, fields seasonally be speckled by crimson poppies had wrestled air from my lungs; winds arriving from the south occasionally carried clay from Africa’s Sahara and from time to time would glaze the sky with an ominous ochre. On Paros, the ancient poet Archilochus was the first to scribe in iambic meter. The omphalos of my experience had been inside a colorful neo-classical building nestled amongst white-washed facades. It was there that the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts held most of its’ classes. Although not exactly visible there was inside an educational model like none I had found before.
Over the course of my four terms, the Aegean Center facilitated a personal odyssey that would leave an indelible impression upon my life. During this time, the world adopted the narrative of a deep and marvelous mystery. The history of Western art and thought became more alive to me then ever before.
In a quiet and subtle way, the Aegean Center presented a kind of citizenship to those attune to it’s beat. During class and conversation and often on our customary Friday hikes, a rhythm was created that felt separate from the feverish drumming of 21st Century paeans. This would challenge me to examine notions of identity, particularly those of patriotism and temporal fads, that I, as a young American, carried with me when I arrived.
My teachers at the Aegean Center drew upon lessons from the vault of history and taught from a longstanding tradition of visual, literary and musical art and communication. For a month out of each year lessons were held on their Italian facility, in a 16th century Tuscan villa. We were thus stationed to study in the birthplaces of Italian masterworks. This type of engagement with the past was not intended to foster anachronistic art or thought but rather, to increase our sensitivity to present day currents and to better inform our decisions.
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Soon after the ferry arrived to the mainland near Athens, I flew to New York to celebrate the Christmas holiday with family and childhood friends. For this, I was grateful. I did, however, miss the friends and mentors with whom I had shared a magnificent and transformative experience.
It has been nearly nine months now that I have been back in the States. I have since attended classes at the Art Students League in Manhattan and taught classes at the Masters School, in Dobbs Ferry, New York. Over the summer, I took a motorcycle, alone, across North America. I sometimes thumb through the sketchbooks I had filled at the Aegean Center and consider their pages to be full of signposts from the path I have been on (although I still sort of feel that I am at a beginning, with so much to do and to learn). It is both daunting and exhilarating to be free to choose what path to take from here.
For more information on the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts, visit http://www.aegeancenter.org