Art students strengthen skills through international experience

Art students from University of Houston-Clear Lake traveled to Mexico this spring to exchange artistic work and approaches with art students and faculty at the University of Veracruz in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico, as part of the International Arts Consortium, which began in 2003 and has provided mutual art exchanges between UHCL and six international universities. Pictured are the students and faculty from UHCL with faculty from two of the consortium schools including the University of Veracruz in Mexico and University of Arts, Faculty of Fine Arts, Belgrade, Serbia.

University of Houston-Clear Lake art student Kevin Cromwell takes a day of vacation once a week from his full-time job as a software developer to attend classes. The 38-year-old Bachelor of Fine Arts student is serious about art and wants to take advantage of as many opportunities as he can to strengthen his skills as a printmaker, which this semester included international travel and a chance to learn more about printmaking, drawing and painting from a different perspective.

Cromwell was just one of seven students in UH-Clear Lake Professor of Fine Arts Sandria Hu’s art class that got an opportunity to travel to Universidad de Veracruzana or University of Veracruz.  The university in Xalapa, Veracruz, Mexico is one of five universities that make up the UHCL International Arts Consortium, which has provided mutual art exchanges with UHCL since 2003.

“The UHCL International Art Consortium has been very good for art students at all the participating universities by giving them a chance to learn different techniques and experience the artwork of students like themselves in a different part of the world,” says Hu. “It has also introduced them to talented international art faculty, providing an exceptional learning opportunity for them.”

Cromwell definitely agrees based on the March trip to Mexico.

“It was an opportunity to experience the culture of another country,” says Cromwell. “Not only was it a chance to meet new professors and art students offering a different artistic perspective, but we had an opportunity to go to the ballet and visit the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City, which has the largest anthropology and archaeology collection in Mexico – all very impressive.”

While there, Cromwell also taught when he offered a print demo for their students, an experience he really enjoyed.

Sarah Melville, 23, thought it was a “big culture shock at first,” but came to realize how interesting the city was and how nice the people could be.

“I always take something from my experiences and put it back into my art,” explains Melville whose art medium is oil painting and will graduate in spring 2015 with her Bachelor of Fine Arts.

And, not only did the students learn while there, two art professors from University of Veracruz visited the students in their classroom in April, offering critiques of art the students created because of their trip to Mexico in March.

“This experience is different for every person,” says University of Veracruz Professor of Printmaking Carlos Torralba while spending time with each of the UHCL students’ art. “They use different sizes and techniques to make it appealing.

“Every artist has found their own path.”

Torralba was joined on the trip by Roxana Cámara, a graphic arts professor from University of Veracruz.

Hu plans to continue strengthening the consortium and offering student artists at UHCL experiences that make them more well-rounded not only as artists, but as people. Other universities that are part of the UHCL International Art Consortium include Academy of Fine Arts and design, Bratislava, Slovakia; University of Hawaii in Hilo; University of West Bohemia, Institute of Art and Design, Plzen, Czech Republic; University of Arts, Faculty of Fine Arts and Faculty of Applied Arts, Belgrade, Serbia; and Kerhson Educational-Aesthetic Complex, Kherson, Ukraine.

For Cromwell and Melville the experience will strengthen their portfolio, which is definitely a plus whether applying for graduate school like Melville or diving headfirst into the professional art world like Cromwell.

To find out more about the Bachelor of Fine Arts degree at UHCL or the UHCL International Arts Consortium, visit, email or call 281-283-3334.

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University of Houston-Clear Lake offers more than 80 undergraduate and graduate degree programs, including a doctoral program, from its four schools, which include the School of Business, School of Education, School of Human Sciences and Humanities, and School of Science and Computer Engineering. In 2011, the university gained approval from the state to add freshman- and sophomore-level courses to its roster and is currently planning for its first freshman class in fall 2014. For more information about the university, visit



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