2017 has been a year of change and transformation for me. In June I traveled to Bosnia as part of a Fulbright-Hays Faculty Program to learn about European Muslim Culture and Art with a group of 15 educators from Arizona. In that month long excursion I learned a lot about the history of the country and region known as the Balkans and also as former Yugoslavia. The opportunity to be part of this trip came up in the fall of 2016 for Maricopa Community College faculty and Arizona high school faculty to apply for. I did so, not knowing how it would change me.
At the same time I was applying for the trip to Bosnia I was waiting to hear if my application for a one semester sabbatical project would be approved. The sabbatical project was to travel to Cuba in October of 2017 to interview Cuban artists about their artwork that expresses opinions on social justice or social engagement themes.
In late December I got the news that both applications had been approved. This meant that I would need to plan for two long trips abroad, but both focusing on exploring the art made there.
I was interested in the art made in socialist/communist countries because of previous experiences traveling in China in 2015 and Cuba in 2016 where, in both places, I saw art that expressed opinions which I interpreted as being critical of the governent and the society. This surprised me because of the media reports about the oppresive tactics by both governents to forestall free speech.
In 2015 I spent five weeks traveling around China visiting the 9 Fine Arts Academies and Universities documenting the graduate exhibitions of sculpture students, and where I noticed many artworks by students which portrayed their society in negative ways.
The following year I visited Cuba and again saw art that I thought was treading on shaky ground after hearing about dissidents who spoke out against the Castro regime being jailed or “disappeared.”