Tick Tock, Your Time Is Up

Foreign students at the Glassell School of Art get a stipend, studio space and three years to make it really big. They've had a huge impact on Houston's art scene. But if the INS isn't impressed, they've got to go.

When her practical training expired, she applied for a visitor visa to buy time and received a notice saying that she'd get an answer in 365 days. Strange, she thought, since a visitor visa lasts for only six months. She never heard anything else, and started to get a bad feeling. Finally she consulted a lawyer who told her that just because she was waiting for an answer didn't mean that she could stay legally. She was in danger of getting out of status -- a situation that could bar her from returning to America for years. In three days Hachisuka rushed back to Japan, leaving most of her belongings, even dirty laundry, behind. She stayed there for two months until she obtained a new F-1 visa under the Core program.

"When I went back, I was thinking, 'Why do I even stay in the United States, going through hell?' " she says. "But the reality is if I go back [to Japan] my career will be vanished. The market here is more open to young artists than in Japan."

Hachisuka plans to work hard at Core and try to make a name for herself so that she might be able to apply for an O-1 later. When Eliza attended Core, though, she didn't know she ought to push for commercial success so that it would look good on a future visa application. She just wanted to make her art.

Sculptor Joseph Havel, head of the Core program, has seen many good artists leave the country because of immigration limitations.
Deron Neblett
Sculptor Joseph Havel, head of the Core program, has seen many good artists leave the country because of immigration limitations.

"You may just be concentrated on work, and if you don't know the goal is to be public with your work…," she says, trailing off. "I could have been more aggressive in terms of following every exhibition opportunity just to have material from that."

Eliza is now gathering evidence for her O-1 application and collecting the last recommendation letters from people in Houston, a process that's been delayed by the recent flood. The world wouldn't end if she didn't get it. She could start over elsewhere. Indeed, she is looking into other options.

But the words that slip out of her mouth betray her heart. When she talks, she says "here" all the time, meaning Houston, though she's really over there in Europe. When she returned to Europe, Eliza left behind some of her belongings, including her computer. That's how optimistic she was. Now, she's not so sure.

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