Second anniversary of Professor Frenn Fulbright

Written by
Natasha Boddie
Published on
August 22, 2019

Two years ago, August 2017, I started my Fulbright-Nehru Academic and Professional Excellence Award, a teaching/research award. My experience in India is a perfect example of how art and life constantly inform and nurture one another. It re-confirmed my belief that people around the world, people from different cultures, religions, ethnicities, races, and social classes share more common aspirations and concerns than differences. It made clear citizens’ struggles for justice and dignity while perceiving the apathy and greed of the ruling elite. It provided a platform to immerse into the interconnectedness of humanity and the wellbeing of environment. It proved how research and teaching intertwine in a critical dialogue around important artistic, personal, social, religious, and political issues. The timeless is forever timely. Throughout my travels, I encountered people with palpable goodness, humility, kindness and inner beauty. Their daily life is infused by their faith and beliefs. I understood the peaceful spirit of Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism, Jainism, and Islam and witnessed how similarly they express their devotion and spirituality.

Congratulations! Professor Chawky Frenn has received a Fulbright award to India. He is the second full-time faculty member in the School of Art to receive the award. The first being Professor Maria Karametou in 2009-10 for her projects “A Visual Investigation of Embroidery and Textile Designs in the Search for Creative Expression” at her host institution in Turkey.

According to the Fulbright website and its mission, the program “aims to increase mutual understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries, is the flagship international educational exchange program sponsored by the U.S. government.” Since inception in 1946, over 370,000 recipients have been awarded a Fulbright.

On average, George Mason University has 3-4 recipients per year according to Rita Rowand, Fulbright Campus Liaison and recipient. The Office of Global Strategy is hoping to increase the number of recipients. In doing so, “we provide support and training for those faculty and students interested in applying for a Fulbright grant,” says Rowand. Dr. Anne Schiller, who is also a Fulbright Campus Liaison and recipient adds, “we were delighted that Professor Frenn attended one of those workshops, and that it was a step on his path to success in winning this prestigious award. We are very proud of the recognition that Professor Frenn and all of our Fulbrighters bring to Mason.”

Professor Frenn will travel to India beginning of August and will spend fall 2017 semester interacting with fine arts students, faculty and community from Jamia Millia Islamia University in New Delhi. He sees his art as a bridge between cultures, religions and societies.

Why India? Frenn replies: “Art and Life are intertwined, perpetually informing and affecting one another. My art, filled with symbolism and metaphors, is a visual reflection on diversity in oneness and unity in multiplicity, a belief at the heart of Hinduism and Buddhism. Searching for deeper understanding, I found meaningful symbols expressed in the art and architecture of India, in the mysticism and ideas of Eastern philosophy, and in the people. Gandhi confirms: A nation's culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.”

Frenn will share with students a wealth of art techniques and concepts through collaborative initiatives with Indian colleagues. His lectures will cover how engaged artistic practice can serve as a catalyst for change in the broader social, cultural and political contexts. Art humanize as it raise awareness. Its resonance will be amplified by interactions with community and public. Through his research on how various beliefs affect the art of India, he will continue to explore the Life-Death-Rebirth cycle, a concept that enrich his own practice. During his residency he hopes to visit the Khajuraho temple in North India, the Great Living Chola Temples in South India and Varanasi, the Sacred City to further enhance his own creative research through visual documentation of people, scenes of daily life and archeological sites.

The Fulbright Award will allow Professor Frenn to further enhance his international engagements through his research, practice and teaching. He will explore venues for academic exchange of students, artists, and teachers and partner to co-teach courses with Jamia Islamia University.

“Art for Life’s Sake” is Frenn’s way to reflect inner and outer words, to question, to communicate and to inspire. Teaching is a privilege, a mean to stimulate minds and hearts, advance discernment, bring new perspectives on art, life, self, and world. With his passion for teaching Professor Frenn will help students with their artistic and professional development and inspire artists to be active citizens using their creative voice to address issues affecting their society.