Tag Archives: Creative and Performing Arts

Searching for Gold: Rescuing Memories in Rural Nicaragua

Lauren Schenkman, 2015-2016, Nicaragua

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Alex Mercado, an English teacher, interviewed his grandfather, Rodolfo Aguilar, about fighting in the Nicaraguan civil war.

As a child growing up in California, I loved hearing my mother talk about Siuna, the small town in Nicaragua where she grew up. Chickens ran around in her family’s yard, and they drank milk fresh from the cow. And when it rained, she said, the streets glittered with gold pebbles.

Almost twenty years later, I found myself on a run-down porch in Siuna with an 82-year-old man. As a rooster crowed, he told me the same story.

I was on my Fulbright year, doing research for a novel about Siuna. Not only was it the fairy-tale place of my mother’s stories; from about 1900 until 1979, it was home to an important gold mine owned by Americans and Canadians—hence the legend about gold in the streets. Siuna was essentially a company town; the North American staff lived in a luxurious, fenced-in zone on a hill, and most of the locals were miners, mechanics, and office workers. Today, all that remains are a few ruins, the green-and-white company bungalows, and a polluted lagoon—the former open-pit mine—where prospectors still pan for gold.

From town elders I heard happy recollections of bygone days—a well-stocked commissary, company parties—as well as tragic stories of mining accidents and economic depression after the company left. In order to share my findings, I worked with Professor Luis Gonzalo Herrera Siles at the local university, URACCAN, on a course combining history, narrative, and English learning. Each student—nine English teachers, ranging from age 20 to 38, and two college students—was to research and produce a podcast in Spanish, then translate into English. One pair talked to former miners about life underground; another student interviewed his father, a farmer who’d been caught in the 1980s Contra war. Another spoke with his wheelchair-bound friend about the incident that had paralyzed him.

Fulbright U.S. Student Alumna and Author Deanna Fei (2003-2004, China) Shares How Her Book Girl in Glass Evolved and Offers Advice for Prospective Applicants

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Deanna Fei, 2003-2004, China

Can you tell us about Girl in Glass, and how that book came about?

GIRL IN GLASS is the story of my daughter’s birth, nearly four months premature–and how I learned to be the mother of a child I knew I could lose at any moment. The book also explores, in a larger societal context, what it means to sustain a life: from the front lines of neonatal intensive care units to the perils of the American health care system to the force of a child’s will to live.

For a long time, I was so steeped in the trauma surrounding my daughter’s arrival that I couldn’t imagine ever telling this story. Then, a year after I brought her home from the hospital, the CEO of my husband’s company publicly blamed her for being a drag on the bottom line and slapped a price tag on her life, setting off a national firestorm. It was only then, as the circumstances of her birth became the subject of countless headlines, that I realized I needed to speak out to defend the basic worth of her life.

Melding Art & Science Draws Fulbrighter into Community of Kindred Spirits

By Janet Rafner, 2015-2016, Denmark

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Janet Rafner, 2015-2016, Denmark (center) with fellow Fulbright U.S. Student Natalie Hoidal (left) and Truman Fellow Jordan Went (right) attending Janet Rafner’s ‘Call Me Quantum’ Exhibition featured during Copenhagen’s Culture Night at the Niels Bohr Institute. Traversing through the exhibit, one experiences a range of phenomena such as the atomic orbitals, tunnel effect, wave particle duality and superconductivity from orthogonal perspectives. Layers of design, graphics, and illustrations unveil the scientific process, revealing the compelling and elegant physics that inspired the work. This exhibit displays contents created by the Physics Reimagined group at the University Paris Sud and The National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in France. Design in collaboration with the students from the design school ENSCI-Les Ateliers and Ecole Estienne. (Photo Credit: Professor Robert Feidenhans’l)

While on my Fulbright grant in Interdisciplinary Studies in Denmark, I have been so fortunate to interact with passionate, dedicated like-minded people and kindred spirits across many disciplines. From creative designers and game developers to physicists, computer programmers, cognitive scientists and public outreach experts, these individuals form a unique community dedicated to enhancing science and mathematics comprehension and research outcomes. As a rule, they are intensely curious, willing to take risks and experiment, and passionate about collaborating, even when the project is only tangentially related to their core research. The result is a continuous flow of inspirational energy and a sense that anything might be possible if the right group of people come together.

In this environment where progress often comes from discovering and following unconventional paths, having great mentors has also been crucial to my Fulbright work. The process has allowed me to excel while contributing to diverse scientific and outreach projects, tapping into my own motivations and talents, and building new collaboration skills. The projects have helped me better understand how to bring the concepts of complex physics into the vernacular as well as make them accessible to a wider range of researchers. Professors Rikke Schmidt Kjærgaard and Jacob Sherson, my sponsors and mentors at Aarhus University have made these projects possible – I couldn’t ask for a more supportive faculty. In coming years, I look forward to both being a mentor and having new mentors so I can continue to explore how technical tools and artistic creativity can be used to express complex concepts in science, and to share her findings internationally.

Program Update: New Fulbright U.S. Student Grant to Australia!

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Photo courtesy of Abigail V. Sebaly, 2008-2009, Australia

The Fulbright U.S. Student Program is now offering a grant to Australia in the Creative & Performing Arts (all fields), Environment Studies and Public Health.

This award is sponsored by Western Sydney University (WSU) and will enable exceptional students from the United States to undertake research of importance to the bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Australia.

To learn more about this grant and other Fulbright U.S. Student grant opportunities to Australia, please visit the Australia country summary.

 

Art and Understanding

By Alex Anderson, 2014-2015, China

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Alex Anderson, 2014-2015, China, working on one of his ceramic sculptures in the studio

During my Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant, I spent 10-months at the China Academy of Art in Hangzhou, where I studied ink painting and was an artist-in-residence in the ceramics department. Considering art as a reflection of the interior world of its maker, it allowed for a clear and genuine lens into the specific interests, psychologies, and motivations of the people in my studio during this period. Prior to my time in China, I had not considered art as a tool for cultural exchange, but the questions that sourced from discussions of each person’s work often moved from the work itself to considerations of its place in contemporary art in China, America, and beyond.

People seemed to view my work and me as equally viable specimens for inspection of what it means to be an American and what American art looks like. There was an interest in the way work was rendered, comments surrounding its content, and discussions of its aesthetic that ultimately led to dialogues about what it means to be an American and the fact that there is no universal definition, as America is an immigrant, hybrid nation. In this respect, art became my primary means of creating mutual understanding and serving as a cultural ambassador. The first question people would ask when they walked through the studio was, “Who made this?” followed by “Where is he from?” These questions opened up spaces for further dialogue around the intersection of Chinese and American art, and sometimes led to discussions of the intersection of China and America.