Van Hart’s search to understand Hungary

By Laura Hutton, Budapest Correspondent

“It was a much bigger love than my first husband,” said Linda Van Hart, visiting professor from the Westminster campus of her jewelry making. Spending the semester on the Budapest campus teaching Mixed Media Collage, she explained that this class will be “a great way to work with students from all over the world.”

On the main campus, Van Hart’s jewelry making class focuses on her passion. She enjoys working with metal and expressing herself through the jewelry she molds.

“I love teaching almost as much as I love metal,” Van Hart said.
At the Budapest campus, however, metal sculpting facilities were not available. By teaching a collage class, Van Hart allows students a different venue for expressing themselves through various mediums, creating collages that help transcend the cultural differences between students from around the world.

This self proclaimed world traveler has spent time through?out Europe and Africa including Ireland, England, Egypt, Kenya and others. Van Hart describes navigating Paris “like [it’s] the back of my hand.” She has also been to Italy five or six times and plans to go back twice during her time in Budapest this semester.

Growing up in Baltimore and attending Western Maryland Col?lege made Carroll County a home base for Van Hart, and she eventually returned to the school to teach part time in 1981.

Before returning to the Hill, Van Hart went to graduate school at Towson and fell in love with jewelry making. Unable to get into the watercolor class she desired, a friend suggested she try a jewelry making class. Her passion grew from there.

After graduating from Towson, she taught at both Francis Scott Key and South Carroll high schools in Carroll County before returning to WMC.

After she began teaching at the college, Van Hart had her first jewelry show through her Tollhouse Studio in 1982. Van Hart runs the studio and showcases her jewelry in galleries and at high-end craft shows throughout the year.

While in Budapest, Van Hart has explored the city and its construction sites. “I have a thing for construction sites,” she said, adding about construction workers, “[There is] not much under the hard hat, but a lot under the sleeves.”

The construction mesmerizes her because it shows the growth of the city and how “it has been re-onstructed so many times.” One morning, after remembering construction she passed on the way home she “knew the morning light would hit the construction site” and hopped out of bed, still dressed in her pajamas, threw on a coat and ran out to get pictures.

As Van Hart reveled in the construction sites and architectural beauty throughout the city, she was taken aback by the people she en?countered.

“We are lucky at the college [in Budapest],” Van Hart said, “the people do not speak English, they speak American.” They understand our culture and many have lived it, but the story is different out on the streets.

Hungarians listen to our music, but they do not know our culture Van Hart said, and she explained, “I haven’t figured them out yet. Those who are the nicest are the ex-pats or relatives, people who are not true Hungarians. . . I told this woman she was beautiful and she backed off me like I was a leper.”

On campus at home “if you don’t look someone in the eye and say hi, you’re not doing the ‘McDaniel thing,'” added Van Hart. She acknowledged that it is not the same way here.

As Americans, we are used to greeting strangers as we walk down the street. As a culture, we are pret?ty outgoing. Hungarians are more internal on the streets. By observing their culture, one notices their reserved nature, which warms up when they are in a more personal environment, for example, when they are surrounded by friends in a restaurant. But walking down the street can be off setting until one begins to understand the cultural differences.

Van Hart recalled an experience in Nairobi, Kenya. A man walked up to her and placed his arm on hers and started speaking Swahili. He was “looking right into my eyes,” recalled Van Hart, and she could understand him and their strongly intimate culture that differs from what she has encountered here.

Exploring and photograph?ing the city, Van Hart continues to search for more construction sites and keys to help her understand her place in Hungarian culture. Her feelings are reflected through a series of collages she is working on entitled “the woman in the mirror is wearing my clothes; but, she is not me.”