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Fulbright awards take College of Fine Arts faculty around the world

Jan. 24, 2006
By Melissa Evans

Bangkok, Hong Kong, Nepal, and Bali--the Fulbright Award is whisking Ohio University faculty away to exotic places around the globe and bringing traveled professors to Athens.

Adam Knee"I got to interact with Thai students, interact with Thai colleagues, just exist in that context," said Adam Knee, an Ohio University associate professor of film, regarding his recent Fulbright grant that allowed him to teach and research in Thailand. "I think that is one of the important things that a Fulbright gives."

Knee and Ursula Belden, a distinguished professor from the School of Theater, were both awarded Fulbright grants for this school year. In addition to the Ohio University faculty going abroad, the School of Theater is host to Fulbright award winner Miodrag Tabacki, a scenographer and professor of set design.

"We're there as cultural ambassadors," said Knee, who returned to the United States in January after spending six months at Chulalongkorn University in downtown Bangkok.

In addition to teaching and helping in the development of film studies curriculum, Knee conducted research on the Thai cinema industry and depictions of Thai culture in foreign film.

"You can do research from overseas, but you can't really experience what the Thai mindset is," Knee said. "You can't sit here and read a book and think 'Ah, this is what's important for Thai culture.' You need to be there; you need to be able to spend that time, in that space, with those people."

Knee said his interest in Thai film began in 1997, when he lived there for eight months. "I didn't go to study film. I went to eat. I went for a job," Knee said.

Regardless of his motives, Knee found himself wrapped up in Thai culture and film. "Thai film is an area I focus on, and I keep going back to it," he said.

Upon his return, Knee said he was, "struck yet again at how comfortable and at ease and at home I somehow feel in Thailand, while nevertheless still remaining always aware of my foreignness."

Belden, who is head of production design and technology at the School of Theater, hopes she will feel comfortable during her Fulbright experience abroad. She will leave for Hong Kong Feb. 1 on a Senior Specialists Fulbright grant.

Ursula BeldenThough she has traveled abroad extensively, Belden says she has never visited Hong Kong and is looking forward to the opportunity.

"That's the beauty of Fulbright grants, to expand your horizons," she said.

Belden will work with the faculty at the Academy of Performing Arts where she will help develop curriculum for their MSA program of design.

In addition to her time in Hong Kong, Belden will travel to Kathmandu, Nepal, to help in the planning of their Nepali-American Studies program and will conduct design workshops at the Aarohan Theatre. She also plans to visit Bali to explore the possibility of creating a long-term sister relationship between Ohio University and the Indonesian Arts Institute at Denpasar.

Belden said she is unsure of what to expect of her time abroad but remains open to new experiences. "I've always learned as much as I teach," she said.

Belden, who is on sabbatical from Ohio University for the remainder of this school year, is currently working at her studio in New York City.

When she returns from Hong Kong, she will spend some time in Israel at a conference for the Organization of International Scenographers, Theatre Architects and Technicians.

Belden will spend the rest of the summer in New York working regional theater shows and continuing her position as curator for the Prague Quadrennial International Design Exposition and will return to Ohio University in the fall.

While one School of Theater faculty member is about to begin her journey abroad, Fulbright winner Miodrag Tabacki has just begun his overseas experience in Athens.

Tabacki, from Serbia and Montenegro, is teaching at the Ohio University School of Theater for winter and spring quarters after spending the fall semester at the University of Minnesota. A scenographer and professor since 1973, Tabacki is a full-time professor at the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade.

For Tabacki, receiving the Fulbright grant and visiting the United States "opened the possibility to research differences in the schooling of set and costume design," he said. "Grants like the Fulbright are important for the development of art and human services."

Tabacki will present his research during visits to Carnegie Mellon University, Texas Christian University and Oklahoma State University in the coming months in addition to teachng a graduate class in set design at Ohio University.

This March Tabacki will be awarded the Gold Pen Award at the 2006 United States Institute for Theater Technology conference and stage expo. The award is for a monograph, simply titled "Miodrag Tabacki," which is dedicated to Tabacki's work as a designer.

Fulbright grants give participants an opportunity to immerse themselves in a new environment, study it and take a piece of it with them. When Ohio University Fulbright winners return from their trip, they often share their experiences with others on campus and enlighten those around them. As Belden said, she does not know what she is looking for but, "I'm sure I'll bring back something interesting."

Melissa Evans is a student writer with University Communications and Marketing.

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Published: Jan 24, 2006 1:27:00 PM
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