A new crop of International Artist Fellows joins the USC community
Ten students from across five of USCs graduate arts programs are the latest members of a program that allows them to focus on their craft while exploring the Los Angeles artist community.
Though classes have only been in session for less than two months, Juan Sebastian Baracaldo Angel an MFA student in interactive media and game design at the USC School of Cinematic Arts who hails from Bogota, Colombia has already pushed the boundaries of his practice. This includes making a short film, which, as a computer scientist, is a first for him. Its all about expanding my comfort zone and being able to do new things, he said.
Similarly, YueHan Tan an MFA student in animation and digital arts from Beijing, China has felt freer to try bolder, more experimental work and discover new ways to tell stories that break the rules of visual language. This kind of not-commercial work may not be useful to find a job, she explained, but it helps me express myself.
Zharia ONeal an MFA student in dramatic writing from the British Virgin Islands is already hard at work on three different plays with themes of immigration, assimilation, family and natural disaster, all set in the Caribbean. Its all very timely and very topical, ONeal said. I come from a place that a lot of people cant point out on the map. And now there are so many people ready to have a conversation about it. To rep that at USC is incredible.
Angel, Tan and ONeal are just three of the newest members of the USC International Artist Fellowship (IAF) program, an ever-changing cohort of diverse emerging artists from around the Pacific Rim, Latin America and South Asia. As a fellow in the IAF program, USC covers tuition, fees, housing, travel and living expenses for each artist, leaving them to focus on their art as well as explore the robust interdisciplinary community centered in Los Angeles. This year, Angel, Tan and ONeal join seven other artists from across five of USCs graduate arts programs, in addition to dozens of other artists who have taken part in the IAF program since it began in 2013.
Conversation brings members of the International Artist Fellowship together
On a recent Friday morning, Angel, Tan and ONeal were among the first to arrive at the programs monthly breakfast at the University Club. Its the second time the fellows have met as a group this academic year. At the first meeting, they came together to discuss an article about a new definition of museum, sent out by Robin Romans, associate vice provost for arts and academic affairs, who oversees the IAF program. On this day, however, the conversation was more wide-ranging from the tropes of The Office to the state of international visas under the Trump administration.
What struck ONeal was how welcome she felt.
Its right there in the title International Artist Fellowship. Its very prestigious-sounding, she laughed. I expected it to be stuffy. When you hear words like fellow, you think golf clubs and folded napkins.
Im part of an artist community. My seat at the table is not just a chair that I pulled up it was waiting for me.
Even though ONeal studied at USC as an undergrad, this program felt different and her imposter syndrome was in full effect: I thought, This is the big leagues. These are capital-A artists, and you are not one of them. But once she got into the room, she found the other graduate students to be quite grounded. She found a community.
As seasoned fellows, Lea Marina Lanoue Timm, an MFA student in acting; Wesley Chu, a doctoral student in piano performance; and Johnny Forever Nawracaj, a performance artist each of whom hail from Canada bounced easily from topics like their current projects to Shakespeare and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Yew Heng Lim, an MFA student from Malaysia, and Guang Yang, a Chinese student who is pursuing a doctorate of musical arts in Composition both new fellows for 2019-2020 shared their experience with a recent Arts in Action project, EMPOWER: Students, Arts, and Activism.
As the monthly IAF breakfasts continue, fellows will phase in and out over their two- or three-year programs. The goal as they learn more about each others perspectives, practices, talents and tools will be to find new ways to collaborate, both at USC and after they graduate, and to come into their own as artists.
This is my time to step into being a writer, ONeal said. Now, Im part of an artist community. My seat at the table is not just a chair that I pulled up it was waiting for me. Im still pinching myself.