Student wins semester of study in Italy

Tonya Pulis has two main inspirations: art and Catholicism.

Both find strong expressions in Florence, Italy, where Pulis, a Rowan University senior will spend the fall semester studying the masters and painting frescoes as the first winner of a scholarship given by sculptor J. Seward Johnson Jr.

Pulis, 22, is a metal artist who wants to become a teacher and open a gallery one day. She's also a former president of Rowan's Neuman Club, a Catholic campus ministry and youth group. Her time in Italy also will give her time to explore her faith.

"My one major connection with Italy, and one of the things that excites me about going there, is being able to experience the Catholicism in a new way," she said. "All the artwork and the religion go hand in hand there, so it's really a full, encompassing thing for me because it takes two of my biggest inspirations and pulls them together, so I get to see them both at once."

A senior art education major from Hackettstown, Warren County, Pulis plans to attend Studio Art Centers International in Florence, which is regarded as one of the world's premier art capitals.

Johnson, a well-known artist and supporter of the arts from Key West, Fla., recently established the Seward Johnson Artist Development Travel Scholarship. The scholarship will annually fund a semester of study at SACI, valued at about $18,000, for one Rowan undergraduate art major.

"It's wonderful that a bright student can have the stimulation that a semester in the cradle of art in Florence will provide," Johnson said in a statement released by the university. "I know that if it were me, it would be a life-changing experience."

Pulis especially looks forward to a course in museology, the study of art exhibitions.

"That is important to me, especially being an art educator, because I'm going to have to put up exhibitions of my students' artwork, and I want it to be the best possible it can be for them, but also to advocate the importance of the arts and really show how powerful the arts can be," she said.

Even for a person who works in metal, cement and many mediums in between, painting frescoes will be something new for Pulis. Frescoes are artworks painted into the drying plaster of a wall, and they appear in churches and other buildings throughout Italy.

Pulis, who is working this summer as a volunteer for an anti-poverty organization in Pleasantville, Atlantic County, said her curiosity about art has propelled her education.

"I enjoy so many different aspects of art: the art history, the people who create the art and the art itself, what it means," she said. "I'm very into symbols and the psychology of colors and color theory. So all of that incorporates into why I chose to be an art teacher because I really get to experience and delve into all of that and help people understand beyond the surface level of the artwork."

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Date Published: Monday, August 21, 2006 - 01:00
Source URL: Courier-Post