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U.S. Fulbright

Mapping Collected Memory in Amman

January 11, 2013

Regina Mamou, 2009-2010, Jordan, photographing on location in Shmeisani’s Prince Hashem Bird Garden, assisted by Bradley Heinz and Andrew Boylan (image by Regina Mamou).


My Fulbright journey in the visual arts began more than one year before I left for Amman, the capital city of Jordan. I first identified Jordan as the country to which I wanted to apply in June 2008 for the 2009-2010 Fulbright competition. Since graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago (SAIC) with a Master of Fine Arts in Photography in 2007, I maintained connections with the Fulbright Program Adviser (FPA) at SAIC and with professors in photography, my field of study. Even though I applied At-Large, these individuals met with me on a regular basis to review my Statement of Grant Purpose and Personal Statement, and helped flesh out my research interests. I also formed an off-campus Fulbright group with three other SAIC students, which was a fruitful product of the application process. As a group, we met a few times each month to review our writing samples and offer one another support before the application deadline.

My interest in Jordan stems from my Middle Eastern heritage as my father was born and raised in Iraq. He was the first person in his family to immigrate to the United States. My extended family moved to Amman, Jordan, before they, too, eventually immigrated to the United States in the 1990s. Memory is an inherent quality of photography and I was interested in connecting with Jordan, a place that held familial significance. I began to conduct research on memory studies and navigation in Amman and was drawn to a weekly Internet-based column entitled, “Urban Crossroads,” by Mohammad al Asad, the founding director of the Center for the Study of the Built Environment (CSBE) in Amman. Reading these online articles allowed me to make abstract associations to the city, such as the fact that Amman only recently implemented house and street number addresses, and that residents have traditionally used a memory-based navigation system. This discovery led me to construct a Fulbright project about exploring navigational methods as a metaphor for interpreting a contemporary city, in addition to considering issues of architecture, urban planning, and population growth.

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U.S. Fulbright

Expanding My Context of Art, By Antonio McAfee, 2009-2010, South Africa

August 13, 2012

South African contemporary art and my experience with facilitating arts programming were the basis of my Fulbright project in Johannesburg.  These interests started while I was an undergraduate at the Corcoran College of Art and Design in Washington, DC.  The Smithsonian National Museum of African Art held two exhibitions that surveyed contemporary African Art.  The diversity of materials and the directness to social issues resonated with me.  During that time, I was working for artists, galleries and museums, helping to maintain and organize studios, exhibitions and collections.

The Fulbright Program became an option while I was in graduate school at the University of Pennsylvania.  Faculty members were helpful by referring me to readings about African cultures and art, which led me to develop my proposal’s context.  The texts unexpectedly planted a seed that resulted in African cultural objects and ideas becoming incorporated into my artwork.  After a conversation with a fellow student, I decided to apply for a Fulbright grant.  Shortly after, I met Cheryl Shipman, the university’s Coordinator of Research and Fellowships (and Penn’s campus Fulbright Program Adviser), who was instrumental in explaining the application process and demystifying the program.  The bulk of my proposal’s development came from research I conducted at the library, online and through writing numerous drafts.  My hope was to engage with the contemporary South African art sector and to see how certain organizations had evolved from their origins as rebellious entities during the ‘80s and ‘90s to the present.  The chair of University of Witwatersrand’s Postgraduate Arts, Culture and Heritage Management Program wrote my letter of affiliation.  I introduced myself by emailing her out of the blue and sent her a draft of my proposal.  After a positive response, I asked if she would write the letter.

In South Africa, I was a graduate student in the University’s management program.  The management courses I took included leadership and policy, arts marketing and fundraising, and operational skills.  Additionally, I conducted interviews with local artists and administrators regarding their relationships with local, provincial and national government art agencies.

Outside of school, I became very familiar with the local art scene by befriending artists and attending exhibitions and events.  Collaborating with a local artist, I worked on a group exhibition.  I juried images from a U.S. Embassy class “Photographing Your Environment,” for kids from Pretoria’s Mamelodi Township.  I also had a radio show on the University of Witwatersrand’s VOW (Voice of Wits) 90.5 FM.

Since my time in South Africa, the Fulbright Program continues to be an important part of my life.  As a 2012 Fulbright Alumni Ambassador, my responsibility is to promote the program, educate others about the application process and share my overseas experiences.  Currently, I am adjunct faculty at the Corcoran College of Art and Design and Northern Virginia Community College, work full-time at a photography lab in Maryland, and continue to expand my artistic practice.

For those interested in applying for a research/study Fulbright grant, specificity is essential in developing your project.  Pursuing a research topic that is important to you and that will allow you to be of service to others in a pertinent location is crucial.  The “to be of service” component is about reciprocal relationships.  How can a place and community assist you and your goals?  How can you assist them?  For artists, the Fulbright Program is perfect.  It encourages autonomous projects requiring individuals from around the world to inform and engage with each other and, consequently, long-lasting relationships and experiences.

Photo: Antonio McAfee (right), 2009-2010, South Africa, with a few of his Arts and Culture Management Classmates from the University of Witwatersrand

U.S. Fulbright

Learning About Mexican Migrant Culture and Photography – A Fulbrighter’s Story, By Kathya Maria Landeros, 2007-2008, Mexico

August 24, 2011

My Fulbright adventure began with a three-day orientation held in Mexico City. It was not only an introduction to this dynamic city but also an introduction to my colleagues and fellow Fulbrighters. Assembled in Mexico City for the orientation was a diverse group of scholars, artists, scientists, researchers and business professionals. Our fields were equally diverse and included agriculture, anthropology, ethnomusicology, painting and sociology, to list only a few, and yet we were all united by a common interest – Mexico.

My research took me to Mexico’s central states where I photographed migrant culture in an area with high rates of historic migration. As a first generation Mexican-American, it was a familiar topic to me, but I had never lived in Mexico as an adult. Previously, I spent three years photographing Mexican-American culture in the United States, but now I wanted to see how migration had changed the towns’ landscapes to and from which many people migrated over several decades. Some of my fellow Fulbrighters were also interested in immigration research, and this allowed me to learn more from my peers.  In addition, I enrolled in a class on local and regional development at the Universidad de Guanajuato, my university affiliation.  The course gave me an opportunity to discuss with the professor and local students how underdeveloped areas prompted their populations to migrate to Mexico’s urban centers and to the United States.

There were several things I did that made my stay more enjoyable and helped me to feel like I was part of a community. I participated in local “talleres,” or workshops, and learned about some traditions such as making sugar candy for the Day of the Dead celebration. I tutored a student interested in photography and even tried my hand at tae-kwon-do. I quickly decided martial arts weren’t my thing, but I had to appease my curiosity after walking by the class, day after day, on my way down to the “mercado” or market. I traveled frequently to local communities, and my affiliations often helped with my initial introductions to them. Other times, I had to introduce myself to strangers, meet people on the local bus or in eateries and “pensiones,” and do my research on the ground. I can’t be shy as a photographer, but it also helped that many people were so welcoming – inviting me, a stranger, into their homes and allowing me to document their lives. Reflecting on my time in Mexico, I realize that it had been important for me to plan my Fulbright proposal meticulously on paper. The opportunity to photograph some events occurred only once, such as the winter holidays and “fiestas” when migrants return to their hometowns. Yet my plan of action would not have succeeded had I not been curious to learn from those around me and open to some degree of serendipity.

I also see that my time in Mexico was instrumental to my creative and professional growth as a photographer. Currently, I am enrolled in an MFA program in photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design where I am still working on projects that involve migrant culture. The Fulbright Program allowed me to dedicate myself, for the first time, entirely to this photographic endeavor. Imagine being given the opportunity to practice your craft on a daily basis. Prior to this, I had held many odd day jobs, balancing my photographic aspirations with the reality of having to pay for rent and other household expenses (not to mention film in my camera). I know many artists in similar situations and it is easy to get discouraged. The Fulbright Program was a much-needed affirmation of my photographic skills and an opportunity to pursue my project.  Aside from my persistence in working on my project, there were many things that I felt were stacked against my favor and that initially kept me from applying for a Fulbright. I was not a recent college graduate. I had changed my career path in my mid-twenties to pursue photography and was self-taught. I was only beginning to develop my resume as a photographer. I was fortunate, however, to have a dear friend who encouraged me to apply and made me realize that the Fulbright Program could offer an opportunity for professional development – especially in the creative and performing arts. I encourage those who are in a similar situation, those who share some self-doubt, absolutely to apply.

My advice to applicants applying for a study/research grant (including artists and writers):

  • Start the application process early and don’t be discouraged by it. The application can seem daunting, but it doesn’t have to be if you give yourself, and others assisting you, enough time. It doesn’t hurt to contact references and potential affiliations early on and ask for initial support – even if it is only to inform them of your interest in applying. Giving yourself ample time allows for more time to edit and revise your application and to ask for support. Questions are sure to arise.  If you are currently enrolled in an institution, or even a recent alumnus/na, the first person you should contact is your Fulbright Program Adviser.  As you get deeper into the application process, you should also feel free to contact the Fulbright U.S. Student Program Area Managers with any country-specific questions.
  • Attending an information or guidance session is extremely useful in getting an initial grasp on the proposal process and program requirements and will help you to identify and avoid common mistakes. There are also many online resources you should consult and may find helpful, such as the Fulbright U.S. Student Program website, this blog, podcasts, webinars and videos.
  • Cover the five Ws and one H in your proposal (who, what, where, when, why and how). This sounds elementary, but your project needs to be spelled out clearly to reviewers. You have two pages to convince them that what you are proposing can be done in an academic year, so make every word count.
  • Similarly, be sincere and specific about your intentions. The best proposals convey a sense of why the project can and should be carried out in the host country, and why you are the person to work on the project.
  • Affiliations that are well-researched have the potential to offer you much needed support, especially considering how quickly time will pass during your grant period.  They will serve as a point of entry for your research or to your local community, and it is in everyone’s best interest to have well-defined goals and expectations.
  • Remember that the Fulbright Program is about building mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other nations. It was helpful for me to read about Senator J. William Fulbright and the program’s history. Think about the fellowship as an exchange: an opportunity to contribute something positive to your host community in return for the hospitality and generosity that you are sure to receive.
  • Lastly, don’t give up if you don’t receive the Fulbright on the first time. Many people I’ve met applied several times before receiving a grant. There are many resources to help answer questions about the application process, including the folks who work for the Fulbright U.S. Student Program, me and the other Fulbright Alumni Ambassadors. Good luck!

Top photo: Kathya Maria Landeros, 2007-2008, Mexico (center), in San Gertrudis, Mexico with some of her photographic subjects

Middle photo: Partial overview of Guanajuato’s buildings nestled in the mountains

Bottom photo: Kathya Maria Landeros, 2007-2008, Mexico, walking through a common “callejon” or narrow street, in search of a place to rent during her Fulbright year

To see more of Kathya’s photos, click here.

Questions for Kathya about her Fulbright experiences?  Feel free to email her at

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.