ASU International Ceramic Graduate Makes Dream Come True

November 29, 2021

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable Fall 2021 graduates.

When Miru Kim made the decision to leave her home country of the Republic of Korea to study ceramics at Arizona State University, she hadn’t realized how difficult the language barrier would be.

Miru Kim stands in front of a ceramic installation.
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“During the first year, I couldn’t ask any questions I had,” she says. “There were things I wanted to say, but I couldn’t speak deeply. So I worked alone and that’s part of my job. It was difficult to make friends, but some of them came to me without prejudice. I think the enduring loneliness made me grow even more.

She said that during difficult times, she considered leaving Arizona.

“I really wanted to go back to Korea,” she said, “however, I couldn’t go back on that choice because it was my decision to study in the United States.”

She chose ASU because of the award-winning ceramics faculty – Susan Beiner, Kurt Weiser and Sam Chung. She wanted to learn from them and work with them.

“So, I decided to stay and complete the course, and I persevered until the end even though it was difficult,” she said.

In July, she was one of 11 students from around the world to receive the prestigious International Sculpture Center’s 2021 Outstanding Student Achievement in Contemporary Sculpture award.

She also won an MFA thesis award for her thesis exhibit, “Touching the Present.” “Touching the Present” was a body of work that expressed her emotions with clay and articulated the relationship between herself and the outside world.

In December, she will graduate with a master’s degree in ceramics from the School of Art at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at ASU.

After graduating, she said she plans to apply for a residency program and travel to other regions, learn about their culture, and collaborate with local artists and local lands.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study ceramics?

To respond: When I went to the National Museum of Korea, there were old celadons and porcelain. I thought it was incredibly beautiful, and it inspired me to think I wanted to do something like that. I was a science student when I was in undergrad. Then I did a double major in ceramics.

Q: What did you learn at ASU — in class or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: In the Korean university system, professors are powerful. It is very difficult not to follow the professor’s advice. You can have a discussion, but it’s not an equal discussion. (At ASU) faculty and students are not in a vertical relationship and can communicate as equals. It’s a big cultural difference for me, having grown up in Korea. In this respect, being able to discuss freely and learn from them was a great challenge that changed me.

Q: Which teacher taught you the most important lesson at ASU and what was it?

A: Susan Beiner taught me directly and realistically how work can be done, not just an idea. She is honest and shows me a purpose of her life. How to become a real and good artist. I learned a lot from her and she is my role model and my mentor.

Q: What is the best advice you would give to those still in school?

A: If there is something you want or want to study, actively seek out suitable professors or researchers, get in touch with them and work with them. The experiment can only be carried out smoothly at ASU during the academic period. If you hesitate, it will take a long time for your idea to come true.

Q: Where was your favorite place on campus, whether to study, meet friends or just think about life?

A: The Music Building. There is a small pond and you can hear the music students practicing. It inspires me.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve a problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would like to use this money to develop and research eco-friendly fishing nets. I want the netting to be an eco-friendly material, not plastic, and designed in such a way that large fish and whales can easily escape without creating microplastics. I want to use this money to save the ocean.

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