Giving Priority to Expression and Achievement
What was most important in studying in the United States under a Fulbright scholarship was realizing the importance of individual achievement, said Setiawan Sabana. “Before I went there, I was a shy person, afraid to ask questions let alone speak in public. Now I encourage my students not to be afraid to speak out and demonstrate their capabilities in public.
“I received a Fulbright scholarship in 1981 to study in a master’s program in graphic arts at Northern Illinois University (NIU). In my two years there I increased my technical skills in graphic arts and gained a knowledge about the development of graphic arts and fine arts in the United States at that time through coursework. Beyond that, campus life at NIU imparted meaningful knowledge and experience of its own.
“NIU is located in the small town of DeKalb, near the city of Chicago. At the time, Chicago was part of the important and dynamic pulse of American life in its various aspects: social, cultural, political, and economic. Many arts activities occurred there that were important both at the national as well as at the international level. Thus I often took advantage of my free time to visit Chicago, especially the museums and art galleries that showcased the work of contemporary artists who were then influencing the development of fine arts.
“Experiences as an art student, in learning about art and culture in America, plus living through four seasons, winter especially, taught me many things. I felt all of it created an important momentum in my life’s journey and my life in art, and had a deep significance. It meant so much to me.
“Of all the valuable experiences I had in the United States, I note several that I consider the most important, both personally and professionally, particularly as a professor of fine arts at the Bandung Institute of Technology (ITB). Experiencing freedom of expression in the country of Uncle Sam made it possible for me to put into practice the mental attitude necessary to speak or express myself both in general and as an artist. Since then, the pace of my artwork has greatly developed. Another aspect was developing a critical and evaluative attitude toward art and culture in Indonesia. My study in the United States I remember as a valuable time of transition in both my life and in the progress of my artwork since then.
“I hope cooperative exchange programs between Indonesia and the United States can continue, of course, with the consideration that the aspirations of each country have cultural values that are unique and different from each other’s. I hope that these cultural dimensions can be valued and appreciated by both countries in generating motivation and enthusiasm for the program. Hopefully.”
This article appears from the book of Across the Archipelago, from Sea to Shining Sea Commemorating the 60/20 Anniversary of Fulbright and AMINEF (Page 189– 191) published in 2012.
Translator: Sagita Adesywi and Piet Hendrardjo.
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