Through the Fulbright Scholars Program, Illinois State art and art history students have had the opportunity to learn under two renowned artists and scholars who came to Normal from across the globe.
Angelo Kakande, Ph.D., and Louise Ju-Yu Wu arrived last semester at Illinois State University from very different parts of the world. However, the two scholars came to the University to fulfill the same mission: promote an intimate understanding of the world’s many cultures through educational exchange.
They are first two Fulbright Visiting Scholars hosted by the School of Art. “It’s a special thing to know that every person that these Fulbrighters come into contact with on campus have exposure to individuals from other cultures, and all of the knowledge and experience that they have to share,” said Lea Cline, an associate professor of art history at Illinois State and the student program advisor for the U.S. Fulbright Program. “I’m proud as can be that Illinois State is working hard to bring more Fulbrighters to campus.”
Art history abroad
Illinois State, through the Fulbright Scholar-in-Residence Program, put out a call for an African scholar to teach in the School of Art. Kakande answered that call and is a visiting lecturer from Uganda. Kakande taught in that country’s largest university, Makerere University, in the capital of Kampala.
Kakande’s work interrogates how art serves to defend individual and collective rights in the face of political oppressions. His current research revolves around art, human rights, and development in Uganda, investigating the ways in which artistic forms like buildings reflect political landscapes.
Kakande now offers students in Normal insights into the history of art in his native Uganda. In addition to teaching four classes this school year, Kakande offered his guidance and input as the School of Art hired a new, tenure-track faculty member to teach global art history and visual culture full-time.
“I expressed exactly who I wanted to come teach and why, and the search committee and I produced the faculty to teach the course I’m teaching,” Kakande said. “My visit to the University helped to create a continuation of a curriculum that speaks to the African diaspora. It was a wonderful and productive experience.”
Kakande has made important contributions to curriculum, but his time at Illinois State has also made an impact on his understanding of American culture and way of life. When he was growing up, he thought all Americans looked like Arnold Schwarzenegger.
“I now know that most of what Hollywood says about the U.S. is exaggerated,” Kakande said with a laugh. “But my experience here has allowed me to interact culturally with actual American citizens and see what Americans define as American.”
Wu is a painter from Taiwan working in Illinois State’s M.F.A. studio space near downtown Bloomington. Wu attends critiques for graduate student artists and provides artistic input for students while creating her own works. In her practice, she combines traditional Chinese ink painting styles with Western contemporary techniques.
In her studio space, Wu hangs broad brush-stroke abstract paintings juxtaposed with paintings of a distinctly Midwestern rural landscape, different shades of green squares stretching over a rolling hillside. When Wu arrives in a new place, she likes to paint her surroundings first as a way to ground herself.
Wu recently displayed her works in an exhibition at Illinois State’s Transpace Gallery. The show, Walks, is a reflection of her time in America as well as her Taoist philosophy. Wu hopes that those who see her art learn something about themselves.
“If a person loves my art or hates it, it doesn’t matter,” Wu said. “What matters is that they know something more about themselves after seeing it, that it helps them to learn something about their core self.”
Not only do students learn from Wu’s critiques of their art, but Wu learns more from those she interacts with as well.
“I am always learning,” she said. “I learn more about Western culture every day.”
Timothy Wyland can be reached at tjwylan@IllinoisState.edu.