Katy Betz is one of our special CAT Agency artists.  I’ve visited with Katy and some of her Ringling students, and SCBWI members, in FL when I visit there in winters.  When I heard her plans for this summer, I knew we needed to share!

Katy, please tell us about your fantastic “summer in Florence” opportunity as teacher and artist! 

Betz teaching

Katy teaching….IN FLORENCE!

In addition to working as a freelance children’s book illustrator I teach full time in the Illustration department at Ringling College of Art + Design.  This summer I had an amazing opportunity to teach a drawing course in Florence, Italy.  Ringling is a consortium with Studio Art College International (SACI) and we have been working with them on expanding our study abroad program.  

Betz PonteVecchioPonte Vecchio

So the deal was, if I could recruit 10 Ringling students to enrolling the Late Spring Program at SACI, I would be rewarded with an apartment in the city of Florence, and the option to get paid to teach a class during the 5-week term.  It was a great opportunity not just for me, but also for our students to earn up to 6 credits that they could use in place of regular electives.  And they weren’t required to take my class, but could take any of the courses offered at SCAI, such as fresco painting Italian Language jewelry design, Renaissance art history, etc.

I spent several months trying to recruit students, which was quite an effort because it is an out=of=pocket expense for most of them. But 10 did eventually sign up before the deadline and we were off to Italy for the summer!

Betz bus

Living in Florence for 5 weeks was a very special opportunity for me because I had studied abroad for a semester in 2002 when I was in community college. In fact that experience is the main reason I pursued art as a career in the first place.  Before visiting Florence – the Birthplace of the Renaissance – I had always assumed that art wasn’t a wise career path.  But the transformation that happened to me during that first visit proved otherwise. so you can imagine how amazing it felt to return to my believed city nearly 15 years later as the art teacher! I was in heaven!!

Boboli tree                                         Dante

I had 8 students in my class from different American universities.  it was convenient having been to Florence before because I knew all the museums and sights and was able to plan my lectures around them.  We met Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 1-6pm. I structured the course to begin with figure drawing then progress through composition, perspective, and landscape drawing. A typical class consisted of a lecture and demo in the studio, then giving to a museum for on-location drawing.  At the end of class, we would stop and get a gelato while critiquing the work. I had to pinch myself to see if this was really my job!

Betz operadelduomooperadelduomo


On my days off, I would explore the city or visit a hilltop town, or go draw at a museum.  I’m pretty sure I visited almost every museum in Florence…some of them I visited 2 or 3 times!  On the weekends, I took longer trips to Rome Venice, Cinque Terre, Pompeii, Sorrento, Cortona, Assisi, etc.  It was simply unbelievable having all the free time in addition to teaching.



By the time the 5th week rolled around, I had seen and done so much that I was surprisingly ready to come home (plus it was getting really to and crewed).  I’ve been processing the trip ever since reviewing photos, reflecting only adventures. I did grow artistically, spiritually, and physically (all that pasta!). but I think one of the most profound conclusions that occurred to me is simply the confirmation that I chose the right path – I followed my heart and became an artist!

Thank you so much Katy for this visit with Florence, you, and your students!  Christy and I visited Florence (and Venice and Bologna) together in 2004 and would very much like to return again….and again!  Very unique, deeply moving, and with so much beauty and art everywhere! A very special place…..  till next summer, then!  

About catugeau

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