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‘The Possibilities Now Seem Endless’ - Unlock Your US Dreams

Emma McIntyre in her backyard studio in Echo Park, mid 2020.
Pour plenty on the worlds, 2021. Installation view: Chris Sharp Gallery, Los Angeles
Fuses, 2020. Oil, oil stick, flashe and acrylic on linen.
McIntyre and Kahu in studio on campus, early 2020.
McIntyre's canine companion Kahu in the Southern California sunset, on a weekend escape from lockdown in the city.
A Kiwi creative explains how living through a Los Angeles lockdown has taken her art practice to new heights - and how you can get the same opportunity.


Sometimes, the opportunity of a lifetime doesn’t work out the way you think. Emma McIntyre can attest to that.  

But this isn’t a story of complaints or regrets. Far from it.

Sometimes, the opportunity of your dream turns out so different, you could never have predicted it.

When McIntyre set off on her Californian adventure in 2019, courtesy of a Fulbright Graduate Award, the world was a very different place. Her Master of Fine Arts in painting at Los Angeles’ renowned ArtCenter College of Design was always going to be challenging - but she had no idea in what ways.

“This time away from home has certainly had a huge influence on me, I think it’ll take years to really work out how the pandemic has affected my practice,” McIntyre reflects. 

“But I have felt a heightened level of intensity in everything that I do, undoubtedly because of the energy and stimulation of Los Angeles, and also because of the pandemic.

“It hasn’t been easy, but there has been a wild, unfiltered energy to tap into in the last year, which has taken my painting places I could have never imagined in an ordinary year.”

L.A. Story

Bear in mind, this isn’t lockdown as we knew it in Aotearoa. 

Things in L.A. were much more volatile, the pandemic set to the backdrop of the mass uprisings for issues like Black Lives Matter.

After months of confinement painting in her shared backyard, the AUT Bachelor of Fine Arts graduate was one of many Artcenter students given unfettered access to a large building in one of her favourite parts of the city, Chinatown. 

Inspired by the architecture and distinct artistic personality of the district, and motivated through hands-on (when conditions allowed) support and mentorship from the skilled Artcenter teachers and students, she describes her recently completed studies as “two years full of conversation with inspiring, brilliant people.”

McIntyre and Kahu in studio on campus, early 2020.

McIntyre enthuses “with nothing to do but paint, with no social life to speak of other than studio, I concerned myself with imagining other worlds than this one and building them in paint. In the face of the pandemic, everything has become more intimate; my relationship, my friendships, my connection to my tools, materials and work.

“To have been able to attend ArtCenter, thanks to the Fulbright Scholarship, has been life-changing. Los Angeles has some of the best art schools in the US, and the world for that matter, and ArtCenter is one of the best in L.A. 

“It’s been a hell of a year, but I have no regrets about sticking it out in L.A. through the apocalypse.” 

McIntyre's canine companion Kahu in the Southern California sunset, on a weekend escape from lockdown in the city.

As for her ambitions now she’s graduated? McIntyre plans “to keep up the momentum I have in studio and to keep making work, keep my thinking and my practice moving along in the way it has done throughout school.

"I have several shows coming up - including a solo exhibition at Air de Paris in Paris, and another back in my hometown Tāmaki Makaurau with Coastal Signs, which I couldn’t be more excited about. Beyond that, I’m aiming for an exhibition in New York.”

Pour plenty on the worlds, 2021. Installation view: Chris Sharp Gallery, Los Angeles.

Could you be next?

The door is open for other New Zealand creatives to chase their own American dream. 

Through until 1 August, Fulbright New Zealand is accepting applications for full scholarship awards for grads and seasoned professionals in all academic spheres including visual arts, creative writing, architecture, design, as well as science and innovation.

The list of those Kiwi creative minds who are part of the Fulbright alumni is dazzling, including filmmaker Toa Fraser, Playwright Roger Hall, Jessica Hansell AKA Coco Solid, writer Witi Ihimaera, composer Gareth Farr and poet Tusiata Avia.

While that collection of creativity may seem daunting, McIntyre is unequivocal with her advice to anyone who qualifies to apply - don’t count yourself out.

Fuses, 2020. Oil, oil stick, flashe and acrylic on linen.

“As an artist, I thought applying for a Fulbright was a ridiculously long shot, and I was totally bowled over when I was awarded the graduate award. I had always wanted to study my MFA in the US - I was interested to learn in a completely different environment and I knew it was the gateway to a wider conversation about painting. But the fees were so outrageous, I didn’t think it would ever happen. 

“Between the Fulbright Graduate Award, an ArtCenter MFA scholarship, as well as support from CNZ, I have been so lucky to have my fees completely covered, as well as money towards materials and living costs. It has been so inspiring to study in a huge cultural metropolis, away from home - it has been liberating.

“I am totally in love with crazy, messy, beautiful L.A. There is no way I could have done any of it without Fulbright’s support. 

“The possibilities now seem endless.”

Written in partnership with Fulbright New Zealand. Applications are open for a range of exchange awards for NZ graduates, scholars and creatives wanting to study, research, teach or present their work in the US, click here for details.

Written by

The Big Idea Editor

23 Jul 2021

The Big Idea Editor