It’s the time of year for graduations, a time of transitions for many. For Hyun-June Kim, the transition he’s making marks the realization of a dream that brought him across the world—from Asia to the USA—and changed his educational focus from math and science to art.
He’s finishing two years of study at the University of Wisconsin-Richland where his major is art. He’s heading this fall to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago to pursue bachelor’s degree in fine arts. He’s pleased, too, he said, that the School of the Art Institute of Chicago has honored him with a scholarship award.
For Kim, from Pyeong Chang, Gang Won, South Korea, the journey has been internal as well as external. Now he feels he’s headed in just exactly the direction he wants to go.
At home in Korea a few years back, Kim started college majoring in computer science. It was his focus for a year-and-a-half. “I had this nagging feeling that working with computers was not for me,” he said.
His military service meant a break in his education, a lucky break as it turned out. A man he served with had been a high school exchange student in the USA in the Youth for Understanding (YFU) program. His buddy suggested he check out that program. He did. And it led him to the Richland Center UW campus, the two-year UW with the highest population of international students.
“I’ve very much liked UW-Richland,” he said. “My English has improved and I’ve broadened my perspective and knowledge. It’s a very open and welcoming campus. I know I will remember campus folks with their smiling faces. I remember the thrill of my first impression of the campus. I have a home and friends here.”
Kim was greatly impressed with the art facilities, many of them new the semester he arrived, including a Mac lab and art studio. “The labs have fostered my ability. It’s a nice environment,” he said.
One disappointment he had was that his first UW-Richland art teacher Carl Johnson left the campus and a new instructor, Dr. Steven Duval, became his teacher. “It was an adjustment, a big change,” he said. As it turns out, he said, “The change was helpful. I gained new insights and developed as an artist. They had different styles of teaching, different approaches to art.”
From one, he was given lots of freedom to explore. From the other, he was given lots of feedback. The result was a portfolio that made a positive impression, important to achieving his goal.
The teaching styles of faculty are not the only difference he adapted to. Bigger changes were those between the education system in South Korea and the USA. He describes the education in his home country as more systematic.
“There I would sit all day. Here learning is active, more creative. There is more freedom, making me more independent,” he said.
Kim enjoys drawing and sculpture, though he feels that painting is his niche.
“Art, to me, is a form of communication, like a language” he said. “What’s exceptional about art is that it employs visual features to deliver the message. The power of art is that it shows rather than tells the story to the audience. Art is like a code where the process of decoding is essential and can be more influential than the outcome. Art is not one-way communication. I don’t impose my ideas on viewers. Instead, I want them to complete my artworks. I’m just the proposer of the idea and it is the viewers who finalize that idea.”
He’s exhibited his art work on the UW-Richland campus and in the Richland Center community and has helped teach drawing to friends. One of his drawings, a pencil sketch of the UW-Richland Foundation’s Smart Farm, hangs on the wall near the door of the Foundation office. Kim donated that work to the campus.
UW-Richland CEO/Dean Dr. Patrick Glenn Hagen said, “It has been a pleasure for me to get to know Hyun-June Kim during the past two years. He has shown incredible development as an artist. UW-Richland was a perfect place for him to get a great start. I look forward to following his career as he continues his studies at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago.”
As for Kim, he said, “I’m happy!”