On a recent Friday, Temple University Painting major Alyssa Brown found herself up a tree at Temple Ambler…literally.
“With landscape painting, you are usually far from your subject. I wanted to take it in a different direction — I wanted a different perspective,” said Brown, a senior who received a full scholarship to study painting at Temple. “This way, I’m sitting inside my subject, working somewhere between realism and abstraction.”
Brown was among 11 remarkably talented students in the Landscape Painting class of Kati Gegenheimer, Adjunct Faculty in Painting and Associate Director of Academic Enrichment Programs at the Tyler School of Art, who visited Temple University Ambler three times during the fall semester.
Their goal, according to Gegenheimer, was to paint a specific location on campus as summer gave way to fall and fall gave way to winter.
“In my new role at Tyler as Associate Director of Academic Enrichment Programs, it is one of my goals to foster interdisciplinary exchange, and this is something I take into consideration when I also teach my classes. Having the painters visit Temple Ambler's gardens and having Ambler students stop by and check out the paintings in progress offered the beginnings of an exchange," she said. "When I was a student at Tyler, I took some courses at Temple Ambler and remember very fondly the beautiful outdoor spaces on campus. I knew it would be a great location for landscape painting. It got the students out of the city and gave them an opportunity to explore new locations — it was the first time any of them had been to Temple Ambler.”
Brown said walking into Temple Ambler’s Formal Perennial Gardens for the first time was certainly “a ‘Wow!’ moment.”
“I was very excited to come out to the Ambler Campus, but I wasn’t sure what to expect,” she said. “It’s so green and there are so many trees, it’s unlike anywhere else that I’ve experienced at Temple. I could definitely see other disciplines being able to take advantage of the spaces on campus.”
Fellow Painting senior Suzanna Espamer said the trip out to Temple Ambler “was completely worth it.”
“This feels like home to me. I couldn’t wait to get back out — it’s a very welcoming environment and I felt I could paint anything I like,” she said. “The landscapes are stunning and capturing the seasons changing has been a wonderful challenge. Just from September to now, the whole color palette has changed dramatically.”
Through her experience at Temple Ambler, Espamer said, “I’m learning how to truly see what’s in front of me.”
“It’s easy to take things for granted,” she said. “I think I’m learning from the landscape.”
Gegenheimer said the participating students, juniors and seniors from Tyler’s Painting, Drawing and Sculpture program, focused their efforts on the Formal Gardens area of the Ambler Arboretum, spreading out into locations near the campus Greenhouse.
“The assignment, essentially, was a time lapse — painting the same location each time they visited and capturing the seasonal shifts,” she said. “Seeing the same subject matter change encourages flexibility in how they see the world around them; changes in light and shadow and color. They were all working in oil, but they selected where within the gardens they wanted to paint and they could be as representational or as abstract as they wanted to — I wanted them to really push their own boundaries.”
Beyond the experience of painting a wide variety of landscapes, Gegenheimer said, “I wanted the students to realize that Temple offers incredibly diverse opportunities.”
“This is all still Temple; it’s just a different part of Temple to explore. All of the students brought their field easels, canvases and supplies — no small feat on the shuttle — and simply couldn’t wait to get back out here,” she said. “This may have been the first time we’ve brought students out here for this class, but it won’t be the last.”
The opportunities for multidisciplinary experiences at Temple Ambler “are obvious once you experience the campus.”
“For drawing, printmaking, painting, fibers, dyes — it’s a natural location to expand student’s educational experiences and exchange ideas. I can see a great deal of benefit in our students learning about different design elements and the different plants within the gardens, for example,” she said. “I could certainly see possible collaborations between art students, landscape architercture and horticulture students that would complement Temple’s Philadelphia Flower Show exhibit. The opportunities are there and I hope we take advantage of it!”