Art History Professor Helps Students Encounter Centuries of Mexican Art

Article Sacramento State Provost's Communications
Mya Dosch Showing Mural to Students, July 2022

The mission of Sacramento State’s Academic Affairs division is to inspire transformative educational experiences for our students. For Assistant Professor of Art Mya Dosch, that means getting students out of the classroom whenever possible and immersing them in rich and vibrant art scenes, something she was able to do this past July through a study abroad trip to Mexico City.

From July 16 to July 25, Dosch guided 14 Sacramento State Students through museums, historical sites, cathedrals, and artists’ studios in Mexico’s capital city. But Dosch wanted more for her students than just sight-seeing. So she structured their days to include plenty of time for reflection and discussion and encouraged them to journal their thoughts about what they were seeing. Originally scheduled for summer 2020, the trip allowed students to experience culturally significant art in person and is a perfect example of how Sacramento State faculty can open new worlds. for their students.

Dosch, whose specialty is Art of the Americas, knows the impact a trip like this can have on students who have had few opportunities to travel and are eager to see the real-world embodiments of what they are studying. While an undergrad at Carleton College in Minnesota, Dosch took a study abroad trip to the Netherlands and, like her students in Mexico, found herself thinking differently about art—and the world.

“It made a huge difference for me. My idea of art history was blown open,” Dosch says, explaining she wanted the same for her students. “It is a life-changing experience. It expands student’s visions of what is possible for them, which is important for students at a California State University.”

Thanks to the help of Atraves Arte, a business that arranges Mexico City art experiences, the student’s days were filled with local cuisine and fellowship as well as museum tours. Along with encountering Mexican Muralism, the art-focused activities Dosch and Atraves Arte guided the students through included visiting Mexico City’s Zocalo (or main plaza), The Templo Mayor museum, Chapultepec Park, The Frida Kahlo museum, and the pyramids at Teotihucán.

The impact of the trip on students was clear. After a visit to the Colegio San Ildefonso, where murals by José Clemente Orozoco depict Spanish colonizers as garish and gluttonous creatures unaware of the pain and suffering they created in indigenous populations, Studio Arts major Kelsey Sorg imagined 1920s students questioning the Spanish-centric history they were being taught. “[They were] challenged to critique their lessons by their own hallways,” she wrote of the murals. “To me, this was very exciting.”

Dosch encouraged all the students to journal their impressions throughout the trip, going beyond merely lecturing at the sites they visited by giving the students space to process their thoughts and experiences. For those students pursuing a life in the arts like Studio Art major Gina Geissenger, the impact was profound. “I feel ready to express who I am authentically in my artwork with support and encouragement from so many inspiring people,” she wrote.

Dr. Carlos Nevarez, Interim Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, says these broad, life-changing educational experiences are key to Sacramento State’s core mission of inspiring knowledge creation.

“We want to support our faculty to be agents of change in student’s lives,” says Nevarez. “Going forward, we will be looking for more ways to provide culturally diverse and meaningful impact through academics.”

Dosch says the Art Department is hoping to coordinate a similar trip every year with next year’s visit planned for June 22 to July 1. To read more student reflections and see pictures from the trip, visit the CSUS Mexico Study Abroad blog here.

More information on this program and other faculty-led study abroad opportunities is available from the College of Continuing Education here.