From Lisa VanDamme:

Two of the greatest pleasures, greatest revelations, of my teaching career have had to do with the arts.

The first – that reading classic literature need not be an academic, didactic, spiritless chore. Given my own education in literature (and most of yours, I wager) how could I have believed otherwise? If literary analysis is no more than a discussion of the profound symbolic value of the green light at the end of the dock, or the finger-counting composition of a sonnet or haiku, or the unearthing of incipient feminist themes in Shakespeare (yes, really) – what’s the point?

I learned the point. The point of literature is to captivate you with enthralling, carefully crafted, tension-building conflicts, distinctly drawn and timelessly memorable characters, unique and penetrating insights about life and man – so that when you open the cover you enter a universe that is brightly-lit, and when you close it you find your own life illuminated.

The students at VanDamme Academy have learned the point. Had you seen them the day I walked in to class to read the conclusion of Victor Hugo’s Ninety-Three and found them sitting at attention, watching eagerly over their shoulders, having placed a box of tissues next to my desk (and many of their own) you would know just how well.

Now you can too. How?

The second – that visiting a museum can be more that just a stroll through a gallery, looking cursorily at work after work, forming some superficial, unexamined response (“that’s pretty”), and after hours of surveying the collection, coming away drained. Yet that is how most people recall the experience.

I learned from Luc Travers, VDA Literature Teacher and author of Touching the Art (, how to be immersed in, enraptured by, and moved to tears admiring a work of visual art. He has taught me, and years of lucky VDA students, what it truly means to appreciate art: how to stand before it giving it due attention, noticing every little detail, integrating all the elements, arriving at an understanding of the “moment” depicted in the work, and connecting that moment to my own life.

There was a time that that Millais’ Hugeunot Lovers on St. Bartholomew’s Day ( adorned the school’s walls as decoration, and I admired the lovely couple, their rich attire, and the creeping green vine. Thanks to Mr. Travers’s method, now when I pass by it I am moved by a portrait of momentous decision, the aching fear of losing a loved one, and the calm reassurance of a man of profound integrity. What a change.

Now you can undergo the same transformation. How?

For years, Luc Travers and I have worked hard to turn our students into passionate art devourers. Now we want to count you among our converts.

The conference will include:

  • A 2 ½ hour poetry course with Miss VanDamme
  • A 2 ½ hour art course with Mr. Travers
  • A guided tour at the beautiful Getty Center
  • A banquet at the Getty restaurant, with breathtaking views of the LA basin
  • A rare opportunity to observe a VanDamme Academy art and literature class
  • And more!

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