Cynthia Venables has taught art and art history in Ontario, Canada for over 30 years, most recently for the Continuing Studies Programmes at the University of Toronto, Sir Wilfred Laurier University and Third Age Learning in Kitchener- Waterloo. Cynthia travels the world extensively, researching and taking photographs to create art and cultural history lectures which enhance travel itinerary experiences for cruise lines, such as Princess Cruises. Her lectures and photographs awaken the eye and tickle the imagination. When she is not traveling the world by land or sea, Cynthia lives in beautiful Stratford, Ontario, Canada.
Cynthia: I do three to four cruises a year. Cruises with three or more sea days usually have an enrichment lecturer, as well as a port lecturer. I do a lot of Trans Atlantic crossings where we spend as much as nine sea days and so I plan and prepare nine, fifty minute lectures. The Cruise Company lets me determine what I talk about. It doesn’t have to be related to the itinerary, that is my choice. I create all the topics and themes.
Jan: Humorous anecdotes are among the features of your lectures about the art and history of countries? Humor is difficult to write and to present, what’s your secret to presenting humor to diverse audiences such as those found on cruise ships – who have such a range of age, experiences and cultural backgrounds?
Cynthia: I don’t try to make my lectures funny. When I do the joke just flops. I do now have the confidence to say what I think, uncensored. This can be dangerous, but also funny. So much of history and art history is ironic, self-serving and just ready to be skewered. I also want the lectures to be sincere, as I am often moved by the art, and in particular, the history and the story behind it all.
Jan: Your lectures have great titles. I remember examples like: “Murder, Mayhem and Painting in the Canadian Wilderness” or “Romance in Cool Climates: Romantic Landscape Painting” and “Leif the Lucky and His Sister: The Mystery of the Vikings.” Tell us about the importance of your titles.
Cynthia: The titles are part of the fun. When I first started I was in University of Toronto mode, that is, I used dry, direct (academic) titles. This is what the administration wanted. The lectures I hope were interesting, but the titles weren’t. When I began giving lectures for Princess Cruises on the ships, I sent in the similar titles. My boss at Princess had seen my lectures on video, and he knew what they were getting, but he was quite adamant that the dry titles wouldn’t fly. He called me with specific instructions. “Cynthia, remember you are on a cruise ship! Juice it up.” So titles like~ Medieval Egg Tempera Painting ~ became
~Egg Yokes and Ear Wax ~ The Fun and Frustration of Painting in the Middle Ages. Now making up the title is part of the puzzle.
Cynthia: Well, many of the people coming to the lectures are woman, and now there is so much history available about female painters and collectors that ‘her story’ provides great new topics. I am also attracted to the underdog. Woman making their way in the art world was -until recently – pretty treacherous territory.
Jan: So what countries and ports hold the most fascination for you? Which ports do you love?
Jan: What’s next in your travels? Where are you headed for the fall and winter itineraries?
Cynthia: In a few days I am off to England with my daughter. We board a ship in Southampton and go down to Spain, the Canary Islands, Madeira and then back to Southampton. She flies home and I stay on going over to Normandy, north of Spain, then the Azores, Bermuda and finally back to Ft. Lauderdale. Then I’ll be home in time to shovel the snow in my driveway.
Jan: What do you love about your work?
Cynthia: How could you love not doing this? I am going to wonderful places, traveling with great people, meeting new people and new places. I
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