410 Forum — Arts
Art History Class Experiences A Trip To Italy Through Lecture
By Catherine Meyer
He wears a red-checkered shirt matching the frames of his glasses. His jeans are faded. He confides that he is a shoe and watch fanatic; today he has on a pair of gray Pumas and a black Nike watch. A student knocks, enters and chatter begins about the upcoming summer trip to Italy. Before he can get too in-depth in the conversation, he looks at his watch and has to end abruptly.
He proceeds down the stairs to his classroom and takes a seat behind the podium in the corner of the room. The scene in the basement of Guggenheim Hall in Room 001 could be mistaken for a theater, at first glance, with three rows of stadium-style brown seats, but it is actually Art History II with Michael “Chip” Coronel.
Through personal experience and enthusiasm for art history, Chip provides students a chance to take an art journey with him during his sometimes-comedic, laid-back talks. The audience members file in and take their seats, and the lights dim with a crack of a button. Simultaneously, a white projector screen emerges from a black slit in the ceiling and gradually stops at its resting position. A blue light illuminates the white screen and the countdown begins the presentation. The screen goes black for a moment before an image of Donatello’s “Erasmo da Narni,” an equestrian bronze statue to commemorate the Italian mercenary, appears.
From behind the podium Chip speaks, not about the image quite yet, but about the upcoming break. He inquires if any of the students staring back at him are going anywhere interesting. One student responds by saying he is going to New York, “just to hang out.” Chip responds by saying, “ You know there are museums there.” He smiles and lets out a chuckle.
He switches his tone of voice from curious friend to instructor. He starts by asking the students where the last statue similar to this was seen. Lindsey Mast, a biology major and visual art minor, replies “Marcus Aurelius” from the Roman Empire. He pauses from discussion to mention his slight fear of horses. “I don’t know much about ‘horsies,’” Chip said. “But they’re BIG–write that down.” He said the statue is more than life-sized. He defines the nickname of Erasmo da Narni as being the “cunning cat” and tells the class he would want to be named “he who tears hearts out.”
A majority of the class laughs.
The white Apple Macbook screen glares off the lenses of his glasses. His salt and pepper hair shines faintly and shadows appear in the creases in his face under the yellow spotlight.
Chip stands up and strides across the front of the room, hands in his pockets, until he reaches the screen. He stands in the same posture as Erasmo da Narni, as though he were both the horse and mercenary. After briefly posing, he returns to his podium. Because the horse holds one leg up, the class is able to identify that the weathered, now-green statue depicts that the mercenary died in battle. Chip changes slides.
Now featured on the screen is a wooden statue of a woman, Donatello’s “Mary Magdalene.” Her long hair is down to her knees, her face sunken in, and her hands are clasped together in prayer. Students appear transfixed on the image of the malnourished woman wearing her matted hair as clothing.
Aside from the clicking away of two students on their laptops, the room is silent. He proceeds to the next slide, Andrea Del Verrocchio’s “David.” This David is not like that of Michelangelo’s famous marble David. Verrocchio’s bronze depiction features a defeated Goliath’s head at his feet and a relaxed David with a hand upon his hip. Chip stands up again to mimic how the young man stands. He describes the attitude of David as an “I knew I could take him” pose.
Across the classroom, students’ expressions range from an interested look to a dead stare.
But time has run out for this journey to the Italian Renaissance. Students must wait until the next exam to possibly see this slide again. Or for the lucky ones, they will get to see it this summer when they follow Chip to Italy to learn the Early Italian Renaissance the right way—in person. The lights come back on, the projector returns to the black slit in the ceiling and the students stand up and exit one by one. They have returned back to Greeley.
Chip Off The Old Block:
• Michael “Chip” Coronel, a professor of art and design, has taken numerous trips around the world for research. He has traveled to Africa, the South Seas, Europe and Asia. He also regularly teaches a summer course on the Pueblo Anasazi.
• Coronel has been at the university since 1975 and has won numerous teaching awards, including the College of Performing and Visual Arts Teacher of the Year.
• “First, he loves what he is talking about and is very knowledgeable,” said Sandra Cuneo, a sophomore double major in business and art education, about Chip. “He always has some jokes to say.”
• “Chip’s sarcastic attitude, enthusiasm, and humor really provide a fun and enjoyable learning atmosphere,” said Lindsey Mast, a sophomore biology major and a visual arts minor.
— Catherine Meyer