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June 26, 2014

Report from ARCA Amelia '14: Inside the lecture hall with criminologist Marc Balcells amongst medieval festivities in Amelia

The end of Marc's class.  Photo by S. Kelley-Bell
By Summer Tappmeyer, ARCA '13 graduate and ‘14 intern

Three weeks of being in Italy has flown by so quickly! We have had such a spectacular time so far, and it’s not even halfway through the program. The third week started off with Marc Balcells’ course: “Breitwiesers, Medicis, Beltracchis, Gurlitts and Other Shady Artsy Characters: A Course on How to Analyze Their Crimes Empirically.” Marc had a few adventures in travel in order to make it to Amelia: coming from New York where he has been teaching at John Jay College of Law, with a brief stopover in Spain to visit family, and then finally settling into the city for the beginning of his course. Despite Marc’s long journey to Amelia, he started off his class with a bang. An ARCA 2011 alumnus, Marc has unique insights into student life. It was a pleasant surprise to have someone who has previously walked in our shoes only a few years ago. 

This criminology course focused on the theoretical framework of the subject, as well as gave insight into the different foundations of the Classical, Positivist, and Critical school of thinking. Marc proved to be a fascinating professor, as he engaged the class in discussions and told us stories using his animated personality to bring those stories to life. One of the greatest aspects of this course is that you do not have to have a criminology background. Marc was adamant about us being able to understand the “nuts and bolts” of the essentials of criminology and was able to simplify information in a way that allowed the students to understand the concepts and theories. Overall, Marc was able to command and capture the attention of his audience, making us all feel incredibly comfortable to engage in scholarly debates throughout the duration of his course.

The Champion of Volterra.
Photo by L. Albertson
The city of Amelia was able to cool off this week, due to the plush amount of rain it received during the third week of our stay. We appreciated the break from the heat, but that did not leave much time for extracurricular activities and a few of our weekly adventures had to be postponed. Most students enjoyed the pitter-patter of rain as they slept at night though, and by the weekend the rain was gone and scheduled activities continued. As soon as Marc’s class ended on Friday, the ARCA 2014 class went across the street to “Park Bar” and savored a refreshing afternoon spritzer. Since this was the professor’s last evening in Amelia, we all gathered around a few tables to learn more about Marc and his experience as a student with ARCA three years ago. Saturday and Sunday consisted of rest and relaxation. A few students went on a shopping spree in Rome, others enjoyed a rare chance to see none other than the Rolling Stones play in Rome at Circo Massimo.

Amelia hosted a medieval crossbow competition Saturday and Sunday for everyone to enjoy. The Balestra Antica da Banco is the national championship and offered everything from costumes to the special seated crossbows. Amelia also celebrated a religious holiday known as Corpus Domini. This celebration included a procession through the town on a bed of flowers.

We are looking forward to welcoming Noah Charney and his new course, "Art Forgers and Thieves", this week.

This weekend the ARCA 2014 Conference will bring together students and professionals in two days of panels on art crimes ranging from Nazi-looted art to stolen antiquities in Cyprus and Cambodia.