“From Flint to Fiji
Art & Design Response to a Cross-Cultural Experience”
Mott Community College
Fine Arts Gallery
DeWaters Art Center
here to view gallery setup)
August 14-28th, 2002
Faculty Organizer: Mara J. Fulmer, Assistant
Professor/Program Coordinator in Graphic Design, Mott Community
College, Flint, Michigan USA.
Travelling can be more than the act of going
from Point A and B. It can be a journey of discovery, of the
people and culture in a foreign land, ones fellow travelers,
and of ones self.
The artwork and text shown here chronicles
the journey of 23 adventurers who traveled together to the
South Pacific islands of Fiji, July 13-28, 2001. The students
and participants in this group did not all know each other
prior to the trip. Though most were Mott students and two
were Mott art faculty, two other participants were from New
York and Idaho. Together, their art experience ranges from
novice to professional exhibiting artists. They came from
different social, racial, geographic and economic backgrounds,
as diverse as the country they call home. By the end of the
voyage, they had bonded into a family. In this age of post-September
11th uncertainty, the strength of connection and compassion
demonstrated by this special group of travelers is inspiring.
The work presented here is actually three
exhibitions in one. There is the artwork that was created
prior to their departure, a conceptual self-portrait and text
that was part of an exhibition at the Fiji National Museum
in Suva, Fiji. That exhibition was titled "Faces
of Flint: Art & Design of an American Community College"
and was on display from July 17-24th 2001 while the students
were visiting Fiji.
This second part of the exhibition here
in Flint is meant to demonstrate how such an experience of
discovery can lead to a new view for the participants, as
global citizens, and in self-discovery. The art and text that
was created after their return, some of it as much as a year
later, offers a new perspective, a "response to the cross-cultural
experience." Some of that work, created after September
11th and after the death of one of the participants in late
October, gives us insight into the depth of connection that
the participants had for each other long after the trip ended.
The combination of the "pre" and
"post" conceptual self-portraits along with the
translucent suspended photographs, together offers a glimpse
into their experiences traveling into a strange land as ambassadors
of their country and their college.
Part of the original Fiji
exhibition statement stated:
"These are meant to be "conceptual"
self-portraits that tell you more about the participants than
just what they look like. Identity goes deeper than face value
and we hope that by participating in this program, the workshops
and the general cross-cultural experience, these students
will begin to re-define their identity in the context of our
global village and shared values."
As the leader of this band of travelers,
I discovered the profound impact of self-discovery and friendship
that this trip enabled for nearly all the participants. We
crossed many boundaries to reach out to others we met along
the way, to cross American social barriers, and to gain experiences
we never would have or could have imagined. Even in the face
of adversity, when one member of the group suffered a mental
breakdown en route, the others rose to the challenge, taking
turns keeping watch over the safety of this participant, showing
a caring and strength that many did not realize they were
A year later, I sent out a survey to ask
the students how this trip may have impacted their lives beyond
the experience of travel. I believe one student, Jessica Martin,
summed it up best when describing why she would urge anyone
to take on the challenge of such an experience:
"I would tell them that being somewhere
in the world that is totally unlike your own is where you
find who you really are."
~ Jessica Martin, August 2002
We can each consider ourselves fortunate
to have made such a journey together. And by sharing it with
our own community of Flint, we hope the journey will continue
~ Mara Jevera Fulmer, Assistant Professor/Graphic
Mott Community College, Flint, Michigan