Stern in Paris: Learning Modern Art in the City Where it Originated

By: Ailin Elyasi  |  August 27, 2018

By Ailin Elyasi, Senior News Editor

Ten Stern College for Women students explored Paris’ modern art hotspots this past summer in a travel course titled “Paris, Capital of the Arts”, offered by the S. Daniel Abraham Honors Program, with Dr. Marnin Young, Associate Professor of Art History at Stern College for Women, leading the course Dr. Young is a popular art history professor who is known for his enthusiasm and wide range of knowledge.

The trip lasted for ten days, beginning on June 4th and ending on June 14th. Academic advisor and special projects manager at Stern, Meirah Shedlo, also accompanied the students to Paris. Shedlo, SCW ’13 valedictorian who graduated as a history major says, “We had a fantastic experience exploring the arts in Paris, with Dr. Young’s expert guidance. Not only did we have the chance to view masterpieces in over a dozen museums, but we also enjoyed trips to beautiful gardens, boat rides down the Seine River, day trips to Versailles and Giverny (home of Monet’s water lily pond), and much more!”

Dr. Young has been known to spark interest in any student. Aderet Liss, SCW ’18, a biology major who did not anticipate enjoying the arts requirement as much as she did, remarked that she “loved [Dr. Young’s] class. I thought I would hate it, but he made me love art history. He is so intellectual, knowledgeable and passionate about what he teaches—  his enthusiasm is contagious. I found him to be one of the most amazing teachers at Stern.”

The course brought a different perspective to the type of art students usually read about. “This class offers the unique opportunity to study the history of modern art in the city where it originated,” remarked Dr. Young. He added, “From the rebellions against academic art in the middle of the nineteenth century through the avant-garde innovations in the twentieth century, Paris marked the epicenter of an earthquake in artistic practice.”

In fact, the travel course showcased Paris as the cultural and artistic trendsetter it set out to be. Tours of historic districts like Le Marais, natural islands like the Ile de la Cité and the right bank of Montmartre in addition to visiting museums like the Louvre, the Museum of Jewish Art and History, the d’Orsay, the Jacquemart-André and the Museum of Impressionism Giverny brought the history of Paris to life without disregarding its present state.

“Paris was incredible and I learned a lot,” said art history minor Francine Szerer, SCW ’19. “It was such a treat to be able to go to Paris, especially for the first time, with a professor who knew so much and was able to really teach us. I felt when … in every museum and [with] every painting … that we were in Professor Young’s classroom. It was not a regular class because we were learning about it firsthand. For me at least, it did not feel like school or that I had to learn for the sake of a grade.”

Although those who took the class seemed to enjoy it, several students felt that the steep price of the travel course made participation impossible for the average student. The trip cost $4,500, excluding the average of the $300-$600 airfare from JFK, according to Expedia. “When I imagined the college experience, an art history trip to Europe was always part of the dream. It was a huge disappointment to me when I realized that a trip like that would never be affordable at YU,” commented English major Elka Wiesenberg, SCW ’20. An anonymous faculty advisor at Stern’s financial aid office also told The Observer that no financial aid is processed for summer courses, but sometimes teachers or other administration will provide grants for students.

Young plans to lead more traveling trips and expand his tours to other art centers like Amsterdam and London.