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U.S. Fulbright

Designing and Connecting with La Ciudad de México

September 11, 2013
Nancy Guevara

Nancy Guevara, 2011-2012, Mexico, enjoying the view above Mexico City

I am Mexican-American, born on the border between the countries to two immigrant working-class parents. My ancestry in Mexico not only drove me to want to learn more and experience living in Mexico, but also drew me to examine both sides of my identity and the mutually beneficial process of cross-cultural communication. Mexican-Americans and Mexican immigrants are great bridges for creating mutual understanding between the United States and Mexico, who continue to influence each other today.

When I was thinking about applying for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program Study/Research grant, I knew I was interested in humanitarian design in order to address pressing social issues. I wanted an opportunity to explore the creation of imagery, artifacts, and educational tools to create awareness and dialogue. I knew that I wanted to travel to a place where I was proficient in the language, where I could understand not only the definitions of the words that were spoken to me, but the personality and soul in which these words and conversations were being spoken. As such, Mexico was a perfect fit.

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U.S. Fulbright

Your Student Will Appear When You Are Ready: Finding My Paper Weaving Teacher in Seoul , By Aimee Lee, 2008-2009, South Korea

December 21, 2009

My search for a papermaking teacher started a year before I applied for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant and ended nearly six months after I arrived in South Korea. I knew it would be hard but didn’t realize that I would find much more than I originally sought.

I arrived in South Korea in June 2008. Soon afterwards, on a sweltering afternoon, I was with a family friend whose neighbor discovered that I was researching hanji (Korean handmade paper). She said that the owner of the local market’s oil shop made hanji dolls. I was not interested in doll making but I went all the same, only to be told by the butcher that the oil shop had shut down because of an accident that had killed the owner’s children. I left and didn’t give it a second thought.

After visiting various paper mills across the country, I eventually found the right hanji teacher for my needs who was a papermaker that I had contacted months before even applying for my Fulbright grant. During my apprenticeship with him in the brutal winter of January 2009, my hanji teacher and I were outside one day stoking a fire. Besides teaching me how to make hanji, he also taught me how weave paper cords known as jiseung. I asked if he had had a teacher. He said he did, but that his teacher’s story was tragic. His teacher had had a business and a family, but his two children and sister-in-law had been killed instantly in a car accident. His wife remained trapped in the car during the accident and suffered bad burns. He consequently shut down his shop and stayed home to care for his wife. I was shocked at the similarities between the two stories and asked where his teacher’s shop was located. It turned out that his teacher’s shop was indeed the very same one owned by the man I had tried to find the previous summer.

In February 2009, my hanji teacher introduced me to his jiseung teacher. I soon started taking jiseung lessons at his home while getting to know him and his wife and earning their trust. He hadn’t had a serious student in a while since most quit because jiseung is so difficult. But I stayed for eight-hour sessions while his wife cooked incredible meals to sustain us. He was a third-generation master who learned from his father and grandfather, and wanted to pass the craft along to his daughter. His son had not been interested in jiseung, but his daughter had showed interest at an early age which made her loss even more devastating. Even though they were only a decade older than me, it was clear that I became their surrogate child and disciple.

As an artist and ambassador for hanji, I encouraged my jiseung teacher to exhibit his work so that it didn’t stay hidden on the 10th floor of a high-rise apartment in Seoul. A month after I left South Korea, he presented a solo show in Insadong’s Ssamziegil – a famous building in a tourist center. He then went on to further exhibit his work and win a top prize. Neither of us knew that we would find each other and nurture each other’s work. The reciprocal nature of our student-teacher relationship made it one of the most meaningful experiences of my Fulbright year and a reminder of how unexpected tragedies as well as unforeseen opportunities can transform lives.

Since returning from my Fulbright year in South Korea, I have had four solo exhibitions, shown in several group exhibitions, lectured on my work and research and taught a class in a paper technique. All of my solo shows have either used or featured hanji in the hopes that using South Korean handmade paper will help raise awareness not just about the paper itself, but its applications in artwork. The largest and best publicized show I’ve had was my solo exhibit at the Diaspora Vibe Gallery in Miami called, “Native Intelligence.” I used hand-ground ink traditionally used in calligraphy, paper felting and large sheets of hanji to create a themed show that synthesized my Fulbright research while mining my ancestry and connection to the Korean landscape.

I recently returned to Miami during the 2009Art Basel Miami Beach show to promote my show and present artist talks. An audience member asked, “Do all Fulbrighters come out of their research with this much work to show?” I didn’t have a definitive answer, but I have been able to present four shows, fueled by my Fulbright research, within the span of three months. I can only imagine that most of us who conduct Fulbright projects in the creative and performing arts return with fruitful research outcomes, inspired and fully energized.

Top photo: Aimee Lee, 2008-2009, South Korea (left), and her paper weaving teacher, Na Seo Hwan, weave a traditional lantern out of Korean handmade paper, known as hanji.

Second photo: Aimee Lee, 2008-2009, South Korea (left), and her paper weaving teacher, Na Seo Hwan, brush lacquer onto pieces made from woven hanji (Korean handmade paper) in northeastern Korea at a traditional family paper mill called Jang Ji Bang.

U.S. Fulbright

Preparing an Application in the Creative, Performing or Visual Arts, By Walter Jackson, Program Manager, Fulbright U.S. Student Program

June 30, 2009

The Fulbright Program encourages applications for study or training in the creative, performing and visual arts. Applications in all fields in over 140 Fulbright countries are welcome. Candidates should be thoroughly familiar with the Individual Country Summary and requirements for the country they wish to apply to.

Proposals in the arts should focus on formal training and/or independent study in specific disciplines. Applicants should indicate the following in their project statements: the reasons for choosing a particular country, the nature of their study, the form their work will take and whether it involves formal study at an institution, with an individual, or independent study. In their project statements, applicants should relate their current training to the study they plan to undertake abroad, the expected results of the study or training, and the contribution the foreign experience will have on their professional development.

Applicants must indicate host country affiliations and, where possible, provide letters of support from the individual or institution with whom or where they plan to carry out their study. While sources of support/affiliation are country specific, they may also include organizations such as museums, music groups, galleries, etc.

Candidates in the arts should be aware that their applications and supplementary materials will be reviewed by a discipline-specific committee of experts. Special care should be taken when identifying the appropriate field of study in the application; it should be germane to the focus of the proposed project. The discipline-specific committees in the creative, performing and visual arts include: Architecture; Creative Writing; Dance & Performance Art; Design; Filmmaking; Music Composition & Conducting; Photography; Piano; Organ & Harpsichord; Theater, including Acting, Directing and Costume/Set Design; Ethnomusicology, Sculpture & Installation Art, Painting & Printmaking, String Instruments, including Cello, Double Bass, Guitar, Harp, Lute, Viola, and Violin; Voice; Wind Instruments, including Bassoon, Clarinet, Euphonium, Flute, French Horn, Oboe, Percussion, Piccolo, Recorder, Saxophone, Trombone, Trumpet and Tuba.

The members of the discipline-specific screening committees in the arts can be working professionals, working/teaching professionals or full-time arts faculty at academic institutions or teachers at art and music conservatories in the U.S. They will be reviewing applications and supplementary materials in their respective fields for all Fulbright countries.

The supplementary materials should support the proposed study. In submitting supplementary materials in support of the application, please refer to your discipline in the Instructions for Submitting Materials in the Creative and Performing Arts for specifications on the materials required. Materials not specifically requested will not be reviewed.

While the quality of the supplementary material submitted in support of the written application is extremely important, candidates in the arts should be aware that members of the screening committees will also be extremely interested in the applicant’s training and preparation to carry out the proposed project. Therefore, previous formal study, training or experience is important.

Projects should focus on practical training or performance studies. Candidates should outline a study for which their previous study background compliments and supports the proposed project and will add to their professional training and development.

Applicants whose projects emphasize academic research over practical training should apply in the academic field appropriate to the nature of the project (e.g. Architectural History, Art History, Film Studies, Theater Studies, etc.) and not submit supplementary material.