A note from the Director, Nick Ross:

“By approach and delivery, AHA is a unique educational phenomenon. We have magnificent courses that have enriched the lives of thousands over thirty years.
AHA’s courses are essentially about the wonders of Italian art. However, tutors inevitably draw connections between art, philosophy, literature or history, so, effectively, we teach Civilization.

This is the unexpected value of AHA. It is only possible because tutorials are on site, in small groups where discussion is encouraged. Hence, we have no conventional lectures, preferring instead to put the student or client first. We choose tutors who are academically acute, but who wear their laurels lightly and who view students’ minds as fires to be kindled.”

Our thoughts are echoed in a poem by Cyril Barrett SJ, 1925 – 2003:

“Leisure is.  It is the end,
The goal, of human life, the proper
State of man.  The pursuit of
Leisure is not a trivial pursuit,
And nothing to do with idleness, but
Rather, life lived to its fullest.”


Our mission:

To be supreme educators providing a lifelong love of learning about subjects from art and architecture to history, literature and music such that students grow in confidence and quality, that parents recommend us and that universities admire us.

Our core values

  • To bring art to life; to make the experience of art real and vivid.
  • To pursue excellence yet remain unstuffy and approachable.
  • To be youthful in outlook, imaginative and creative.
  • To be open to all, especially to those who might find such experiences difficult.
  • To have manners, consideration and a sense of fun.
  • To remember that travel broadens experience and is the greatest defence against prejudice.
  • To be safe while embracing travel.

Attitudes

  • We would prefer to walk than take a taxi.
  • We would like to read frequently and quote whenever possible.
  • We try to listen always and to draw daily, however badly.

Beliefs

  • Learning to use our faculties is the purpose of education not universities and jobs, which are by-products of life, not its reason.
  • Our faculties of hearing, touch, taste and particularly sight need exercise – the more fit one is, the more receptive to the world one becomes.
  • Speech allows us to share and our minds allow us to play.
  • These faculties define us from other creatures and we have a duty to use them well for to waste them is to leave life half lived.

History of AHA

Watercolour painting of the Pantheon, by Robert Woodward.

Robert Woodward (1947 – 2008) originally founded Art History Abroad with Sarah Carr Gomm and Rodney Portman with the express intention of giving students the most vivid, civilised experience of art, by teaching on site in small groups. He didn’t teach for the first few years but when Sarah did persuade him to join in he introduced a dimension of literature and, in particular, the romantic poets who visited Rome. He managed to bring history alive in the hearts of students and parents alike, often reducing us to tears in the room where Keats died, as he read from the letters of Joseph Severn.

He would then march off with the students to buy the most wonderful picnic to be eaten somewhere suggestive, like the Palatine while reading Byron. All in a day with Robert was a heady mix of history, poetry, art, sentiment, empathy, delicious food and hiccup, even the choosing of flowers for Keats’ grave was a careful pleasure.

In 1987, Nick Ross re-founded the company whence it has gone from strength to strength, teaching around the world, building on the original founders’ strong belief in teaching on site in small groups. We continue to picnic, choose flowers for Keats’ grave and enjoy the heady mix of history, poetry, art, sentiment, empathy and delicious food that make up an AHA course.

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