Fulbright Fellows Program

MICA Fulbright Stories

Peter Makela '18 (Hoffberger M.F.A)

Fulbright U.S. Student in Painting

Nepal , 2021 – 2022

Peter has recently been awarded a Fulbright Scholarship to Nepal where he will pursue his project, “The Radiant Emptiness of Space: Madhyamaka and Contemplative Perception”


Madhyamaka is a challenging philosophical system that ultimately subverts the philosophical enterprise. It purposely brings the rational mind to its limits in order to provoke/encourage a realization of interdependence understood as the relational nature of all things identical with emptiness (Shunyata). 


Peter will be spending ten months in the Kathmandu Valley studying Madhyamaka philosophy at Rangjung Yeshe Univeristy, the preeminent english speaking Buddhist University in the world. Peter will integrate this deepened study into his painting practice, specifically his series of Sky Paintings that he has been working on over the last two years.


Peter’s Sky Paintings explore the intersection between perceptual painting, abstract painting and states of contemplation.

The sky becomes a vehicle for Buddhist practice, a means of contemplating formlessness, as the sky has no set form, only pure luminosity--which is just how the Buddhist masters describe the true nature of the mind.


Peter will also be teaching Josef Albers’ Interaction of Color Course at Kathmandu University where through color exercises one can gain an experiential understanding of interdependence. He will also be a visiting art critic for the 3rd and 4th year studio art majors at KU.


For a culmination of his Fulbright, Peter will have a solo exhibition of the work he made during his time in Nepal at the prestigious Patan museum.


To view this work or to follow Peter’s journey feel free to visit

www.petemakela.com or follow him on instagram @peter_makela

Gabrielle Vitollo '12 (Painting B.F.A.)

Fulbright U.S. Student in Painting

Germany , 2018 – 2019

During her German Fulbright, Gabrielle Vitollo researched Albrecht Dürer's Apocalypse series to create an abstract painting portfolio that examined coperorality, digital interfaces, Berlin's graffitti, and global phenomenology while enrolled at the Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin. Coincidingly, she also organized a monthly art critique group and artist lecture series comprised of Fulbrighters, visiting U.S. based artists, and the Berlin art community at large at Das Kapital Berlin allowing artists and theorists from New York to engage in artistic dialogue and cultural exchange. Using these networks, she curated two group exhibitions at the PARA Foundation Berlin and exhibited her own artwork in Bremen, Berlin, and Nürnberg, Germany. Vitollo continues to paint up a storm while based in Berlin.


Mark Isaac ’08 (Photography and Digital Imaging M.F.A.)

Fulbright U.S. Student in Photography

Ukraine, 2017 – 2018

Mark Isaac will travel to Ukraine to conduct a photo and video-based study of the culture and traditions of diverse ethnic minorities who have lived together peacefully for generations. Isaac will work closely with his wife and frequent collaborator, Gabriela Bulisova ’03 ’05 (Photography B.F.A., Photograpy and Digital Imaging M.F.A.), to conduct the project, which will have a strong focus on Southern Ukraine, including the cities of Mykolayiv, Odesa and Kherson. These cities are home to longtime populations of Bulgarians, Germans, Jews, Crimean Tatars, Muslims and other ethnic minorities, including internally displaced persons fleeing the Russian annexation of Crimea and the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Isaac and his wife have worked previously in Ukraine and are excited to return for an in-depth look at the issues facing that nation. “We are thrilled to work in Ukraine at such a critical moment, when the nation is trying hard to build a democratic and transparent future in close partnership with the West,” Isaac said. “As two MICA graduates working together, we hope to learn and create as much as possible, while at the same time building stronger ties between the American and Ukrainian people. We are thankful for the support of the MICA community and look forward to sharing the results of the project with our friends and colleagues.” Those wishing to follow the adventures of Isaac and Bulisova in the coming year can watch for their blog posts at markisaac.net and gabrielabulisova.com and also follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Elissa Buchalter ’15 (Painting B.F.A.)

Fulbright U.S. Student in Painting

India, 2015 – 2016

During my Fulbright grant in India, my project focused on investigating India's Buddhist roots and the notion of art as a meditative tool. I spent the first four months studying the traditional Buddhist art form of Thangka painting. I studied beneath a Master Thangka painter and former monk, and lived in his home with his family in a rural village at the foot of the Himalaya mountains. This specific type of painting is incredibly detailed and tedious, requiring a great amount of patience, focus, and discipline. The physical act of making these paintings is believed to be a meditation, with emphasis on mindful mark-making. Following this, I moved to southern India to work with a contemporary Indian print-maker on a body of work. The contemporary artist I was working with deals with themes of meditation and spirituality in his own work, so it was very exciting to take what I had learned at the Buddhist painting school and begin to apply these ideas to more contemporary work. The Fulbright was able to provide me with the opportunity to connect with two very different artists in India and allowed me to explore conceptually. I was able to travel quite a bit around India during my Fulbright experience, which allowed for me to experience all that Incredible India has to offer; the rich colors, sensuous fabrics, delicious foods, and most importantly the kindness of people.

Emily Zuch ’08 (Painting B.F.A.)

Fulbright U.S. Student in Painting

Germany, 2014 – 2015

Fulbright has been an amazing experience. I have spent the time so far in Leipzig, working with a puppet theater called Westflügel. This involves sitting in on their rehearsals and drawing, as well as helping out sometimes during various performances and parties. Watching the artists at Westflügel work is fascinating, I have had the chance to see the process of a performance being developed from the very beginning, starting from a story and growing into a play through improvisation and trial and error. It has been especially rewarding to mount an exhibition of my work at the theater and watch the puppeteers look at my drawings and recognize themselves and elements of their performances in my work. These months have been an opportunity to make art in a very different way than I was doing before, which is exciting and sometimes a bit scary. It will be interesting to see how all this new input affects my work when I am back in the states.

Aaron Chung ’13 (Painting B.F.A.)

Fulbright U.S. Student in Painting

South Korea, 2013 – 2014

During my Fulbright grant in South Korea, I studied traditional eastern painting techniques, specifically muninhwa-also known as literary man’s art. In addition to my project, I explored South Korea’s landscapes to see and understand Korean subject matter, which I later incorporated into my large-scale art pieces. Through my journeys and the painting classes in Seoul, I achieved much success by combining conventional methods with contemporary ideas, re-imagining subject matters like calligraphy, as diptychs or symmetrical patterns with a modern aesthetic sensibility. Through the art I produced, I had the opportunity to exhibit my works with ink on mulberry paper in the galleries within Seoul's Insadong and Gangnam district.

Adejoke Tugbiyele ’13 (Rinehart School of Sculpture M.F.A.)

Fulbright U.S. Student in Sculpture

Nigeria, 2013 – 2014

I returned from my Fulbright experience with renewed energy and indeed a sense of urgency within my art practice. Before the Fulbright my work mostly dealt with issues personal to me, but after my time in Nigeria it became more activist in nature. I now feel empowered, because of my experience, to comment on human rights issues specific to that country. I find the relationship between my art and activism to be cyclical. Activism helps me stay in touch with the issues and ideas I respond to in my work. My work in turn educates and empowers others who are suffering in Nigeria, Africa and beyond. Both respond to each other. To me, political art is not as powerful when it operates in a vacuum. It must engage people and serve as a call to action. For example, a new sculptural work I am working on entitled “Homeless Hungry Homo” comments on how gay Africans are not exempt and often times more likely to end up in poverty because of the dual criminalization and demonization of same-sex love, by the government and the church respectively. It also comments on the fear of poverty as a result of coming out, and the notion that people will choose to remain “masked” and in the closet for that reason. The work was recently presented by October Gallery in London at the Contemporary African Art Fair.

Shana Hoehn ’13 (Painting B.F.A.)

Fulbright U.S. Student Program in Installation Art

Installation Art, 2013 – 2014

In Oaxaca, my project was to learn about the customs surrounding home altars. What I expected to find — I didn't. I was hoping to secure my theory that these altars were productive outlets for women, their creators, as religious and cultural arbiters. I saw many altars. And as the theme of my year, I was wrong on many terms of what I thought I had known about the Mexican culture through books, American news and sometimes prejudices. This recognition and process of relearning was one of my most significant findings as an artist researcher. It also opened my eyes to overlooked struggles, large and small, that immigrants experience in my own country.