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Study tour to Brazil spawns student photography show

Oct. 31, 2005

KALAMAZOO--A rare trip to Brazil has sparked an equally unique student art show opening Friday, Nov. 4, at Western Michigan University.

The show is composed of photographs by Alayna Arvidson, who graduates in December with a bachelor's degree in art and who took part in a recent study tour to Brazil offered through the WMU Department of Family and Consumer Sciences. It was the third study tour offered by the department since 2000, with previous trips to Turkey and Latvia. Arvidson also went on the Latvia tour.

Arvidson shot some 20 rolls of film on the Brazil trip, which ran April 24 to May 9. Spectators can see the results starting at 4 p.m. Friday, Nov. 4, when an opening is scheduled in the Family and Consumer Sciences Gallery in Korhman Hall. The opening will feature remarks by Dr. Ronald Davis, associate vice president for academic affairs, who oversees the WMU Office of International Affairs, which sponsored the trip.

The show is called "Saudades do Brazil," which roughly translates into "longing for or remembrances of Brazil." It will continue through the following week, with gallery hours from noon to 5 p.m. each day.

The photos are standard 4-by-6 inch prints. But Arvidson took numerous copies of the same shot and arranged them in grids. The resulting patterns give the photos a kaleidoscope effect. Viewers may get a very different impression from far away and may have to get up close to discern what the image really is.

As an art student, Arvidson had always wanted a show of her own. The trip to Brazil offered the perfect opportunity. She says she had no trouble finding interesting things to photograph, often taking multiple shots of the same image using different lenses and lighting. Images include people dancing, students at an art school, some architecture and other subjects. One is an almost abstract image of the ceiling of an opera house that had burned and been restored.

"It's a little bit of everything," Arvidson says.

In all, 13 students and faculty went on the trip, visiting Rio de Janeiro, Ouro Preto, Ribeirao Preto and Sao Paulo. The Brazil trip, as with the study tours of Turkey and Latvia, were preceded with a seminar series featuring authorities on the host country. In addition to guest speakers, the seminars offered videos, readings, music and foods from the countries.

Turkey, Latvia and Brazil were selected because individual department faculty members have had personal and professional ties with them. Dr. Karen Blaisure, WMU associate professor of family and consumer sciences and organizer of the Brazil trip, lived in Brazil as an exchange student and continues to visit family and friends there.

The two-week study abroad tours stem from a department retreat in 1999. Dr. Marlene Breu, WMU associate professor of family and consumer sciences, was a major proponent of starting an international study tour program with related preparatory seminars and helped organize the first trip to Turkey.

"The idea is that a structured, short-term international experience, combined with a preparatory seminar, would provide an opportunity for students, who otherwise might not study abroad for a semester or academic year, to gain cross-cultural knowledge and practice," Breu says.

Arvidson enjoyed the trip to Latvia and had never been to South America, so she decided to try Brazil. She's glad she did and has found the trip has had a lasting impact.

"One of the biggest things I noticed is that things go a lot slower there," she says. "They're not in a rush to get everywhere like Americans are. So when I came back, I stopped wearing a watch."

Media contact: Mark Schwerin, (269) 387-8400, mark.schwerin@wmich.edu

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