It was announced on March 12 that Leon Wiebers, Assistant Professor of Theater, Film, and Media Studies (TFMS) and scenography, was awarded a Fulbright research grant for the 2012-2013 academic year. He will travel to Seoul, South Korea to work on his project, entitled “Traditional and Modern Modes in Dress for Performance,” at the Seoul Institute of the Arts.
The Fulbright Program is a federal foundation that awards grants to American scholars who will conduct research abroad, and in doing so will “promote understanding between the people of the United States and the people of other countries,” according to the press release on the St. Mary’s website. “It was a very formidable application process,” admitted Wiebers, who began the application in August 2011.
“My interest in Asian dress started with the kimono during my last couple of years as an undergraduate,” explained Wiebers. “It was a geometrical Asian dress. I love geometry, and that’s what drew me to it. I believe that the designs can be manipulated in new ways.”
The initial research for his project, Wiebers said, “had been going on intermittently since [he was] in grad school, for about ten to fifteen years.” The main goal of Wiebers’ research is to explore the diffusion of traditional Korean dance and theater in Western culture, and how the performance modes of Eastern and Western cultures overlap.
One of the goals of his Fulbright award, Wiebers added, was “to work on an exchange program for Korean students to come to St. Mary’s and vice versa.” By visiting museums and collections of Korean artwork and dress, Wiebers said he will gain knowledge that will help him “offer coursework in a broader history of dress, and strengthen my collaboration with my colleagues in the Asian Studies department.”
Joanne Klein, the Department Chair of TFMS, echoed Wiebers’ expectations for the results of his academic experience. “Professor Wiebers’s Fulbright award…will be especially opportune for our department, as we have an area of specialization in Asian performance studies that is enhanced by Professor Holly Blumner’s expertise in that curriculum, both in the classroom and on stage,” she said.
Klein also added that the department “just hired Professor Leonard Cruz to head up our dance/movement curriculum, and he brings a special focus on Pacific Rim performance. So we shall have a distinctive and vanguard program in Asian performance design, performance skills, and studies within our department.”
Wiebers hopes that working with a wide array of artists in South Korea will influence his design work and teaching. “I’m always trying to push myself as an artist,” he explained, “and this opportunity will be incredibly influential in how I approach my work.”